I.D. gets thumbs up from buyers

New Toronto Star youth section replaces Boom! with satire and cynicism

The Toronto Star is once again hoping to grab onto the newspaper-shy youth market with the launch of a new youth-targeted section.

The former teen-targeted section Boom! has been replaced with a sharper, wackier, slightly older-skewing version. I.D. launched on Oct. 28 and will run every Tuesday in print and online, aiming to attract long-term readers from the lucrative 18-to-24 demographic.

‘All newspapers are keen to build loyalties within this age group,’ says John Hondrich, publisher of the Star. ‘We felt that we wanted to try something a little different to Boom! to attract a slightly older reader.’

Extensive research was conducted to find out what appeals to this demographic so the new product would speak directly to the target market. The Star conducted surveys and studied numerous other youth publications from the U.S. and Europe to get a sense of the type of content that would work. The result is a shift away from the traditional informative youth section that Boom! had become, towards a more informal, cynical section that speaks to a slightly older reader.

‘We want to be the voice of the average 22-year-old so we engage them with language and content that appeals to them,’ says I.D.’s editor, Jon Filson. ‘It’s a little bit hipper than Boom!’ he adds, ‘and we’ll be using some humour and satire.’

The emphasis in I.D. is on options and decision-making, rather than advice.

Each month I.D. will introduce a ‘big decision’ which young people may face such as ‘should I finish my education?’ or ‘should I buy a car?’ and this will form the backbone for all the issues during the coming month, with the majority of stories revolving around that concept. An important role of the section, Filson says, is to generate feedback from readers. They are invited to go online to thestar.com to submit their views and responses to the current ‘big decision.’

Other features in the four-page section include ‘College Daze,’ a campus life column compiled by a Ryerson journalism student, a bi-weekly column on life in the big city, and ’27 million ways to live your life’ with tips on how to pick and choose the way you live. Culture and pop will also feature over the coming weeks. Hondrich stresses that the content of I.D. is set to develop and evolve over the coming year, depending on audience reaction and demand.

At this early stage marketers and buyers alike are giving the new section a thumbs up.

‘Young people historically have never been big newspaper readers,’ says Bruce Claassen, president of Toronto-based Genesis Media. ‘It’s a challenge, but if the Star can make itself more relevant to younger demographics and get advertisers to follow suit, then it could be a successful initiative.

‘This is a good opportunity to get unlikely advertisers to migrate to the Star,’ he adds. ‘If they can get ads from players like Nintendo and Microsoft they will be doing very well.’

Indeed, the Star’s advertising director, Judy Master, hopes that the new section will attract a wealth of new marketers targeting the lucrative 18-to-24 demographic. ‘Any category that’s geared towards this age group would do well to advertise in I.D.,’ she says.

From the marketer’s standpoint, John Hillis, director of youth marketing for Toronto-based Bell Mobility, is impressed by what he sees so far.

‘Most publications talking to youth are all about parties and games, but most kids are growing up fast and will like the more serious side of this section,’ he says. As for buying ad space, Hillis is hesitant to commit until the section is more established, although he does say it will certainly be something for consideration.