retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Longtime readers of MNB likely are familiar with my constant refrain that print is in a kind of inevitable and extended death spiral that eventually will make things like newspapers, magazines and perhaps even physical books a distant, lovely and dusty memory. I know it irritates a lot of you, and even I’m not happy about it...but I’ve believed for sometime that this is the way things are going.

Well, not so fast...

The New York Times had a story the other day about how a French editor and publisher has created a trio of daily newspapers specifically designed for kids. There is Mon Quotidien, or My Daily, for 10-14 year olds; Petit Quotidien, or Little Daily, for 7- to 10-year-olds; and L’Actu, which translates roughly into The Headlines for 14- to 17-year-olds.

Not only are the kids reading these papers - and indeed, they are printed on actual paper - but at Mon Quotidien, they actually help to edit the paper and choose stories.

“In an age when many children are addicted to computers, iPods and iPads — and when newspapers are feeling the pressure — Mon Quotidien appears to be an anomaly,” the Times writes. Parents are willing to pay for the papers, and the total circulation of the three is over 165,000 - and the whole publishing enterprise is operating in the black.

What this proves, I think, is that maybe traditional forms of communication - or even traditional business models - still have a life...as long as the people running them continue to invest in making them relevant.

Mon Quotidien and its siblings seem to have cracked that code, at least for the kids’ market. To this point, however, there seems to be no evidence that the reading habits that kids are developing around these newspapers are translating to their adult lives. But that may say more about the relevance of many French newspapers than about the attitudes of these kids.

Whether picking up a newspaper or walking into a retail store - or, for that matter, turning on a computer - people want to be engaged, enlightened, informed and entertained. The success of Mon Quotidien tells us that if we are good and aggressive marketers, not shooting for the lowest common denominator but rather shooting for something better than that, we don’t necessarily have to abandon traditional models. But we’d better be really, really good at what we do...because mediocrity is the fastest way to short-circuit the whole enterprise and disenfranchise the young people on whom we will depend for our livelihoods.

And that’s my Wednesday morning eye-opener.

- Kevin Coupe
KC's View: