Younger audiences consume news differently than older audiences, and the revenue generation tactics that worked in previous decades are no longer relevant. Those are two of the many takeaways from the newest Reuters Institute report, titled “How young people consume news and the implications for mainstream media.”
The eye opening report, which was created in collaboration with the strategic consultancy Flamingo, is based on data from tracking the digital news consumption habits of people under age 35 in the U.S. and the U.K. Study participants were also asked to keep diaries and participate in interviews. In commissioning the report, Reuters set out learn how young people consume news today and what news publishers can do to attract younger audiences.
The answers to those questions, of course, are nuanced. Younger readers don’t all want the same thing, and they don’t all consume news in the same way. Based on the data, though, there are some overarching themes that publishers would be smart to keep in mind as they revise their business strategies and work to pull in younger audiences. For example, readers under age 35 are more likely to see the traditional news media as “irrelevant” than those over age 35. Younger people are also more likely to view the news as “individualistic,” meaning they expect it to serve them individually rather than serve society as a whole.
How Do Younger Audiences Consume News?
Reuters Institute’s study found that young people are more likely to be driven by progress and enjoyment of their lives than older people, and that translates into what they look for in the news. Although younger audiences still want to learn about the world around them, they don’t see traditional news as the only way to do so.
Whereas older readers will turn to traditional news outlets, including print newspapers and local television news, for information about current events, younger readers are more likely to tune into social media, entertainment services, and online conversations. When breaking news happens, young people are more likely to click onto social media than a news publisher’s mobile app or website. Digital publishers should expect to compete with these channels, as well as traditional media outlets, as they fight for the attention of younger audiences.
Creating more formats that are native to mobile and social platforms is one of the ways that digital publishers can meet the expectations of young people. For example, visual formats and on-demand audio podcasts were both cited as ideas that resonated strongly with young audiences in the Reuters Institute study.
Audience segmenting becomes especially important when trying to capture younger demographics. Reuters found that young people are more interested in what news publishers can do for them than what they can do for society. Digital publishers who can target content to readers based on individual interests, through vertical-specific newsletters or other channels, are at a huge advantage here.
How Do Young Readers Find the News?
Young people aren’t seeking out the news anymore. At least not according to the Reuters Institute’s study. Younger readers expect the news to come to them.
What does that mean for publishers? For starters, it means search engine optimization may not be the best way to reach readers under age 35. These news consumers are expecting the news to come to them via social media channels and other third-party news apps. Email newsletters are another effective way to connect with younger audiences, although capturing email addresses is still a challenge for many independent publishers.
Key Takeaways for Digital Publishers
Over the course of 33 pages, the Reuters Institute study details the differences between younger and older audiences. So what does it all add up to, and what can digital publishers do to take advantage of this information? Here are four key takeaways for digital publishers.
- Young people are inherently harder to engage than older readers, making it even more important to build brand loyalty with this group.
- Digital publishers may need to adjust their tone and/or format to connect with younger audiences that aren’t interested in engaging with traditional news brands.
- Publishers should try to tell more stories in formats that young people care about, like video and audio podcasts.
- Young people are tired of news that always seems negative, and they’re more likely to become regular readers of publications that post inspiring stories about positive actions.