I was at a seminar yesterday in Gampaha of the Distributors and Agents of the Newspapers of a leading publisher and amongst many topics discussed was one that is timely and worthy of discussion. It is important that to continue either increasing circulation or expanding, there must be increases in readership by young people, an age group that is perceived not to read newspapers.
Whilst I do not fall into the youth category, I nevertheless read the English dailies on the Internet, the main paper I read being emailed to me at around 6.30am. I then go through the Sinhala papers in the office as soon as I get there.
In the discussion, the general consensus was that the papers are not purchased by the young, though in some households certain sections of the paper are read by the youth. They nevertheless when they get on line, do not read the papers opting instead for the gossip websites giving the latest on this actress or that and what fracas they got into so as to be up to date on these matters.
It was pointed out by some that many young people are actually quite aimless, easily being influenced by the drug and alcohol culture out of peer pressure and the papers editors were asked to include sections of interest for youth as none exist at present. Remember that it is the Sinhala papers we talk about, circulation of English papers is miniscule. There is an overload of politics and politically related topics that young people are just not interested in. So it is important to survey what it is they would like to see and cater to this need. Only then can the papers expect some sort of growth in this dwindling market. The epitaph of newspaper circulation has been written and the readership in the US is in decline since the advent of the Internet revolution, unless they can be transferred there.
We can still transfer the readership of the papers to the Net in easily readable form, be it on the smart phone or the tablet. Internet readership makes more sense if they can convince the advertisers, the bread and butter of the paper, that their ads are seen on line when we log into the paper. With the cost of newsprint exceeding the cost of the paper, the latter observation is very important to the paper itself if it is to continue to show increasing ad revenue in a time of declining circulation, showing that people opt to read the papers on line. It is also ecologically sound.
Once the need to be informed is believed by youth, it is easier to use electronic newspaper readership to continue to gain numbers, rather than fight circulation. This however is little comfort to the Agents who do not benefit from the Internet!