The “Children’s Media Study”, presented by six major German publishing houses, delights parents, educators and above all the publishers themselves: Children enjoy reading books and magazines – despite competition from smartphones and the Internet, that is the central finding.
Stuttgart – When media companies have the leisure behaviour of their target group researched, this rarely happens for reasons of public interest; the driving force behind such studies is, of course, the question of how to market one’s own products even better. Motives of this kind might also hide behind the widely announced “Children’s Media Study”, as the title of the corresponding press release already reveals: “Despite Smartphone: Children read classically”. The addressee of this message is not the general public, but the advertising industry, because the clients of the survey are six large German publishers.
The “Children’s Media Study” is the continuation of the “Kids VA” (VA stands for consumer analysis) which has been carried out since 1993. So far it has been published exclusively by Egmont Ehapa Media (Berlin), the German home of Micky Maus, Asterix and Lucky Luke. Now five more publishing houses have joined the group. Two, like Egmont Ehapa, concentrate largely on children and young people, both are based in Stuttgart: Panini is one of Europe’s largest comic book publishers thanks to its German licensed editions of the American superhero forges DC (“Superman”) and Marvel (“Spider-Man”), Blue Ocean Entertainment publishes magazines such as “Prinzessin Lillifee” and “Bibi Blocksberg”. The remaining members are among the most important representatives of weekly German news journalism: Spiegel-Verlag, Zeit-Verlag and Gruner + Jahr. The flagships of these three houses are “Die Zeit”, “Der Spiegel” and “stern”, but with “Leo”, “Dein Spiegel” as well as “Geolino” and “Geo mini” all three also have offshoots in the children’s segment.
The result is entirely in the spirit of the client of the study
The study included more than 1600 interviews with children and almost 400 conversations with parents. The study should give a detailed overview of media consumption and leisure behaviour of the young target group. In contrast to the beginning of the “KidsVA” 24 years ago, when the children’s media world was divided into print, TV and video or computer games, today the main focus is on online and offline media: The biggest leisure competitor of magazine publishers is the Internet. No wonder, then, that clients have to communicate two “key results” to their advertising customers, which underline the importance of youth magazines. According to the study, children’s books and magazines reach more six- to thirteen-year-olds than Youtube and game consoles. It is also interesting to note that 72 percent of children between the ages of four and thirteen read “several times a week on paper”, even in the digital age. Some’ a pedagogue would be glad if the children read at all; that they do this “from paper” is at least not immediately obvious as a value in itself. Nevertheless, the corresponding result – “Children’s magazines have a considerable share in the success of classic reading material” – is probably entirely in the interests of the study commissioners.
The realization that “print works” is above all a signal for advertisers. The fact that parents rate children’s magazines more positively than other media is certainly no surprise, especially when the term “other media” refers to the Internet. Mothers and fathers who are concerned about their children’s media consumption usually only allow their offspring to access the Internet with mixed feelings, since they know (possibly from their own experience) how quickly you can end up on pages that are definitely not suitable for children. So it is no wonder that the mothers and fathers surveyed regard the magazines as a “meaningful occupation” in which children can learn something. If one were to ask, it would probably come out that they consider “Geolino” to be even more meaningful than “Princess Lillifee”; and a cross-comparison would possibly lead to the result that award-winning TV magazines such as “Wissen macht Ah! (WDR) or “Pur+” (ZDF) should not be underestimated. After all, the study cites good arguments in favour of print products: According to the parents, young people can read “content at their own pace”. In addition, the children’s creativity is stimulated; and finally, they are motivated to become active themselves. The other media are much less likely to attribute such positive ratings to the parents surveyed.
Playing with friends outdoors – by no means out yet
Another good news is the result that most children still prefer to play outdoors with friends or do something with their family. This is in line with the studies of the Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest (mpfs). As part of this cooperation project between the State Media Authorities of Baden-Württemberg (LFK) and Rhineland-Palatinate (LMK), representative studies on the media behaviour of young people and children are regularly published. For almost two decades, the mpfs has summed up year after year that the target group primarily uses electronic media when they are bored. Today, however, the temptation is much greater than in the past because it is available at all times: According to a children’s media study, 37 percent of primary school children already have their own smartphone. In the case of young people, 84 percent of them can almost be said to be fully provided for.