Younger audiences are different from older groups not just in what they do, but in their core attitudes in terms of what they want from the news. Young people are primarily driven by progress and enjoyment in their lives, and this translates into what they look for in news.
They still need and want news to connect their world to the world – and fulfil an array of different social and personal needs – but they don’t necessarily see the traditional media as the best or only way to do that. News media is now competing for attention with myriad other distractions, and there is a high level of ‘background’ or ‘indirect’ exposure to news (through social media, other online conversations, documentaries and TV shows, etc.). They don’t need to seek it out, news comes to them. Finally, much of the excitement and gravitas for younger people is on the periphery of the news space (infotainment, lifestyle, cultural, grassroots, bloggers and vloggers).
All this means there is a disconnect; traditional news media no longer seems as relevant or as dominant when it comes to news content. In a simplified way, how news brands and young people view the role and value of news is different:
- Traditional news brands see news as: what you should know
- Young audiences see news as: what you should know (to an extent), but also what is useful to know, what is interesting to know, and what is fun to know.
The study also revealed that the differences in the relationships young people have with the news depend on three key areas: the moment, the person and the medium. Four key news moments (dedicated, updated, time-filler, and intercepted) are described in detail, as are four types of news consumer (Heritage News Consumers, Dedicated News Devotees, Passive News Absorbers, and Proactive News Lovers). The impact of the various media is also investigated, revealing key roles, usage, pros and cons of platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and podcasts.
Recommendations for media companies:
- News media need to make websites and apps easier to use for younger groups – as simple and intuitive as Facebook or Netflix. This means making the news more enjoyable to consume. This could mean using clearer language, more interactive storytelling and better recommendations that surface interesting content for younger groups.
- News brands need to tell stories in ways that better fit the moments when young people are open to news. This means creating more formats that are native to mobile and social platforms, as well as incorporating these ideas in their own websites and apps – but without losing the trusted authority of a traditional news brand.
- The way the news media covers stories may need to change, addressing issues such as negativity, stereotypes, and diversity. Young people don’t want the media to shy away from serious or difficult stories, but they would also like to see stories that can inspire them about the possibility of change and provide a path to positive action. Younger audiences will respond to news that has personal utility or helps with their development. They are also hungry for stories with a ‘point of view’ but they need to be informed by facts rather than prejudice or agenda.