American Pie 13.02.03

American publishers are alarmed at figures that show the number of young adults who don’t read newspapers or magazines is increasing. True, in many cases they are turning to the websites of newspapers and magazines – butÊmost of these are still free. “Why sift through an entire newspaper when I can go online and get the news in 30 seconds?” was how one 18-year-old at Hofstra University put it. A study in New York showed that although 55 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds still buy newspapers, 80 per cent now get their news on the internet, 92 per cent from radio and 79 per cent from TV. The prospect of losing an entire generation of readers has resulted in a frenzy of activity at some news organisations. Gannett and Knight Ridder have started weekly sections in their papers filled with reviews of movies and rock bands, and lots of gossip. Some sections are included in regular newspapers, others given away free at nightclubs, coffee shops and other youth hangouts. Even Time and Newsweek have beefed up coverage of college life and such issues as abortion rights, because in the past five years their share of readers under the age of 35 has shrunk from 44 per cent 28 per cent. “The traditional media is no longer relevant to the lives and lifestyles of the young” is the chilling view of John Harman, professor of journalism at Central Michigan University.

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered a clean-up of City Hall. As a result, the Press Room is getting its first spring clean for decades. Almost a century of grime is being cleaned off the walls. Reporters have been told to empty their desks to make way for new ones. In the process, all sorts of long-lost belongings have turned up – including a half-full 40-year-old bottle of Balvenie malt whisky, a dead car battery and Western Union telegraph equipment dating back to pre-computer days. The clean-up began when a piece of ceiling came crashing down on the desk of Newsday’s bureau chief. “It’s not a healthy working environment,” said the mayor’s press secretary. The 17 newsmen who have space in the room are still fighting to retain the faded caricatures of past mayors that have hung on the walls for generations. The renovation is expected to cost $100,000 (£600,000), half of which will be billed to the news organisations, which include the mayor’s own company, Bloomberg News.

If it’s such a success, why is it up for sale? That’s the question raised by the decision of Primedia to put Seventeen, a popular magazine for teenage girls, on the auction block. The magazine, which has been around since 1944 and has 15 overseas editions, is one of the best-sellers in its field, with a circulation of over 2.4 million, ahead of such rivals as YM, Cosmogirl, Ellegirl and Teen Vogue. One of the likely reasons for the sale – expected to raise at least $200m – is that the teenage field is becoming very crowded and Primedia, which is cash-strapped, wants to concentrate on its portfolio of more specialised (and profitable) magazines such as Fly Fisherman and Power & Motoryacht. In the past year, it has sold American Baby (for $114m), Modern Bride ($52m) and Chicago Magazine ($35m). A spokesman for the company insists that New York Magazine, its crown jewel, is not for sale – but then only last month it was insisting Seventeen was not for sale.

Jeffrey Blyth

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