How to Reach The Next Generation of Readers
Now, in the era of online commenting and social media threads, those conversations have forums to flourish. "It's not a different conversation," says Laufer. "We've always had a conversation with our readers. They've never been bashful about sending us letters. People are amazed by how many letters we used to receive from the readers. Tubs and tubs of mail!"
"The kids, I say, they're my boss," quips National Geographic Kids' Buchholz. "They are the ones I answer to, and I'm very fortunate to have a 2,000-member kids team -- kids who apply to be on our team -- who every month get a survey about features, departments, games in the magazine, and they rate them...It's a very engaged audience, and we use their feedback to create content. We don't just ask whether they've liked this story or that one; we ask about covers, and future cover art or future story ideas. Sometimes we show them when we're thinking about a new department, and ask them to compare two different designs, and tell us which they prefer."
Buchholz notes that though National Geographic Kids has an impressive one-million-strong following on Facebook, the social media pages are not intended to message readers, for some may be younger than 13. Rather, social media sites have proven a great way to reach readers' parents and guardians. "We also have the National Geographic Kids Community Insider, which is a group of parent bloggers we've selected to be our champions and ambassadors, to let like-minded parents know about all of the great things we're doing."
Like those who have come before, this generation of teens and young adults gets scrutinized for how different and alien they seem to their elders -- their eyes perpetually downcast in the direction of some omnipresent electronic companion. But far from being self-absorbed, anti-social or apathetic, these kids are wired (wireless, as the case may be), have a point of view, and aren't afraid to express it.