Why print can be child’s play

While the rise of digital has led many publishers to reduce their print offering, Dennis Publishing has continued to invest. Kerin O’Connor, chief executive of The Week at Dennis, explains how it’s found success with a print version of The Week for children – and what it can teach the industry about the future of print…

Jon Watkins spoke to him ahead of the 41st FIPP World Congress, taking place from 9-11 October where Kerin will be among 100 speakers from around the world sharing insights on a variety of industry and related topics. Join the conversation at the Congress.

Tell us about the drivers behind the launch of The Week Junior – how much of it was that you’d seen an opportunity in the market and how much was it driven by the desire to help kids engage with issues?

So, the best place to start was by looking at the success we’d had with The Week. One of the things that we’ve done, particularly over the last 10 years, was to build a suite of products that are designed to help people in their lives by providing expert opinion. Through those, there are four things that we do. We inform, we advise, we indulge, and we distil content. Our audiences are clever people who appreciate expert opinion that allows them to make up their own minds.

What The Week does very successfully is package up the news so that you can understand things by seeing multi-platform opinions rather than just one voice. And that’s why we have developed a suite of other products that adopt this approach– whether it’s our Independent Schools Guide, the financial guide Prosper, or The Week Portfolio -the Experts’ Guide to Good Living.

One thing we noticed over the years was that The Week is particularly popular with teenagers. If the magazine went into a family who had a 14-15 year old, then the teenager was more than likely reading it too. Their first serious entry point into news often came from reading a copy of The Week.

So we began to think about that we could apply this insight to a younger audience. How could we apply those principles of unpacking the world and explaining things to an audience that was even younger than teenagers?

Our immediate desk research was dispiriting. The perceived wisdom suggested that children read digital products, they had little interest in the news, and that it’s solely video content they want. But when we dug further into this audience, we found that UK children’s books sales were at a 10-year high. The highest level since the last Harry Potter. Children were reading just as much as ever in print. So we began to develop a product.

We tried to unpick reasons for the magazine’s existence and how it might relate to the customer. We came up with four things to guide us.

We had to make a product that was true to The Week’s essence but which couldn’t take The Week’s editorial approach. We couldn’t produce a dense digest of news with small pictures and sell it to a nine year old.

Next, whatever we did had to resonate with the parents too, so they would trust it enough to allow it into their house and to influence their child’s development. We also had to do something terrific for the child, because ultimately they are the readers and they had to feel that this was something made for them. And the last point was making it valuable to the educational establishment – it had to be something that teachers would wish to adopt, promote and use.

From this work, we found a core idea for The Week Junior which was ‘making sense of the world’. To explain, if you’re eight or nine, you’re beginning to become someone who reads for pleasure, and you’re beginning to self actualise in terms of your choices – maybe how your room is decorated or what you watch on TV. So The Week Junior began to become about helping children at that crucial time of transition by giving them confidence in their own opinions and ability to be look at a wide range of subjects.
more at:  http://www.fipp.com/news/features/why-print-can-be-childs-play

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