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Catch 'Em While They're Young

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Sunday, March 8, 2009; Page A17

A money-losing newspaper, mired in a bad economy, has to make some wrenching decisions.

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Like many businesses, The Post is in the midst of a far-reaching internal assessment to decide what stays, what goes and what should be altered.

If you're a reader who likes the paper as it is, here's some advice: Buckle up. Book World is gone, its contents dispersed. The Sunday Source is history. And more changes are coming. Over the next year, The Post could experience its greatest transformation since it came to prominence in the 1970s.

It's delicate. Post executives worry that even small changes will erode support among devoted readers, many of them older. They also fret about how to attract younger readers for the future.

And that brings us to KidsPost. Should it stay or go?

Created nearly nine years ago, this feature has been copied by many U.S. newspapers. Appearing in print and online Monday through Thursday, its stories, graphics and photos are aimed mainly at 7- to 12-year-olds.

At first glance, it would seem there's a case for killing it.

Children like the Web, not smudgy newspapers. And besides, KidsPost occupies prime real estate on the back of the Style section, where half-page ads can go for $40,000 and a full page can fetch $100,000.

Marcus Brauchli, the Post's top editor, told me last week that KidsPost is safe "for now." But given the financial climate, he added, "I'm not making promises."

Dig deep into The Post's readership data, and it's clear KidsPost is valued by parents as well as by children. And many of those parents -- especially women -- have been targeted by The Post as must-keep readers.

"I think there's no doubt that part of its value is that it allows The Post to be perceived as a partner with parents," says Tracy Grant, who edits KidsPost.

Brauchli agrees: "It's something that connects to readers in a family setting and helps young people connect to newspapers."

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