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Commentary: Chasing after the younger crowd

June 25, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, I ate lunch with an attorney friend who was telling me about his eldest daughter-born, raised and now living in Indianapolis.

A 27-year-old registered nurse, she was preparing to move to Chicago because she thinks "there is nothing to do here" for people her age.

This really hit home for me because I have two daughters in the same age range living here, and both are starting to talk about moving away for a while, one to the East Coast and one to the West.

Their reasons are slightly different from my friend's daughter's, but the result is the same. Young people who could contribute to our community in significant ways are thinking about leaving.

I ate lunch with my attorney friend the day after the IBJ management team hosted Molly Chavers for a getacquainted lunch in our conference room. Chavers is executive director of Indy Hub, an organization created to be a network for people who are just these young women's ages.

Indy Hub targets an audience age 21 to 40. Its goal in life is to be a resource for that demographic and demonstrate that there are opportunities-from highbrow culture to sports to mindless fun to professional development-to engage them in Indianapolis.

I'm sure Chavers, who is working hard at her job, is cringing as she reads this. To make matters worse, my attorney friend wasn't even familiar with Indy Hub. He promised to mention it to his daughter.

Chavers is probably one of the most sought-after women in town because everyone is after this crowd. Many of us "oldies" think she may hold the keys to gaining access to this audience. Frankly, we invited her to lunch to pick her brain just as much as to get acquainted.

I know firsthand, for example, that institutions from the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra are trying to connect with this audience. These young people represent the donors and volunteers of the future for not-for-profits.

As Chavers says, "Reaching out to this group now-before they have the checkbook breadth to contribute in a large way-is key to getting them ingrained in the organization and a participant in the future."

For our company, they represent tomorrow's readers and advertisers.

Will they be readers? Many studies say this age group doesn't read newspapers and never will. Conventional wisdom says the vast majority turns to the Web, to sites they have earmarked for their interests.

Anecdotally, Chavers disagrees and says there will be plenty of readers for IBJ once these folks get a little older and further down the road in their careers.

While I find that somewhat encouraging, I'm not sure I agree with her.

To hedge our bets, our company-like every media company in the world-is making significant investments in our digital face to the community and via e-mail, in large measure because we think that's where this audience lives.

This is the primary way we are reaching out to this group before they have the "checkbook breadth" to be advertisers and readers.

But in the last several years, we've also reached out to young people at even earlier ages. Through partnerships with the Indiana Department of Education and the Commission for Higher Education, IBJ has published NEXT and GRAD magazines, targeting high school and college juniors and seniors, respectively.

The purpose of these two publications has been to bring these young people up to speed on career and life opportunities in Indiana in the hopes that it might help some decide to build their lives here permanently.

Ultimately, of course, the future probably lies somewhere in between.

If you're a business and don't know about Indy Hub, now you do. You should meet Molly Chavers and find a way to tap into her world. And if you fall into this coveted demographic, you should use Indy Hub as a resource.



Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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