Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Associated Press youth initiative provides opportunities for newspapers
Aimed at the 70 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 34, asap, the Associated Press' initiative to bring young people back to newspapers, began on September 19 (see previous posting) with the slogan "Connect with the next news generation." About 200 American papers are said to have signed up for the service which will provide updated news, entertainment, lifestlyes, sports, and a money & gadgets section for both online and print editions on a daily basis. The focus, however, seems to be on the website, as a promotional video (found at Cyberjournalist) emphasizes that asap's multimedia reports and interactivity are to be the project's core.
The homepage is decorated with an Associated Press news ticker under the banner, followed progressively by the site's main feature, exclusive features (such as an AP journalist's bike ride at President Bush's Texas ranch), advertising and the five above-mentioned sections. Browsing the site, one finds fairly short, to the point articles accompanied by a photo or two and the occasional multimedia feature such as sound bytes or a quick video.
According to asap's editor, Ted Anthony, these interactive qualities will gradually improve, even integrating a means of allowing concerned readers' questions to be nationally polled. Anthony said in his first note to the public (which will eventually morph into a blog) that asap is looking for a "third route" next to that of the mainstream media and the blogoshpere, "one that blends the best parts of tradition with the exciting revolution of the past decade," and one in which stories will be told with audio, video, and images but that will maintain print as a "powerful tool (that) should be deployed as assertively and exuberantly as any other modern media."
Keeping this in mind, here are three problems that newspapers and asap will have to work out as the project develops:
1. Service subscription: each individual paper that signs up for the service will pay a fee to AP depending on the circulation of their paper. It may, however, make more sense for the AP to charge according to a paper's young readership, with a special emphasis on online readership since asap seems to be primarily an Internet-based service and will more than likely attract most through the Web.
2. Newspaper revenues: Not one paper to date plans to charge readers for asap, which is a good idea because not many 18-34 year-olds pay for news. However, asap provides newspapers with an alternative source of advertising which could prove profitable if individual papers launch promotional campaigns for asap in their area in order to entice potential young readers to buy the paper or connect to asap through the paper's website.
3. Brand name recognition: Perhaps the biggest problem is that asap does not yet seem to be able to create further awareness of individual newspapers. As of the time of this posting, AP's website lists five newspapers that have adopted the service which when clicked on bring the reader to the same asap homepage. The only difference is the individual newspaper's name displayed minimally and without even a link to the paper's website within the larger asap main banner. On the other hand, the service may end up spreading awareness of the Associated Press among the elusive demographic, once again drawing attention to the idea that news agencies will increasingly bypass newspapers, interacting directly with readers through their websites.
Overall, asap has potential for newspapers, but it will take some hard work and patience for them to capitalize on its advantages.
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