Millennials are the future of digital news and they're more engaged than you might think. In fact, considering the digital direction of news, they might be a better audience to court than Baby Boomers or older Gen-Xers. They're busy bees with a wide range of interests.
More Americans over the age of 50 watch the news than read it. That's according to Pew Research Center. In the 18-49 age group, more people read the news. They mainly get it digitally, either via desktop or a mobile device. Print news readers are virtually nonexistent under the age of 30, compared to 48 percent of people over the age of 65 who pick up a daily or weekly paper.
Younger Americans take a lot of flak for being disengaged, uninformed and apathetic. But the reality is that news publishing can only survive long-term if publishers figure out how to reach millennials.
It's not that they don't want the news. It's just that they want it their way. The same has been true for every generation.
Millennials Use Social Media and That's a Good Thing
One of the biggest complaints about the Millennial news audience is that they only pick up news from social media. That sounds like a terrific talking point, but it's misleading.
Younger people spot news from social media, but that doesn't mean they only read sensationalized stories or fall for fake news. Publishers routinely post top stories on social media. And API says 70 percent of Millennials have a diverse news feed that includes real news, not just social updates from friends.
When there's more to learn about a story, digital makes it it's easy to go to the source. API also says the credibility of the news source matters to younger people. Fifty-seven percent use search to learn more after spotting a story on social media, and 23 percent go straight to the news site.
Social provides an engagement opportunity. Millennials discover news stories there. Newspapers can improve the value proposition of going to the source instead of clicking out and going it alone.
Younger People Don't Really Hate Paywalls
Another prevailing myth about younger people is that they hate paywalls. No one wants to give up hard-earned cash on something they could get for free. But the existence of paywalls isn't what hurts the news media. What matters is the overall value of what's behind the paywall.
The Media Insight Project says younger people don't mind paying for access.
"While use of paid entertainment content, including music, movies, television, and video games, is most common among Millennials, 53 percent report regularly using paid news content - in print, digital, or combined formats - in the last year."
Media Insight Project agrees that paying for news is directly related to the value younger people get from it. Where do Millennials get their news? They're already following trending news on social media.
What Interests Millennials?
If younger people think the news is important and they don't mind paying for it, what's the problem? Relevance and a format that they can identify with. Millennial marketer, Alex Rynne, says younger people have a global mindset and they want to know how those issues relate to the local community. "Think globally, act locally."
Millennial Marketing says younger people are highly visual.
"Millennials are capable of taking in a lot of visual information at once, probably more than older generations, provided it is presented in an attractive and easily digestible way. This makes good design as important, if not more important, than good writing."
They're also scanners. And when they do read the news, it's directly relevant to their lives and values.
As for topical relevance, Joanna Franchini, cultural strategist for AdWeek, cautions that pandering isn't the right direction for long-term loyalty.
Millennials aren't just globally aware, they also grow up and have the same family responsibilities as anyone else. Many of them already do. They're buying homes and having children. They're interested in saving for retirement since most believe Social Security will be relegated to the annals of history by the time it's their turn.
The key, then, is making current events and issues appeal to this generation through a more local, personal angle and with scannable, visually appealing digital content. It's not about chasing a fad, says AdWeek.