Digital NIE links kids to local newspapers

New digital tools in the classrooms are helping newspapers reach younger audiences, but some teachers are still not willing to chuck the print copies in the trash and students aren’t becoming devoted readers.

Nikolay Malyarov, vice president of publishing and legal affairs at NewspaperDirect, spoke at the INK+BEYOND conference on Saturday, April 30 on how the Newspaper in Education program is going digital to engage youth. Students can now access the digital newspapers on SMART boards, computers and mobile devices.

“We strongly believe that without having the NIE program in place, and without have a cost-effective program in place, which would be in digital NIE, the future generation will be completely disconnected from the local publications,” Malyarov said. “I can’t tell you that by providing digital NIE it’s going to turn the trend around, but at least some of that audience will be retained.”

NewspaperDirect promotes digital NIE as a cost effective alternative to print paper deliveries, which are usually financed by sponsors or vocation donations. Malyarov mentioned a large national newspaper in United States that paid $4.2 million per year for the delivery of 30,000 newspapers to schools in its area. The paper cut down this price tag to about $300,000 after the switch to digital NIE.

News providers can include more pages with specific educational content in digital NIE that might be too costly to print. The digital version also caters better to foreign and visually-impaired students.

But the most important advantage, Malyarov said, was that the digital version helps publishers to establish brand recognition with young readers who tend to be very promiscuous in their media use and don’t pick up print newspapers.

“You can at least build the connection between the young reader and the brand that exists in the market,” Malyarov said Educators are drawn to the eco-friendly sticker on digital NIE, Malyarov said. They also like having an extensive, searchable archive that is hard to get with print editions.

But digital NIE is still not widely accepted as young people and educators remain cautious about the new service. Malyarov said that young people are not picking up printed papers, but prefer to get their news from Facebook or Google. “Newspapers are nowhere close on their list of what they want to read,” he said. “The younger audience, a more mobile, more mobile-savvy audience is feeling that they don’t have to have access to a local newspaper anymore. That’s not an essential piece of their everyday life.”

Some teachers are also hesitant to embrace the new service. Conference participants from Toronto and Yukon said educators seem anxious about the digital switch. Malyarov explained the hesitancy in terms of the generational divide. “Technology is scary to a lot of educators,” he said. “As the young blood starts flowing into that, that will be changing.

It is hard to change it overnight.” Malyarov said that digital NIE remains a transitional tool and will continue to evolve to adapt to future readership trends.