National

Enhancing the youth readership experience

Staff report

To gather voices from young readers, The Japan Times asked a group of students at International School of Asia, Karuizawa, what they thought of The Japan Times. The following opinions were expressed during a feedback session with the students at their school.

Increasing visuals, including strong photos and infographics, is key to attracting younger readers, who are used to gathering information online where there is abundant visual content, according to students at the International School of Asia, Karuizawa (ISAK).

In a feedback session with an editor from The Japan Times on Oct. 20 at the boarding school in Nagano Prefecture, many of them said they felt the newspaper was text-heavy, making it hard for them to be drawn into articles when they skim through the pages.

“I usually focus on headlines to see what would be the most informative,” said Gurbani Kaur, a 10th grader. “But with a lot of text, it would be harder for me to navigate and find the information that I need. That’s why I go online more.”

One of the better examples they found with good infographics was the front page of the Oct. 17 edition that featured Emperor Akihito’s possible abdication and the problems facing the Imperial family.

The graphic featured the Imperial family tree, which made it easier to understand that the family had only Prince Hisahito as an heir in the younger generation.

For many JT readers who aren’t familiar with topics in Japan, offering a comprehensive background of the news is essential, especially by using visuals and graphics, said Mitsu Kiyohara.

“I think that’s the main point of having The Japan Times in Japan,” said Kiyohara, an 11th grader. “We need this kind of background to give people a general idea of Japanese society.”

Other visual aspects that caught their eye were the skyboxes at the top of the front page, which have photos and recommend stories on the inside pages.

The same could be said for the Japan Times Online, the newspaper’s website, they said.

Jin Yoshizawa, an 11th grader, pointed out that, compared to other newspaper websites, JTO doesn’t offer many visuals on its top page.

Many of the stories on JTO have pictures, but they aren’t shown unless the reader actually clicks and jumps to the story.

“On the JT website, when you scroll down there are no pictures attached to the articles, making it difficult” to be drawn in, said Yoshizawa, as other students nodded in agreement.

“Each article needs at least one picture on the top page,” where many readers visit first, Kiyohara said.

Many ISAK students also suggested utilizing social media more often to reach out to a younger audience.

“Because more people use social media and people have more access to it, I feel like more people will read it” if news stories appear on social media, said Alex Kawasaki, a 10th grader.

The Japan Times sends daily email newsletters to present a lineup of the latest news. However, such a service could be expanded to other social media, such as the Line messaging app, said Ayana Shirai, a 10th grader, who catches up on the latest information via Line News.

Twitter, Tumblr and Snapchat are some of the other social media platforms favored by ISAK students.

For students who just want to skim through the news, which is often the case, creating daily videos of around 60 seconds summarizing the news and uploading them to the web would be a good idea, said Yoshizawa.

Asked when they read news, they said that breaks between classes were often their choice, giving them a maximum of about five minutes on their smartphones. Because ISAK is a boarding school, the typical morning commuting hours aren’t available for catching up on the news.

But not many students read news on a regular basis.

They are more likely to look for news articles when they are given an assignment that requires them to research certain topics in the news such as the refugee crisis in Europe, or the U.S. presidential election.

Many voiced the need to make the paper and online edition easier for them to search for stories such as improving the search engine, categorizing stories and putting in relevant key words.

The discussion also covered the size of the newspaper — the tabloid used for Japan Times On Sunday or the broadsheet size used in other editions of The Japan Times.

“Personally, I prefer the tabloid size. If I want to read the broadsheet I’d need a table and it would be difficult for me to read,” said Shirai.