Reaching Young Adult Readers
- October 8th, 2008
- 1 Comments
On Friday, I was invited to participate in a small forum organized by the National Endowment for the Arts to brainstorm around how to get more tweens and teens to read. There has been much debate over how technology, especially the internet, has transformed reading and whether it is helping or hurting literacy. I’m in the optimistic camp that believes that new media literacies are emerging online, with cell phones and video games, but I also understand the need to promote and encourage reading, and more importantly, comprehending long form content. The NEA is working on a summary of the meeting along with its own recommendations about what should be done, but I wanted to share some research presented about the YA book industry I found particularly interesting. The Codex Group did an online survey of regular book shoppers/readers aged 15 to 24 years old this past June and found:
- Younger Adult book readers live in Two Media Worlds They share many core book reading values with older readers – but are digitally-trained to expect “what I want!” now.
- Printed Books Rule both younger book shoppers aged 18-24 and older shoppers aged 55-64
purchased 93% of their books in traditional printed format
- Digital Books not there yet 7 months after launch (6/08) – Amazon Kindle has minimal younger adult impact – leading audience is older baby boomer book shoppers, but at less than 1% penetration
- “Free” Rules books had their “Napster Moment” centuries ago only 35% of books read by younger adults are purchased—the rest are “free” – either borrowed, already owned or gifts (11/06).
- In the Material World: bookstore browsing, personal recommendations, store displays important to both! Younger adults look to online blogs and reviews – older adults look to print media, TV and radio.
- Favorite authors, categories, book jacket and recommendations equally important to both ages. Book cover design and title extremely important for younger adults!
- Harder to ‘prescribe’ the right books – Increased ‘customization’ to each individual is digital standard. Male (and female) book readers category preferences change dramatically between ages 15 to 25.
- Majority of bestselling author websites barely reaching 1% of the author’s core reading audience – sites not yet creating high volume impact among younger or older readers.
- Print media have lost younger adult book reading audience, with the exception of People and Cosmo
- Internet editions of leading print publications not filling the under 25 year old gap.
A few recommendations from this research for reaching younger readers en masse were to:
- Focus on printed books (with high impact titles and covers), make it easy to get online
- Demand “low friction” transactions – efficient browsing, free content, minimal “clicks” to get results
- Don’t get lost in digital clutter - use retail partners
In the course of our brainstorming, I also had a few suggestions:
- Integrate books into existing social media hangouts (make what you are reading a status symbol amongst peers). Sites like Good Reads and Shelfari are cool, but they are for the “reading elite.” Need a book app like iLike for music. Maybe it exists already…if so, make it youth focused.
- Offer free books via SMS. Allow teens to sign up on a campaign site and opt in to receive an SMS when there is a new free book available. Make this part of some kind of app where texting to get the book shows up in your newsfeed on a Facebook or MySpace (i.e. viral)
- Connect books and music even more. We know that music is number one on the list of what makes teens happiest. Have books at concerts, artists promoting their favorite books, allow teens to create book soundtracks and mashups (you have to read the book first to really do this).