The Associated Press has taken a beating in some quarters lately over perceptions–largely misguided, I believe–that it's somehow competing online with its newspaper members. Not only does this reflect a misunderstanding of what the AP does, but a lot of critics seem to forget that AP is owned by those newspapers. It's a rare example of newspaper ownership of a savvy online player, and a lot better than the alternative (think: Reuters. Or Google).
- Tying news delivery more closely to e-mail. Clearly, these readers want news pushed to them. They want to be alerted when something is going on that they care about (gee, maybe they're news junkies more than anyone thought!), and they want to be able to do it simultaneous with checking their e-mail or text messages. That means more e-mail products, mobile products and distribution via things like instant-messaging and RSS.
- Deliver to the technologies these readers live with. Seems obvious, but again, most newspapers and their Web sites are still publishing most of their news the old-fashioned way. These readers are looking at TV, their phones and PDAs, and other, fresher technologies (a surprising number don't even have computers at home, or dismiss the computer as more of a time-waster). That's where news needs to be delivered, with the same quality and aggressiveness of traditional outlets. (AP is walking the walk on this: its AP Mobile News app is one of the snazzier of the new iPhone apps.)
- Don't underestimate television. It's still a significant form of news delivery for these consumers. That suggests that newspapers need to find ways to move their brands onto TV (what is this, 1955?). Online video is one thing–and it's important–but regular TV is still a very viable medium for these young readers, and newspapers don't reach them there.
- Give them depth. This one's a bit of a surprise, but clearly these young readers are frustrated by the thinness of the news they're getting. I think the secret here is to give them the option to go deeper if they like–but not to force depth on them. Products need to offer both brief and long versions that readers can choose.
- News consumption is increasingly multitasked. Translation: These news consumers want information they can access while they're doing something else, rather than having to focus intently on, say, a newspaper or Web site. They're getting news while driving or while doing other things. That means news organizations need to find ways to wedge news products into those activities rather than demanding 100 percent attention (young readers will give that if they're more interested in depth).
- A bit of news fatigue is setting in. With news coming from many directions, these consumers feel overloaded by information. This argues for well-crafted, focused news reports that maximize the amount of information delivered and provides it in high quality. Sounds like a business newspapers should know well–but it needs to happen in different media than paper.
- News is social currency. It's "cool" for these kids to know something their friends don't, and then to be the source of that news, or for them to be conversant with their friends and colleagues about what's going on in the world. That's an old-fashioned value that appears to still hold with these new audiences.