Now here’s a sobering thought for all those newspaper editors currently trying to embrace technology and attract the next generation of readers.

A survey of reading habits of the 11-14 year-old age group shows the most popular magazine, book or blog is Heat.

Commissioned as part of the National Year of Reading, second most popular was Bliss magazine.

Of the mainstream media, the BBC website polled the most votes and came in at tenth. The rest of the top ten is either made up of books (such as Harry Potter), or online resources like a personal blog or website providing song lyrics.

The boy wizard also makes it into the top of most loathed reading material, alongside the FT, Shakespeare and Facebook.

Other food for thought thrown up by the survey is that teenagers are reaching a “tolerance tipping point” in their consumption of celebrity magazines. There is a growing tension amongst young people, who rank “reading about skinny celebrities in magazines” as their fourth least loved read.

There is also a predictable gender split. Boys are particularly practical in their approach, with 31% saying that they love reading because it helps them get better at their hobbies, whilst girls are more pragmatic with 39% saying they loved reading because it is an escape and quiet time they can enjoy on their own.

Four out of ten top teen reads are online and 80% of teenagers questioned say they have written their own story, film, play or song.

“The explosion of digital media, and how we use it, means that today’s young people are exposed to a wider variety of reading material than any previous generation,” commented Honor Fletcher-Wilson, Director of the National Year of Reading. 

“Despite this, it seems adults are not yet embracing this shift and are not encouraging teens to take advantage of this new landscape.”

2 responses »

  1. Ursula says:

    Yesterday I deleted my carefully considered reply to your “bleeding obvious” as so much superfluous wind. However, today I can’t stop myself to hand first prize for bleeding obvious statements to whoever Fletcher-Wilson is.

    In fact, how does one become Director of “The National Year of Reading”? Like dogs, I thought reading was for life not just 12 months.

    Please do indulge me in a brief rant: I hate surveys and polls – it’s the gate to the hell of generalisations. I also hate a school curriculum that makes one sweat through Romeo and Juliet with a fifteen year old boy who consequently has a rather distorted view of the joys and consequences of loving someone romantically, only to be closely followed by the agonies of Hardy’s “Mayor of Casterbridge”. Though he enjoyed the story there was such ennui at having to dissect the whole caboodle, in the end I wrote the essay for him, at the last minute, toning down verbal dexterity as not to arouse suspicion. Consequently, at the next parents’ evening, I nearly had an argument with his English teacher why (he) I was only given a B. My son thought it hilarious. I am still licking my wounds.

    Back to your newspaper editors. Reading is, always has been, an unknown quantity. Some do, some don’t. Some read airport blockbusters, others wouldn’t be seen dead or alive with one. Some read philosopy but rather keep that to themselves too. Linking in with that dreadfully obvious Byron woman of your last entry let’s not generalise, let’s give our youngsters some space, stop looking over their shoulders and policing their every move.

    In my house we drown in print of every kind (with the exception of heat and bliss) – so, despite leading by example, let’s not be hurt if the uptake is not that great at all times. And, oh yes, as to the Wizard, my son refused to read him or indeed watch the films because “everybody” did. Maybe fodder to think about for some of those newspaper editors out there trying to make the sale without considering that you can’t shear all youngsters with the same comb.


  2. Paul Groves says:


    Thanks for the considered comments (this one and the deleted one I’m afraid I’ll never get to read).

    I took a great deal of pleasure and inspiration from the NYoR survey – even though I also have a deep loathing of such polls (there’s my mile-wide hypocritical streak shining brightly again, when it suits me and my thoughts I love these studies and polls!).

    The Wizard aside, I thought there was a pretty decent variety in the “most read” list and as much as I despise Heat I can see why it has its appeal in terms of style (if not content). I’m not going to criticise the reading material of choice, at least they are reading – whether it is pages in a book or pages online.

    The reporting of the survey shows the problems that newspapers have – they seize on the negative (Heat magazine proving so popular) but ignore the fact that elsewhere in the study teenagers are voicing their concern about our celeb-obsessed culture.
    They fear the next generation of potential readers, yet make little attempt to understand them. They want this generation to read their newspaper, yet make little attempt to actively engage them. The more they fail, the more they attempt to pin the blame on the teenagers themselves by decrying their taste, attitude and lack of culture.
    Therefore the Press Gazette’s news items starts with a negative assumption about Heat and by association those who read it: “Heat magazine is pilloried in some quarters for its obsession with the weight loss, love lives and fashion choices of celebrities, but that has apparently not put off its younger readers.”
    I’m not suggesting our local newspapers need to ape Heat, but they could learn some valuable lessons on promotion and engagement.

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