In a statement that should give hope to small magazine publishers, Ben Greenman, a novelist and an editor at The New Yorker, tells a Media Bistro podcast that people will be willing to pay for niche content. He cited New Yorker editor David Remnick's belief that niche audiences – and they consider New Yorker's literate audience to be a large niche audience – "seek out content, and they are willing to spend time on it, and — despite what the 15-year-old says — when they have money, they are willing to spend money on [your content]."
The "15-year-old" to whom he refers is an intern at a UK financial institution who was asked to provide a report on the consumption habits of teens. He surveyed his friends and reported back that teenagers don't read newspapers (duh), don't use Twitter (if true, it's to their credit), don't use the phone (exceedingly doubtful), and use their game consoles to communicate. This sent a shock though the business community (or, for a non-Rupert Murdoch-owned source, see here), which apparently is still just getting up to speed on how to spell Twitter -- and now they're being told it's old hat. (The term "old hat" is old hat, BTW.)
Other thoughts that come out of this:
* They have a 15-year-old intern? Isn't that too young and kind of creepy?
* If teenagers aren't reading, can we please stop gearing all content toward them?
* If teenagers aren't using phones, then someone should tell the junior high school teachers I know who deal with their students calling and texting all day long. If they're not communicating with their friends and family, what are they doing? Trading stocks and bonds?
* Are UK business people so out of touch that they're really amazed at all this?
But, to bring this back to Mr. Greenman, it is at least a (probably unreliable) indicator that publishers who are relying on mass market media products to reach the young and easily distracted are probably wasting a lot of money. What they need to do is use the niche markets where the young and easily distracted are spending their time and where they have invested some trust, and that's where they should advertise the hell out of their products or services. This, again, is good news to small magazines and web site and online services that cater to relatively narrow markets and do it well.