The New York Times will cater to a younger audience this weekend — much younger. The newspaper is publishing a print-only, stand-alone kids’ section aimed at nine to 12-year-olds.
The kids’ section, which will be included with the Sunday paper, is the latest special print-only section from The New York Times Magazine as part of the new initiative that, last December, was responsible for the special puzzle section that hit big with the army of crossword fanatics that makes up a not insignificant source of revenue.
“What we want to do with these special sections, more than anything, is surprise and delight,” said special projects editor Caitlin Roper, who was hired last fall for the newly created position from Wired, where she was the articles editor.
Part of the point of these sections is to give print subscribers the added value of exclusive, bonus content.
“If you think about digital subscribers, they get graphics and video and 360 and all kinds of things,” explained Roper. “But home delivery print subscribers and newsstand customers don’t get that. So a lot of this concept is about being innovative in print.”
The brightly illustrated section, designed by Debra Bishop, provides kids content in a newspaper format. Single-page subjects mimic the paper’s sections, such as sports, national, science and opinion and an editor’s note on the top of the page proclaims that it should not be read by grown-ups. Stories include how-to service stories geared to kids, but with a New York Times spin. Alan Dershowitz gives advice on winning an argument against your parents (pro tip: ‘‘make sure they know that if you win the argument, they get the credit for bringing up such a brilliant kid”) and a NASA engineer was interviewed for a story about building an especially aerodynamic paper airplane draws. “Part of the fun was bringing heavy-hitting, real expertise to advice for kids,” Roper said.
New York Times Magazine features editor Ilena Silverman’s 13-year-old son Silas was visiting the office one day when his expertise as a kid came in handy. After reviewing the lineup of stories and wondering why there wasn’t one about the current trend of making slime, he ended up with a byline. The child of a Times editor, one would assume, was probably born knowing the difference between bylines, datelines and headlines. But for kids who don’t know newspaper terms, an infographic helpfully diagrams the various parts of a newspaper story. The opinion section, with quotes from essays written by fourth grade students at P.S. 92 in Corona, Queens, also explains that an opinion page does not reflect “the views of the newspaper or its staff.”
Although the section functions as a sort of primer for news literacy, it isn’t part of a ploy to attract a new generation of readers to print. “I guess the subtext is sort of getting kids excited about newspapers and news, but that wasn’t our motivation,” she said.
Meanwhile, when it comes to print, there are some current industry-wide realities that hold true no matter how old the audience is — namely, that it’s far from boom times for print advertising revenue. The 14-page kids’ section does feature three full-page ads, but one is for the Times itself, part of its recent “Truth” campaign, rewritten to be about children.
“The truth is kids want to be part of the conversation,” it begins.