Monday, April 17, 2006

Generational Musings

I've been working on an article for my chapter's newsletter. I call it "The Industry Matters." I've always loved double entendres, and I especially like that title.

In the course of doing the article, I wrote about Dorchester Publishing's new initiatives intended to capture younger readers. On Saturday, I blogged about their plan to partner with to host a series of "speed dating" events around the U.S. starting in May.

Dorchester's second initiative was announced in RWA's ”Romance Writer’s Report.” According to RWR, the publishing house is planning a new imprint for 2007. These romances will feature heroines aged 18 to 25 stolen from their normal lives into an alternate universe “that challenges all she thought she knew.” The books will sport covers resembling the popular manga graphic novels.

In talking about her goals, Dorchester Editorial Director Alicia Condon was quite open: "it's a chance for us to foster reading among those in an age bracket that publishers have long had trouble reaching.”

Thinking about Alicia's comment reminded me of a book called "Generations" that I read almost fifteen years ago. The book was written by William Strauss and Neil Howe. The authors attempted to identify generational patterns. The book didn't earn much credibility with sociologists or historians, but it did get a lot of attention from marketing people bent on selling to the various generations.

There are lots of ways to look at the post World War II generations. For the purposes of this blog, I'm not going to try for sub-categories. I'm not using Strauss & Howe's delineations either. This is a broad butcher block look:

Baby Boomers 1946-1964
Generation X 1965-1980
Generation Y 1981-2001

The group that Dorchester is targeting is Generation Y, those children who are now roughly between the ages of five and twenty-six. These kids are also known as the Millennials or the Net Generation because they were the last children born in the twentieth century, but the first children to grow up in a digital world dominated by the Internet.

The Gen Y group have much broader and more diverse entertainment options than any previous generation’s. They’ve grown up with access to PCs, cell phones, digital cameras, Instant Messaging, DVDs, Mp3s, Tivo, PlayStation and MySpace. They are more at home in front of a laptop than they are with a library book. These are not the computer geeks of the Gen X group, where one had to be technologically inclined to understand computers. The Gen Y kids inhaled digital technology with every breath; they drank it in with their mothers' milk.

The publishing industry is going to have to develop much more convenient and immediate mediums in order to appeal to this generation. These kids spend more time on the Internet than they do watching television; they watch movies on huge home screens or laptops instead of visiting theaters. They like computer graphics, colorful manga and cell phones that take photos. They are in constant communication with each other via cell phones, Instant Messaging and social network websites like MySpace. They can share music, play video games and exchange pictures all with a few keystrokes.

So how do publishers reach this demographic group? Try visiting websites like and look at the manga the Gen Y group are buying and downloading. There are even Harlequin books available on this site.

Visit XM Radio's website and look at the offerings on their Sonic Theater station (

Stop by Fictionwise's website ( and look at the novels by Random House, Pocket, Penguin, Luna and others that can be downloaded to read immediately.

Again, it's about medium, immediacy and selection.

No comments: