Published on September 21, 2011
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Absolutely yes, according to publishers in Denmark and Poland.
While newspapers all over the world are facing a shrinking readership and fierce competition from Internet news sources, some media companies are reaching out to a target group which is usually overlooked, namely children and teenagers.
First in Denmark, and later in Poland, newspaper publishers noticed the yet unexplored potential of building brand awareness among very young children and possible future readers while helping them at the same time to develop new journalism skills, such as gathering information, writing stories and eventually producing their own newspaper.
In 2007, the Danish tabloid Extra Bladet launched Redaktionen (The Newsdesk), an Internet based platform designed to help students, ages 14–17, to create their own school newspaper with the assistance of media professionals. In October 2011, the platform will be celebrating its third anniversary.
The newspaper creating process consists of nine phases, during which students learn the basic skills of journalism and newspaper making: from editorial meetings to selection of topics, newswriting and interaction with readers.
Photo credit: Extra Bladet Skole
Thanks to inbuilt tutorials, explanatory videos and a number of virtual assistants developed by professional journalists, students learn to create a newspaper layout that will be attractive for potential readers.
Moreover, teachers receive a thorough guide approved by the Danish Ministry of Education. Extra Bladet provides them a telephone and e-mail help hotline tthroughout the programme.
When the newspaper is ready, Extra Bladet delivers 1,000 colour prints of the paper directly to the school where it has been created. By now, around 400 Danish schools have participated in the project and more than 1.1 million school papers have been printed.
“On the educational level, our main goal is to teach students how to write and edit a newspaper and to let them experience the influence it can have on the local community,” says Extra Bladet’s Project Chief, Louise Abildgaard Grøn, who believes that newspapers made by students can influence not only the school environment, but also reach beyond it.
Success needs patience
Another purpose of the project is to get youngsters involved in the Extra Bladet brand long before they become potential customers. Grøn does not expect the Redaktionen initiative to have any direct influence on sales figures just yet. “This is a long term investment to build up a strong relationship with our brand and we have been successful in building intense loyalty among the young people who have participated in the project,” she says.
The lack of immediate results has not discouraged other publishers to follow suit. In the fall of 2010 Polskapresse, one of the largest publishers of regional dailies in Poland, introduced a similar project. “We are not afraid to say that we liked Extra Bladet’s project, and that it inspired us,” Magdalena Chudzikiewicz, Polskapresse PR Manager, told Forum4editors.
The decision was based, among other reasons, on alarming statistics. Polskapresse has faced a declining trend in newspaper readership, which is most visible among youngsters for whom the Internet has become the medium of choice. According to Polskapresse data, only 9.7 percent of young people, ages 15 – 18, read Polskapresse’s newspapers and only 44 percent read dailies, if at all.
Building brand loyalty?
In view of this situation, Polskapresse launched Junior Media, an educational project for public school students and teachers.
Junior Media is built around a dedicated online platform allowing users to create newspaper templates, which can be printed or accessed online.
One of the institutions which became involved in Junior Media project is Elektroniczne Zakłady Naukowe, a secondary school in Wrocław, Poland. Using a platform delivered by Polskapresse, around fifteen students produce the newspaper Underground.
“Making a newspaper is easy, efficient and doesn’t take as much time as it used to,” says Lidia Borowska, teacher and project mentor. “Students can figure out most of the technical stuff themselves.”
In her opinion, young people benefit a lot by getting involved in journalism. “They can share their interests with others, use their creativity and learn about responsibility, but also earn recognition within the school environment,” Borowska says.
She also mentions additional opportunities offered by Polskapresse. Every month, the publisher prints 250 copies of the 50 best newspapers and delivers them to schools. “Our newspaper was printed twice and it was an immense satisfaction for the students who were involved in its creation,” Borowska says. “Four of them also took part in a journalistic summer camp, organised by Polskapresse”.
Similarly to the Danish project, Junior Media is also an attempt to stimulate readership. “For our brand, the project aims to reach out to a new target group and as a result, to encourage young people to become readers,” says Magdalena Chudzikiewicz.
Borowska, however, remains skeptical. “Honestly, I don’t think this will increase the youngsters’ interests in paid newspapers,” she says.
Her students agree: “We mostly look for news on the Internet, and sometimes in free newspapers,” says Underground reporter Oskar Falkowski. “I’m pretty convinced it will stay this way.”
Belief in print
Nevertheless, the Polish initiative is viewed as a big success. Since its launch in November 2010, 1,216 schools have registered with the platform and more than 10, 000 students are using it.
Photo credit: Polskapresse
Both the Polish and Danish publishers say they originally decided to invest in traditional school newspapers, because they are convinced that the era of print media is not over yet.
“First, we believe that printed papers have a greater impact in the local community than online articles on the schools’ websites,” says Louise Abildgaard Grøn. “We also believe that the printed paper will always play an important role in society in the future.”
The publishers are also trying to keep up with new trends. Redaktionen publishes the articles on the schools’ websites and on a subsection of Extra Bladet’s website called Skole. Similarly, Polskapresse’s Junior Media project allows students to create online editions of their school newspapers. “We want to tie the youth to our brand – it doesn’t matter if it will be through print newspapers or the Internet,” says Magdalena Chudzikiewicz.
Students sometimes also take things into their own hands and come up with independent initiatives. “Our future plan is to build the school website so that it is directly connected to our school newspaper,” says Underground team member Oskar Falkowski.
Besides obvious marketing goals, the publishers also think that their initiatives are important for the development of the democratic debate.
“All the participating students learn about the role that newspapers play in society, locally as well as nationally,” says Grøn. “They learn about the importance of having a democratic voice via a newspaper. This gives them a greater understanding of democratic values and the news media in general.”
Both Polish and Danish initiatives have earned national as well as international recognition.
Polskapresse’s Junior Media project won the first prize in the prestigious contest Media Trends 2011 in the category of “Self - promotion and promotion of the medium”. In August 2011 it also received a special mention in The World Young Reader Prize competition, organised by WAN-IFRA (World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers). Denmark’s “Redaktionen” triumphed at the INMA awards, winning first place in the two categories of best New Brand / Product / Audience Development and best Public Relations and Community Service.
Tags: denmark, extra bladet, internet news sources, media, news media, newspaper publishers, online editions, poland, polskapresse, print media, print newspapers, redaktionen, school newspaper, target, the world young reader prize, young readers,
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