15 February 2021
Have you ever caught yourself wondering whether millennials and gen Z-ers consume any valuable media at all? If they even read some important news instead of spending their entire days on TikTok, snapchat and who knows what else? And frankly, whether they even care about what’s going on locally and in the world?
Well, the bad news is that you have been worrying for no reason at all and the young generation’s taste in media is much richer than just memes, funny videos and social platforms. The good news is, although their way of consuming news is much different than that of the previous generation’s, young people deeply care about global issues and want to stay updated daily, because they believe this is key to their development. The question we should be asking ourselves, in this case, is: how can we help young people sustain their interest in the world?
The reason young people seem hard to reach with news and information is they consume content in a completely different way than the previous generation. While they still have the need to keep updated, they also want their news to be delivered quickly, in a shortened form and preferably on the social media platforms they are already using daily, like Instagram, Twitter or even Snapchat.
What is very important to understand is that young people seek news formats that will help them deepen their knowledge, at the same time providing entertainment (so called infotainment). They focus mostly on the information that is useful to know and seek knowledge that they can later use in life or at work. Their approach to news is much more individualistic than that of the previous generations, often focusing on the media that is fun and captivating. Traditional news media focus on what is considered to be a must-know for their audience, no matter the level of enjoyment, therefore young people seek other sources of updates and information, shifting away from portals dedicated primarily to only news.
When pivoting towards the creation of more young user friendly content, it is crucial to gain an insight as to why they seek information that is both useful and entertaining. Having spent most of their lives in the 21st century, they are aware that knowledge and data are the two main factors that can grant them success in the modern world. That’s why they believe that knowing more will give them a higher social status and help them develop themselves. Staying up to date on global and local news is also a tool to shape political beliefs and discover what they identify with. Having knowledge of news that is enjoyable and entertaining is a way to build valuable social connections and discover new personal interests. This is also a part of creating their personal brand and identity.
Interestingly, not all young people consume media in the same way. Depending on their background, social status and education, they can be divided into four main categories.
The Heritage News Consumers constitute the greatest opportunity and most willing target group. They have grown up surrounded by news, regularly consumed by their family. Therefore, they make an active effort to stay updated on traditional platforms, often the ones that their parents used. However, due to the full schedule and constant lack of time, reading the news often feel like a chore related to being an adult. Helping them fit the consumption of news into their active lives, either via an app or short summary articles, will make them want to learn more and appreciate the news again.
The Dedicated News Devotees are the readers that already possess a news-reading routine and have a favorite news source, making space for it in their tight schedules. Most of the time, they consume media from a designated app, more rarely from a browser. They tend to already have a strong connection with their chosen news brand, so what is important is to uphold this relationship with high-quality content and regular updates. The Dedicated News Devotees are the most keen to pay for an article and one way to convince them is to offer a benefit for their purchase that would be fun and entertaining.
The Passive News Absorbers are the type of audience that don’t have a natural interest in the news and won’t willingly make time in their day to read an article, although they still want to know what is going on in the world. They get updated by picking up bits of information from their online and offline presence, yet rarely make an effort to search for news media on their own. When a certain topic gets their attention, they research it without paying much attention what media brand they’re choosing. Getting their interest might be possible via attention grabbing headlines, posts on social media (which they already use) and images, as well as short news videos (on platforms like TikTok or Instagram).
The Proactive News Lovers are the ideal target group in the young generation. They shape their social media feeds to show them the information they want to see, constantly look for new and interesting media and are overall committed to news consumption. Consuming news is a large part of their day and they carefully plan their activities to make time for it. They don’t need to be convinced to read the news, because they already enjoy it. It is worth trying to figure out how media brands can offer them more value and entertainment and value. They enjoy formats that can be integrated into their existing news feeds, enabling them to compare multiple sources and share it with their friends or followers.
As you can see, not all is lost in the new generation. Young people still understand the importance of staying up to date and regularly updating their knowledge, even though they don’t always know where to look for it or don’t find the time daily. It’s important to show them that news can also be fun and provide opportunities for expanding their knowledge. It should also be easily accessible and offer opportunities to consume it in between classes or during a break at work.
I have used the “How Young People Consume News” report by Flamingo commissioned by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.