Every business has its myths, and advertising is no different. Look around. It is easy to see who advertisers think are buying most of their products and services. I have been in this business for more years than I prefer to count, and the general case appears to be this: your product must appeal to the young and hip.

While there is no doubt the age of acquisition for most adults is somewhere between 25 and 35, and the youth of today seem to want and acquire many expensive toys, what about everyone else? Don’t they buy “stuff”? Who has the money? And who reads daily newspapers? 

It’s all about the “boomers.” Again. Still. 

  • 18- to 34-year-olds represent about 31% of the population and control, approximately 23% of total personal income earned in major markets in Canada.

  • 35- to 64-year-olds represent 53% of the population and earn 64% of total personal income.

  • Those 65 and older represent only 16% of the population, most of whom are retired, and still account for 13% of total personal income earned.

As the baby boomers move into their retirement years, their personal incomes will decline — the oldest boomers are just reaching their magic 65th birthday — but will they change their spending habits? They may buy fewer things, but I suspect the quality and price of individual choices will change little. Everyone needs to re-stock items that are out-of-date or no longer work, and they will always want to buy new items — think iPads, toys for adults. It is a combination of lifestyle, habit, and income that determine what and how much money a person will spend. The senior executive, recently retired, still needs a car. Just because his income may be lower than in previous years, chances are he will lean more toward the purchase of a luxury, rather than a budget, car. 

And what about the 35- to 64-year-olds? They represent the largest group of consumers in Canada and have the highest incomes. They are well educated, technology-savvy, and are accustomed to having the latest and greatest of everything. They have been conditioned by the media to be early adopters, as well.

For example, jewelry is purchased more often by 25- to 34-year-olds – 36% purchased in the past three years (time to get married). But the real money (54%) comes from the 35- to 65- year-olds because there are so many more of them in the marketplace. Those 65 and older buy jewelry, but don’t do so as often or spend as much. (Perhaps advertising can change that.) The current group those 50 and older have more money at their disposal than any preceding generation in this age group. Jewelry is just one example of where consumer spending resides, but it is reflective of most other consumer categories.

So, the “appealing audience” is an older one, or least one that begins at 35 — not ends there. And this is the primary audience daily newspapers have on offer to advertisers, particularly with their print products. In fact, 71% of printed editions each week are read by adults 35 and older. The most loyal and frequent readers are well educated and have above average incomes. 

The question is: will they remain loyal readers to the printed editions in the future? What is it about the printed edition that continues to draw them in every day? Readers say they like the habit, credibility, and familiarity of their newspaper. It is prepared for them daily with a consistent layout, and they enjoy the serendipity of the reading experience. The printed edition is easy to carry about, save, and share. Does this sound familiar? 

Tablet owners describe their news reading experience on their tablet in similar terms. And these same adults were the first to snag a tablet! They are in their late 30s, 40s, and early 50s, are well educated and have above average incomes. They are the “appealing audience.” More than half of them access news every day on their tablets and say the easy access, convenience, and price (free or very low cost) have made news consumption easy and attractive. While apps are popular, the heaviest readers prefer to go to the newspaper Web site via the browser. Brands are important to this group; they begin by reading their favourite “print” brand and add sites/apps to their repertoire based on how they value each brand, according to a Pew Research Center’s 2011 report, “The Tablet Revolution.”

Newspapers on tablets are poised for success. Tablets appear to be the most likely platform to replace printed editions. The technology and format are suited to such a shift. Tablet sales are expected to take a big leap over the holiday season as the prices drop like stones. So even though audiences are small today, they will grow quickly. As the cost to deliver and recycle print becomes more and more expensive, delivering a replacement for the printed edition on a tablet may become very attractive. 

It is about the audience. Reaching the audience with great content and delivering their eyeballs to advertisers will define a channel’s success. The “appealing audience” continues to tell us what they want and speak with their pocketbooks. Newspapers will continue to deliver.