NYT columnist: “I could not name you an under-25 year old who subscribes to a print newspaper”

New York Times personal technology columnist David Pogue said at the weekend that he could not name an under-25 year old who subscribes to a print newspaper. Is he right?

He made the remarks, the exact quote being “I Could Not Name You An Under-25 Year Old Who Subscribes To A Print Newspaper” according to the blog the NYTnitpicker, whilst speaking at Book Summit 2010 in Toronto on Friday during his keynote speech on “Reading: The Next Chapter”.

Well it doesn’t look like he expects much of a next chapter in print.  The circulation numbers speak for themselves. In the last year, circulation at The New York Times has dropped 8.5%  on weekdays, to 950,000 and is down on Sundays by 5.2% to 1.4 million.

We don’t tend to subscribe so much to newspapers this side of the Atlantic, but likewise I don’t know many people in that age group who actually BUY newspapers. Period.

Besides if you live in London you get two free newspapers a day. You have the Metro and the Evening Standard, which is moving ahead with its plans to boost its free circulation to as high as 700,000. Add to that free magazines such as Stylists and Shortlist, which are aimed squarely at that age group, then you get a picture of a group immersed not in paid but in free content. How do you make them switch? Is it even possible?

Pogue never said how he rates The New York Times’ chances of making its paid content plans work, but you have to guess that he doesn’t rate the paper’s chances too highly.

If the only people who buy newspapers in large numbers, and are prepared to pay online, are the over 25-year old age group then paywalls are going to have some serious issues when so many free alternatives still exist.

  • Paul Rayment

    I’d say he is right. Subscriptions are nowhere near as popular this side of the pond but a paper subscription for the under 30s is rare – I’d suggest we tend to subscribe to local papers more.

    I’d say what is changing is magazine subscriptions. I subscribe to two (Wired and Calcio Italia) mainly because it was such a good deal, something like less than half the shop price.

    It will be interesting to see how digital subscriptions work out. I could see a ‘young person’ paying 80p per day to have their paper sent to them in the morning in iPad/iPhone format…HOWEVER the question here is, do young people have a single paper? Due to the internet we live in a world where we arrgagate our news. Whether it’s RSS feeds or simply site hopping. The BBC to one side I usually get my sports, tech, entertainment and other news areas from different sources. Would a digital subscription work for separate sections?

  • http://www.tradedoubler.com Chris Simpson

    I’d be careful about generalising on the basis of London, get up a little early and go to a filling station for around 6.00 am watch under 30’s buy papers in large numbers….Different demographic from London commuters yes but I wouldnt write them all off…

  • http://twitter.com/GordonMacMillan @gordonmacmillan

    @Paul yes i agree magazine subscriptions are much more common. I’m not sure digital subs will work to one paper like you say, but micropayments to a variety of sources could happen. That’s what Google is certainly looking at.

    @Chris you make a good point — i think certain parts of the newspaper market have a large group of under-25s. The red tops in particular.

  • Sam

    I think you folks are living too much in an elite world. Among average people, many buy a newspaper in the UK in this age group. Its not a subscription and its not the Guardian or telegraph. Its more like the Sun, Express, Daily Mail or the evening Standard. In the US, its not the Times or Washington Post, but it would be the Globe, NY Post, NY Daily news etc. Some of these publications arent highbrow – they may not be intelligent even. But they are purchased by working and lower class people of all ages who may not fit your elite idea of “people” I guess….

    I bet you folks cant imagine why anyone would not want to buy the ipad either. Or anyone who cant afford to buy an ipad they dont need.

    Hmmm….maybe it shouldnt come as a surprise that media folks are out of touch with the real world. That would certainly explain why you are struggling to make any money as an industry.