Millennial ‘New Adults’ are the High-Growth Target for Today’s Book Market

Millennial ‘New Adults’ are the High-Growth Target for Today’s Book Market

In-depth segmentation of Millennials ages 18-25 drives results for book publishers

A few years ago, when working in financial services, we found that the phrase “Young Adult” was preferred by teens compared with alternatives such as “Teens” or “Adolescents.”   We also learned that by referring to teens as young adults, they are taken more seriously as valued customers by salespeople who interact with them.  Interestingly, when a sales representative views the customer as a young adult, they tend to think of greater business potential than when they think of a teen.

While our work was in financial services, the ‘Young Adult’ distinction also works with the book category, where young adults are typically defined as between ages 12-18.  Sometimes this industry definition has been much broader, ranging from ages 10-25.  It’s instructive to see that the book industry has moved to greater segmentation and refinement of the target consumer.  As Stacey Laatsch explains,

Millennial ‘New Adults’ are the High-Growth Target for Today’s Book Market"The term ‘young adult literature,’ according to Michael Cart of the Young Adult Library Services Association, came into common use in the 1960s. Since then, the population of teenagers has increased, and YA fiction has risen in popularity to the point that, in July of 2000, the Harry Potter series dominated the New York Times Bestsellers List, causing the publication to create a separate list of bestsellers exclusively for children's books and young adult books."

Meanwhile, most businesses are focusing a huge amount of attention on capturing the Millennials as they become new adults (ages 18-25).  From BMW with its hybrid car that focuses more on infotainment than driving, or Kraft with its Millennial-focused Mio brand that won the Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation award, businesses recognize the importance of capturing Millennials as customers.

And that’s where the “New Adult” segmentation comes in.  Dan Weiss of St. Martin’s Press explains why his publishing organization sees New Adults as an important target:

“This generation wants content immediately available and accessible, on multiple platforms and devices, with social applications providing increased immersion. And this demo is quickly becoming a very fast consumer of e-books, probably due to the penetration of smart phones and tablets rather than dedicated devices. They still love great stories, valuable and timely information that’s presented in easy to digest form. They still see themselves as a unique group of people with unique challenges and strengths. As a publisher, I try to appeal to this demo by offering content that reflects and enhances their lives…

“I’ve been publishing e-serials; these are series of novella-length episodes that are analogous to a season of TV. Think ‘The Good Wife’ or ‘Melrose Place.’ What’s been great is publishing weekly — and watching reader reactions as the serial unfolds…. I think Gen Y will enjoy reading serials — episodes are short, can be read on their smartphones or tablets on a bus or subway and have propulsive plots that will feel like TV.”

It’s instructive to see how thinking about the customer in a new way, with more refinement has driven success.

Beyond the New Adult demographic of 18-25, the average age of a first time mom is 25.4 in the United States, and the average age of first marriage is 26 for women, and 28 for men. With all that’s happening in their lives, the years between 26 and 30 are also quite interesting-- they aren’t “New Adults” at that point. Are they then “Fully Emerged?”


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  • I like the observation that books are beginning to act like TV. If Millennials like that, they probably will also be comfortable with Book Sponsorships by brands.

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    Michal Clements

    Michal is co-author of Tuning Into Mom and an experienced consultant. Michal develops winning growth strategies and detailed go to market plans for some of the world’s outstanding organizations including McDonald’s, Gatorade, Abbott, Barilla, Tylenol, Clorox, Key Bank, Eagle Ottawa, Quaker and the Baker Demonstration School.

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