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How publishers are building connections with young audiences

March 29, 2023 | By Jeana Garms, Vice President of Marketing – Arc XP @arcxp

For publishers and media companies, the need to focus on younger audiences for future growth, especially Gen Z (16-25) and young millennials (26-32), is well documented. Most publishers have put significant resources and effort into engaging and staying relevant to the newest generations of readers, viewers, and listeners. But are their tactics working? 

Digiday and Arc XP surveyed 116 publishers and 114 Gen Z and young millennial consumers to understand the tactics publishers are currently using to attract these generations and how they match up with the preferences of these audiences.

The good news is that, according to our State of publisher audiences report, publishers are already attracting and engaging with Gen Z and young millennial audiences. Nearly half (47%) of publishers say Gen Z makes up 41% or more of their digital audience, and more than half (50%) say young millennials consist of 41% or more of their audience.


However, the survey results indicate that publishers might be missing opportunities to  build long-term, loyal relationships with them.

For example, when asked which content channels are the most successful in driving young millennials and Gen Z audiences to their website, publishers said they are seeing positive results from Facebook (66%) and then a tie between Twitter (48%) and YouTube (48%).

That said, when we asked Gen Z and young millennial respondents what channels they prefer, Facebook came in fifth place, and Twitter in seventh. YouTube was the number one preferred channel by a substantial margin.

What causes these differences? Why are publishers so enthusiastic about Facebook, while younger consumers have a significantly different short list of go-to channels? One answer may be in how publishers analyze the data that is telling them which channels work. Their analytics capabilities and data sources may not have caught up with where the consumer is now.


The survey also uncovered an opportunity for publishers to create content formats that better match Gen Z and young millennial preferences. Publishers say that short-form video (78%) and a combination of text and video (62%) are the best formats for engaging younger consumers, with short-form text (40%) and a combination of text and audio (40%) tying for third place.

Gen Z and young millennial consumers named short-form video (61%) as their most preferred content format, matching publisher expectations. They also appreciate short-form text (40%). However, long-form text (32%) came in third in their preferences. Contrary to popular wisdom about their extremely short attention spans, Gen Z and young millennials like to read and even don’t mind long-form content. That’s good news for publishers, especially those publishing words over video.

Future focus

Publishers who reflect Gen Z and millennial audiences’ views and values will have a better chance of keeping them and growing new segments of younger readers, viewers, and listeners. Fortunately, 88% of Gen Z and millennial consumers surveyed say that publishers are somewhat to extremely aligned with their values and opinions.

Yet respondents indicated that publishers still had some work to do to on representation. Only 21% said that their political views were well represented in news and entertainment content channels. Representation of ethnically diverse demographics and LGBTQ+ demographics were graded even worse, with only 11% and 5% of respondents saying those demographics were well represented.

When asked how their editorial teams are learning about the values of young millennials and Gen Z audiences and the topics they’re interested in, 31% said they are hiring more employees from these generations and 31% said they are monitoring comments from younger users. Only 4% said they aren’t taking any specific steps. So, despite some disconnects, the survey found that, given publishers’ tactics for engaging younger audiences, it’s clear that they continue to make real investments in understanding these consumers.

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