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“Let’s please stop talking about youth media!”

Hendrik Hellige

© Frank Krings

Everyone is talking about influencers and the “Greta generation”. Time for an interview with our colleague Hendrik Hellige. Together with his team, he is developing a new area for young target groups at Frankfurter Buchmesse.

 

In addition to Frankfurt Kids, with Frankfurt New Generation you’re now trying to reach youths between the ages of 13 and 25 years. Why?

The revolution has already occurred, and young people operate in their own society: Over the past decade, media use by teenagers and young adults has changed radically. Thanks to smartphones and social media, they can consume and produce at the same time. Prosumers rather than media consumers – that’s the key to the success of platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Twitch and TikTok amongst this target group. Nothing is further off than the cliché of “smombies” – that is, passively consuming “smartphone zombies”. Of course teenagers have always helped to shape their environment – that’s at the heart of growing up. But the degree to which their creativity is visible and the extent to which they’re connected through networks is of a whole other magnitude today. Just look at the phenomenon of extremely productive influencers with their enormous networks. Add to this the increased interest in topics like climate change, body positivity, diet, mental health and sustainable consumer behaviour. With Frankfurt New Generation, we want to give this generation its own space at Frankfurter Buchmesse.

 

 How do you see the connection between this young generation and the publishing sector?

A glance at Wattpad says it all: On this e-book platform, users upload both their own fan fiction about their favourite stories and characters as well as completely original stories. They produce and consume the stories that move them. They are the new actors in the content industry. So let’s please stop talking about “youth media” when discussing fan fiction on Wattpad, reviews by BookTubers, Twitch readings or book challenges on Instagram. This isn’t content made by adults for young people but rather made by young people themselves. This newly won authority of interpretation when it comes to their own age group presents a challenge for the entire sector – ourselves included. Books by YouTubers in literary publishing houses, kid reviewers and marketing partnerships with influencers are first steps publishers are taking. In 2019, we ourselves reached out to this generation with our Frankfurt Young Stories writing competition, which included the subsequent publication of an anthology. In 2020, we’ll expand on this with Frankfurt New Generation. There will be controversial panels and workshops with Bookstagrammers, for example, where even industry insiders will be able to learn something new.

 

To round things off, let’s talk about literature. How is young adult literature changing?

In the last 15 years, most bestsellers for young adults have been genre fiction: paranormal romance, urban fantasy and so on. But members of the new generation also want to read about topics they’re concerned about in our society: climate change, feminism, racism, influencer careers, experiences from the LGBQT community – ideally from authors in their own peer group who are directly affected by these issues. Recent titles clearly reflect this development. And we’re continuing to develop our products and services for Frankfurt New Generation accordingly. We want to offer its active members their own platform. Because these young people are the future of – not only – the book industry.

Thanks for the speaking with us, Hendrik!

(Interview by Frank Krings, PR Manager at Frankfurter Buchmesse.)

Hendrik Hellige, Business Development Children Books & Visual Culture is also on LinkedIn.