Websites provide teenage kicks

It comes as no surprise at all that the Henley Centre has found consumers trust information they find on websites more than they trust conventional offline sources.

It’s this kind of research that emphasises the Web’s ability to target and influence audiences, no matter what their background or age. This is great news if you’re marketing to young people.

As a publisher of online content for youth sites, we’re constantly reminded of how few effective channels of communication there really are when trying to talk to young people, whether you’re trying to sell them cheap MP3 players or warning them about sexually transmitted infections. The Web is the perfect medium.

If you want young people to visit your site – and stay there – a website has to give them the opportunity to do the things they already enjoy doing. Even if that’s allowing users to read up on gossip, fashion and films. Give young users an online environment that houses services they actually want to use, and they’ll be more receptive to the additional services and tools you provide.

When it comes to relatively embarrassing information like sexual health, young people will run a mile if their parents start the “birds and the bees” conversation. They won’t be able to run from a captive classroom at school, but it’s likely they’ll ignore anything a teacher tells them too.

But package potentially

embarrassing or even dull information correctly, and young people will listen and engage with your site. This is great news for central and local government bodies, which are facing major challenges when trying to communicate policy and details of preventative services to young people potentially at risk, but it is essential to get your editorial tone of voice right. Avoid text that tries to act like a young person – you’ll come across as a teacher that’s trying to be cool. Instead, pitch your content as some who you know your target audience will trust.

As emphasised in the Department for Education and Skills’ anti-bullying website (need2know.co.uk/beatbullying), young people would rather talk about their bullying with a peer-to-peer group member rather than a teacher or adult. Peer to peer doesn’t always mean people of the same age. Someone slightly older – such as a trusted sixth-former – is likely to have more in common than a perceivably out-of-touch adult.

An online game never goes amiss among tweens, but older teenagers just want information without a theme, an overtly “yoof” angle or spin. Perhaps that’s something all website owners could remember.

Dan Williamson

Head of editorial services

Cimex Media

London N1

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