Nielsen’s first Children’s Book Summit took place at the McGraw-Hill Auditorium on December 12, and attendees claimed it a great success. The emphasis, not surprisingly, was on media consumption data, but unlike in the past, when Nielsen kept its tracking of media very discrete, this conference brought together information on how children – and parents with children – consume television, books, ebooks, games, movies and even radio. The focus was primarily on children 6-17, with special attention to the YA market.
Nielsen Book President Jonathan Nowell (who is also presenting at LaunchKids/DBW on January 13th in New York) talked about trends in the children’s segment of the $151 billion global book market (nonfiction sales are growing), followed by Jonathan Stolper, SVP at Nielsen Book America, who covered the US market. Kristen McLean, editor of Nielsen’s Children’s Books in the Digital World study, also spoke. To the audience’s delight, 2014 will be a banner sales year for kids’ books, and teens’ purchase of book is the only place in the media landscape where spending is increasing, though the amount of time devoted to reading averages only 5% of their leisure consumption.
Much of the day was spent looking at children’s and teens’ (usually divided into 6-12 and 13-17 year olds) media habits, and how one influences the other. Kids who read books that have movie tie-ins influence their peers to see the movie; parents and kids watch a lot of tv together, and nonfiction tv (like cooking and other talent shows; nature shows etc.) seems to be at least one factor in the increase in nonfiction leisure reading. Despite the mobilization of media into smartphones and tablets, books are curiously immune to digitization; only 21% of children’s books purchased are ebooks, and teens’ preference for print is increasing yearly. (The explanation here is that library books are free, and it is easier to share print books.)
Using focus group techniques, two panels attempted to show parents with their children, and teens, talking about media. The individuals came on stage and were asked about their media consumption habits by a moderator from the research company, Smarty Pants. As they were primarily from NYC, it’s hard to consider them a representative sampling but the teen (mostly 17 year-olds) panel agreed that they did not like the term YA, though they were intrigued by “New Adult.” They all seemed to gravitate to print, and said they read ebooks because it’s convenient and many – especially classics – are free.
The takeaway from the day was that books have a place in children’s media consumption landscape and, in some ways, their role is increasingly important, because they provide downtime and an escape. Interestingly, so do bookstores. Let’s hear it for retro.