World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

My readers are older than your readers

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

My readers are older than your readers

As baby boomers hit their 60s, that stats are beginning to skew in interesting ways, For example, NewMedia TrendWatch expect that "the fastest growth among tablet users as a whole will come in the under-12 and 65-and-older age groups." As this latter, older age group migrates to tablets, the publishing industry needs to ensure that the product remains attractive.

The technology itself will continue to evolve and most likely become simpler. For example, Japan's biggest mobile phone comany DoCoMo is focused on building in speech recognition for older people, working in a similar way to Siri. In a similar vein, Fujitsu recently launched an Android smartphone, the Raku Raku, with an interface specifically re-invented for older users.

But how do we design content for older users?

There is a clichéd assumption that older readers are looking for simplicity: Fewer photos, simpler graphics, easy to read fonts. The satirical website The Onion plays up to this by imagining a version of Time Magazine 'for adults' - instead of the colourful and accessible version on the newsstands today. 

Back in 2008, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) made a useful review of the literature surrounding web design guidelines for older people. And many of the suggestions have since become common practice - for example avoiding "making pull-down menus, scrolling lists, and scrolling pages". The complications arise when we start to consider personalisation - for example, how easy is it to increase font sizes for a demographic that is statistically more likely to have a vision impairment?

Meanwhile editorial decisions remain as difficult as ever. As reported by the Nieman Foundation, looking at readership preferences among each demographic can spring some interesting surprises. For example, at the Orlando Sentinel, a new page called Rush that covered extreme or action sports was "most popular with readers ages 55 and older", adding weight to a claim that "reaching a younger audience is happening without alienating their older one."

Last resort - just put up a paywall

Back in April, Editor&Publisher reported on the story of the Times Record in Brunswick, Maine, USA. After instigating a paywall, the average age of a digital subscriber went from 43 to 59.

It's a slightly misleading statistic, but as the recession hits the younger demographic harder, it may be wise to focus marketing efforts on those older readers - in other words, the only ones willing to pay for digital content. Today they might be using a laptop or PC, tomorrow it could be a tablet.


Photo by Ben Chau on Flickr via Creative Commons


Nick Tjaardstra's picture

Nick Tjaardstra


2012-07-26 10:41

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