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India's Newspapers Provide Outlets for Young VoicesPosted by: admin on Mon, 2010-04-26 10:10
By Paromita Pain
The Hindu Newspaper
25 April 2010
Indian newspapers, like many others the world over, want to become more relevant and responsive to young people in a media-drenched world. Two of India’s largest English-language dailies, “The Times of India” and “The Hindu”, have created niche products that cater to youth interests and provide outlets for their user-driven content. The youth publications also offer readers and contributors lively forums for discussing social, personal and political issues.
Indian print media has always been aware of young audiences and typically offered them pages of cartoons, comics and puzzles (particularly in most Sunday editions) as well as some special publications. But now media houses also see young audiences as long-term investments in their audience and potential revenue streams in their own right. Increasingly, young people are seen as having influence on the buying decisions of their elders, via so-called “pester power." New media such as cell phones and the internet are also making it possible for younger Indians to consume independently, raising the interest of advertisers.
Newspapers also are acutely aware that the immediacy and interactivity of electronic media pose a challenge to print publications if they want to attract a young audience accustomed to having a say in the news cycle. Papers must make youth readers creators as well as consumers of content to sustain their interest and win over allegiance from other media.
Times of India Student Edition
The Times of India has its Student Edition offers local, national and international news relevant to young people, as well as updates on school events, trends, unusual and "funky" news items, careers and relationship advice, style and fitness issues, and more.
The publication also features articles written by students and teachers. Reporters are appointed in schools to cover school events and activities, and the reporters are rewarded with redeemable vouchers for buying goods and for use at restaurants. Prizes are also given for winners of contests and games run by the publication.
Deepti Mehra, assistant general manager of The Times of India, said, “This seeks to create and distribute a newspaper that, in its own right, is highly attractive and engaging for the young reader...printed with the eventual objective of familiarizing and inculcating the habit of regular newspaper readership amongst students. There is a new emphasis on interactivity where each page features articles by students, teachers, young people and their parents.”
The Hindu also runs its Newspaper in Education (NIE) program, designed to help children use the newspaper as an education tool. This helps children find news to learn from, identify areas they would like to know more about and talk about them in class while relating them to subjects taught. Schools are invited to participate and resource people are also brought in to hold informal sessions on various topics such as poetry, drama and art.
Hindu's Young World and Nxg
At the 130-year-old Hindu Newspaper Group, young people have long been an integral part of the company's newspaper publication strategy. Its Young World supplement to the Hindu has been targeting the 5-to-13 age group for the past twenty years. The original broadsheet edition of the supplement was recently converted to a tabloid format and the page count was increased. The Young World's website has proven to be a key asset, adding interactivity and easy navigation that allow young readers to find stories with minimum fuss.
Two years ago, the Hindu rolled out Nxg (Next Generation) a 16-page tabloid supplement and website for the 15-to-25 age group that was based on extensive research in schools to determine the best approach to content. While market research showed plenty of interest in the usual youth fare (fashion, beauty, relationships, careers and entertainment), Hindu editorial staff were surprised to find a strong desire among young people for stories that would help them think about important issues and possibly take a stand on them. There was also strong demand for user-generated content. Students' reasoning was simple: let’s read about what others of our age group think about.
In fact, news pages aimed at young people carry some provocative and serious items. For example, topics might include corporal punishment or young people participating in riots. While picture selection and editorial rewrites ensure that the content is appropriate for young readers, there is nevertheless an effort made to raise awareness of such social and political issues. .
Contributors write articles, reviews and comments on other articles. While the pages are devoted to issues young people said they most like to read about (with a special emphasis on current social and health issues), a special area called “My space” carries small items on a wide variety of subjects that readers send in.
When Nxg celebrated its second birthday, here is what a couple of readers/contributors had to say:
The first thing that comes to mind is the feeling you get when you realize your name is featured at the end of the article and that thousands of people are going to read it. It’s just awesome to have a place to share things we know with a large audience. This is the only paper I know of that encourages us, the readers, to actively be a part of this venture. And then, there’s the [payments]; who can deny that?
--Sharan, a II Year B.E student at RMK College of Engineering and Technology.
Personally, it has been my home turf of sorts where, as the famous Chinese proverb says, I do and I understand. If Nxg was a mirror, it would show each one of us, the faces of our generation, our habits, likes, dislikes, attitudes and everything else there is to know. NXg is more than a mere platform. It is a reflection of us.
--Yashasvini, a Std XI student at APL Global School, Chennai.
Of course, these papers and their youth initiatives tend to reach a relatively privileged, mostly urban and English-speaking segment of the population. Regional-language editions of newspapers would reach a far larger number of young people in the country.
The Bottom Line
News organizations say youth initiatives have benefitted their bottom lines. Deepti Mehra, the assistant general manager of the Times of India, said, “Increasing young audiences have affected circulation figures positively. The Times NIE program has grown from 300,000 members in 2004-05 to 445,000 members in 2005-06 after the introduction of The Times of India, Student Edition, besides showing a growth in student members and newspaper circulation of nearly 50%.”
The Hindu acknowledges that finding advertisers for Nxg hasn’t been easy, though the response from current advertisers has been positive. It is sometimes tough to get investors because they do not consider this age group to have much spending power. But that assumption is being challenged in the wired world, where more young people have more money to spend or advise their parents on what to buy.
Paromita Pain is a senior reporter and sub editor working on the Young World and Nxg youth supplements of the Sunday edition. She is currently residing in Austin, Texas.
Other Field Blog Posts by Paromita:
Blogging To Heal the Wounds of Conflict
Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/webethere/ / CC BY-ND 2.0 and http://www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/ / CC BY-SA 2.0