That is the message that emerged from the 7th World Young Reader Conference (presentation summaries), where a fresh approach to attracting young readers was presented by those who have succeeded in getting young people interested in their products.
“Stop writing surveys about readership, and start watching people. Learn, look around, open your eyes,” said Anne Kirah, Dean of the 180° Academy in Denmark and a cultural anthropologist who has helped Microsoft design its products. “You need to engage in people-driven research and look at their entire lives. Observe people doing activities that define themselves, and are meaningful to them.”
Ms Kirah said she was distrustful of traditional readership questionnaires because “there is a difference between what people say they do and what they actually do. Do you really know how much time you spend on the internet, or read a newspaper? But you ask those questions. It’s not that people are lying to you, it’s that they really don’t know the answers.”
The problem is compounded when studying young readers, or the “digital natives”, since their habits are completely different those of the “digital immigrants” — those who remember the analog-only world and are the people conducting the studies, and making the decisions at media companies.