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Understanding how young people consume news: It’s personal

September 25, 2019 | By Rande Price, Research Director—DCN @Randeloo

The role of news for Gen Z and Gen Y appears to be individualized, rather than characterized by broad generalizations, which is tricky business for news providers. According to new research from Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, How Young People Consume News and The Implications for Mainstream Media, adults aged 18-35 view the news from the perspective of what it can do for them as individuals, rather than for society as a whole. The study took a multi-faceted approach of tracking news consumption in conjunction with in-depth discussions groups among 20 young adults, in the UK and US.

News values

Reuters identified two specific themes reflecting the motivations and values of this cohort regarding their engagement with news and news brands:

  1. Using news to progress your personal development:
    • Status: Provides value and allows you to feel confident.
    • Identity: Builds and communicate your identity. The news you engage with contributes to defining who you are, and your views.
    • Learning: Allows you to better yourself, increasing your knowledge and success.
  2. Consuming news to increases your enjoyment in the things you do:
    • Connections: Eases your daily conversations with others,
    • Entertainment: Provides fun and original moments.
    • Passion: Helps fuel your passions and interests.

While Gen Z and Gen Y recognize the positive role news can play, its value does not necessarily translate into greater relevance for traditional news outlets. Unfortunately, today’s 18 to 35-year-olds are more distracted and less motivated to seek out news.

Consumer news segments

To build engagement with Gen Z and Gen Y, it’s essential for news publishers to understand content interaction in each moment, medium and for the individual. Reuters identified four consumer news segments to provide news publishers with insight and opportunities to generate content with the intent to build a meaningful relationship with those under-35.

Heritage News Consumers

These users consume a little of traditional news brands. However, this kind of consumption is very limited due to the lack of time available in their busy lives. Their user profile shows high access to news brands but low news consumption. Newer technologies, like podcasts and social media feeds, are more desirable and a fit better with their packed schedules. News publishers should think about how to make news easier to access by using innovative technology.

Dedicated News Devotees

This segment consumes news throughout the day but mostly on alternative and third-party platforms. Their user profile shows high access to news brands and high news consumption. This segment is the most engaged with news brand apps, the most dedicated to appointment news consumption and they believe in the value of news. Given this segments relationship with quality news, they are more likely to become subscribers. Publishers should think about unique benefits to target and promote to this demo.

Passive News Absorbers

Members of this segment are not interested in a relationship with news brands. They receive their news with little effort and take in information that surrounds them. Interestingly, they do feel the need to be informed but do not look to premium publishers for their news. Their profile shows low access to news brands (self-led) as well as low news consumption. Publishers should find ways to increase brand fame and name recognition with this cohort. In addition, allow for easy access to bold headlines, news summaries and short videos to attract Gen Z and Gen Y to quality news content. 

Proactive News Lovers

This segment is committed to news consumption. While they know news brands, they prefer to curate across multiple sources than rely on a few specific branded ones. Proactive News Lovers often skim news content. Their profile shows low access to news brands (self-led) but high news consumption. Given this segments passion for curation, news publishers should seek to offer new technology to help them process a collection of news articles.

Building a future

Understanding Gen Z’s and Gen Y’s motivations and values in news consumption offers insight into how best to build their brand loyalty in news brands. News formats, native to mobile, may also help news brands reestablish their relevance with adults under 35 years old. Connecting to this audience, above all else, is critical to the survival of news publishers.  

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