The good news is that young people continue to read the news. The bad news is that they are losing faith in it. A report released by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation finds that 88% of young adults accessing news at least weekly, which includes 53% that do so every day. Conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, the report analyzes the findings of a survey of 1,660 adults between the ages of 18 and 34.
Unsurprisingly, young adults of all races are highly digital news consumers. They find their news on social media, smartphone alerts, or news websites. And a majority of young adults share news regularly with their friends, family and social networks. Fifty-six percent of young adults share news stories at least weekly, with around 1 in 5 sharing news every day.
Political leanings and learnings
Certainly, it is heartening that young people rely on the news. However, it is unfortunate to note that the report found that a majority of young adults are concerned about the impact of news on democracy and unity in the country, expressing that news organizations may actually divide and polarize citizens.
The survey found that many young adults have concerns about the
ideological and political leanings of news sources, according to the survey. In
fact, a majority believes certain news sources have ideological positions,
divide society, and hurt democracy.
Cultural and ethnic perspectives
Given that the report surveyed large samples of African American and Hispanic participants, the results offer significant insights across races and ethnicities. In particular:
A majority of young adults rely on news to make decisions, particularly young African American people: More than 60% of young adults use their favorite news source to decide which policies to support. And more than 50% do the same when deciding who should have their votes. Young African Americans are twice as likely to do this as young white Americans.
Young adults largely believe that their race or ethnicity is not covered regularly in the media: Overall, 31% of young adults say that people of their race, or issues that affect people of their race, are rarely covered in their most-liked news sources. Forty-seven percent say the same thing about their least-liked news sources.
The majority of African American and Hispanic participants do not feel like media sources accurately or fairly portray their groups, when they do get coverage: Only 45% of African Americans and 40% of Hispanics say their most-liked source very accurately portrays them.
As young adults question the media’s coverage of race, many get news from ethnic media sources: 58% of African American and 52% of Hispanic young adults use ethnic media sources at least once per week. Seventy-five percent of Hispanics and 71% of African American young adults who say they regularly experience racial discrimination. Thus, they are more likely to use sources that provide news specific to their race or ethnicity.
Use this news
Given the transformation of news consumption, it is gratifying to see that – while they may access it differently than previous generations – today’s youth continue to rely on news to inform significant decisions. Perhaps the fact that much of news consumption takes place once-removed from the source and that it is delivered in often polarized social media contexts are forces driving today’s young news consumers’ perception of the potentially negative impact of news. They are certainly affected by the fact that the news does not consistently reflect their racial and cultural perspectives. While dispiriting, these insights should prove helpful as news organizations seek to better engage and serve young audiences, who are seeking out news that reflects and informs their perspectives.
More choice sounds like a good thing. However, it’s been shown that there is a point at which too much choice no longer improves perception of value. In fact, too much choice can leave you feeling less satisfied than having fewer choices to begin with. The proliferation of streaming services may well be reaching this tipping point, though arguably cable television has long suffered from choice overload.
The 2019 first-quarter Nielsen Total Audience Report looked at how modern consumers navigate the “paradox of choice” to decide what to watch. Nielsen found that, among adult SVOD users, only one third of them report browsing the menu of a streaming service to find content to watch. And, unfortunately, 21% will quickly stop watching if they are not able to make up their minds.
Given that about 70% of homes have a subscription video on
demand (SVOD) service and 72% use streaming-capable TV devices streaming
services will need to figure out the best way to keep users engaged with content
on these platforms. At present, most streaming users will gravitate back toward
their traditional TV preferences when they’re not sure what to watch
At present, almost two-thirds of adults who stream video
content use the services to watch exactly what they know they want to watch. One-third
will watch when they have a rough idea, and only 22% watch when they don’t know
what they want before exploring their options. An interesting thing about video
streamers is that—despite the growth of original content offerings from providers
like Netflix and Hulu—they focus on the familiar. Almost 60% say they routinely
return to their favorite traditional channels, 44% like to scan through
traditional channel options, 39% scan the program listings, and 31% browse
their DVR recordings.
Younger viewers are more likely to use menus and check out recommended programming, as well as to spend more time exploring, than older viewers. However, they are also the most likely to tune out altogether if they are frustrated and don’t find something they want to watch. Thus, it is critical for streaming solution providers to master content discovery as they seek to cement their place in consumer viewing habits.
I recently connected with Christa Carone, who joined Group Nine Media as president in 2017, at the Collision Conference in Toronto, Canada. Carone, who came to the media side of the industry after leadership roles on the marketing and agency side, oversees Group Nine’s sales and marketing teams as well as its data insights group. Group Nine is a digital media holding company comprised of four popular digitally-native media brands Thrillist, The Dodo, Seeker, and NowThis. Carone and I discussed revenue and distribution diversification, content strategy, and building a business based on brand equity.
Here are some highlights from our conversation:
Michelle Manafy: Tell me a little bit about your content
distribution strategy and why you are all-in on social.
Christa Carone: Well, I’d say we’re all-in on omni
channel—and that includes social. Right now, we’re distributing content on over
20 different platforms. That includes Amazon Prime, Pluto, Roku, and distribution
deals with networks literally around the world. So, our approach to being
completely agnostic on distribution is that we want to bring our content to all
of the different places where people are spending their time. And we want that
to be a pretty frictionless experience. Instead of spending a ton of money to
get you to come to my website, I want to bring our storytelling to the place
where you are already hanging out.
Michelle Manafy: Truly connecting with audiences at
scale almost sounds like almost an oxymoron to me. What do you think?
Christa Carone: You can debate that content is king
and distribution is queen and whether they have an equal seat at the table. But
that’s really kind of how I look at it. When both are working together extremely
well, you are able to build successful brands like The Dodo, NowThis, Thrillist,
and Seeker. It’s like really honing-in on higher value content. We’re building
lifetime value of the content, what’s going to keep an audience interested, and
remain totally agnostic on the distribution strategy.
Michelle Manafy: The trick, of course, is the
monetization. The other side of a distributed model is fragmentation. So, talk
to me a little bit about how managing all of those channels ties into an overarching
Christa Carone: The beauty of our strategy is
diversification. I often say that if Facebook sneezes, we don’t want to catch a
cold. Just like in any industry, you don’t want to be overly dependent on one
particular revenue stream. It’s business 101. Media is no different than any
other type of business. So, that’s why we’ve been so focused on building
audiences across a number of different channels. We’re building audience on TikTok
right now. The monetization strategy there is nascent. But it’s going to come. IGTV
is another great example. We produce great content for IGTV and put it on IGTV
pre-revenue. But I have no doubt at all that Facebook is going to open up
monetization opportunities there. And I want to have established an audience when
Michelle Manafy: You mentioned diversification and that
every company should be focused on diversified revenue. I take it that Group
Nine that’s been baked in from the start.
Christa Carone: Keep in mind that we’re two years old. So, we’ve had the benefit of learning from a lot of traditional companies. And I often say: We’re not pivoting to anything. Some of our brands were born into video so there wasn’t a pivot to video. And the business model was already established. Some of our brands were social first. NowThis, in particular, was born as a social-first distributed brand. We didn’t pivot our business model from taking audience from owned and operated to distributing through external platforms.
Thrillist is the oldest of our brands and it has such a
loyal audience. So, we are looking at diversification around where we can take
the Thrillist brand and make it more of a whole-lifestyle brand.
Overall, our focus is on lifetime value for the content. So,
if we’re bringing in revenue with licensing, great. Bringing in revenue from
the syndication model, great. If we’re bringing in revenue by production deals
with OTT content providers, like a Netflix, that’s perfect. And if we are continuing
to bring in a healthy amount of revenue from advertising, wonderful. And increasingly
we’re thinking about how we can tap into other revenue streams like commerce and
Michelle Manafy: Could you tell me a little bit about
your commerce strategy?
Christa Carone: Our approach to commerce is really looking at brands like The Dodo and Thrillist and saying there’s intellectual property here. There’s a maniacally loyal fanbase. Can we be licensing The Dodo into product? The Dodo clearly has enough brand equity to be producing large scale consumer and canine events. Thrillist has been a friend to people for a long time. It is your recommendation action for food and beverage and travel. So, our ability to take that brand equity and bring it into commerce is already built in. And stay tuned: We will definitely be doing some more on that later this year and we just hired a head of ecommerce.
Michelle Manafy: So, you mentioned that maniacal
audience, that loyal audience. What’s the Group Nine secret? Because, as
publishers, that audience relationship is what differentiates us from the
Christa Carone: It’s such a credit to our editorial
teams. They know how weave a great narrative and tell an amazing story. It
sounds simple but I’m always amazed … A great example is from NowThis. Many
people are familiar with the NowThis video about Beto O’Rourke that went viral.
The raw footage of that video was already posted on Twitter. It already lived
on the Internet someplace. The NowThis team found it and was able to put it
through their storytelling lens. They said how can we construct it in such a
way that viewers are compelled to watch the entire piece? There is an art to
it. There is a narrative that was built in through the use of text on the
screen, through the use of effective editing so that we as the viewer were
compelled to watch it from start to finish. That is the secret sauce that
really exists within our editorial teams and applies to how we produce content
across all of our brands.
I would say the other massive factor for us is that scale
matters. We have such amazing insights that we’re able to glean from the
consumption of our videos that informs how we produce content. Based on our scale,
our data team is looking at 115,000 views of our content every minute. Every minute. We’ve built a very sophisticated
data engine that is able to pull in insights for things like the right color
for the text on the screen, the right size of font, the number of words that
should be on your screen, the fact that videos about dogs have three times
longer watch time than videos around cats. So, the editorial team can say maybe
that dog video should be three and a half minutes but maybe that cat videos
should just be two or something along those lines. You’re able to really start
to use these signals to inform your storytelling.
Michelle Manafy: So,
what’s your growth plan?
Christa Carone: Our business is really becoming much
more analogous to a TV buy. What I mean by that is that we have access to sell
all of the pre-roll against all of Group Nine content across all of the major
platforms. So, you have a television commercial and you are in, say, an auto
company and the pet owner is really interesting to you. You can come to us and
have 100 percent share of voice across all Dodo content on Facebook, on
Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat. You can buy our pre-roll on our channels and
transact that directly through Group Nine instead of the platforms. Brands are
responsive to it because of the importance of brand safety. When you have the
brand safety conversation with a marketer, you need to be able to say here’s
the right audience and it is against premium, brand safe content. It’s
fascinating to me that we’re having more conversations with TV buyers who are
shifting that investment from linear to wherever they can get eyeballs.
Michelle Manafy: I’m finding the distinction between television and all digital video is increasingly blurred, particularly for buyers.
Christa Carone: Completely. I think we have to redefine
what TV means. So, TV is not a device anymore. When the linear players, the
cable players start talking about TV everywhere, we’re in that boat. It
includes YouTube, it can arguably be IGTV, it could be lean-back viewing on
Facebook… It can be TikTok. How define TV going forward is going to be interesting.
Michelle Manafy: Talk to me about how you’re
innovating and how the industry needs to innovate.
Christa Carone: Maybe for some media companies,
diversification is innovative. It’s different at Group Nine because we were
born that way. We’ve learned so much from how past companies have run that we
know what we need to do as a media company. I feel like innovation is really
coming through how companies are able to scale intellectual property.
Christa Carone: I mean that’s been such an advantage
coming into a company like Group Nine. What I’m able to tap into is the
perspective of a marketer and think of everything we’re doing from the
perspective of the client. Will an advertiser really buy into this? I come from
companies with significant brand equity so I’m a massive believer in
intellectual property and that’s what appeals to me about Group Nine. these
aren’t four media companies. These are four brands. So: How can we look at
building brand equity that isn’t just about one particular revenue stream? That
has been super helpful to me to bring more of an innovative marketing approach
to building brands.
Despite a steady stream of negative news about social media platforms, eMarketer predicts that marketers will continue to invest ad dollars there. eMarketer’s US Social Trends for 2019 foresees continued fallout from 2018’s social media scandals and revelations, particularly for Facebook. It appears that marketers will continue to advertise on the problematic platform, despite declines in usage and engagement along with increased regulatory scrutiny.
Facebook-owned Instagram, the report points to the likelihood of “growing pains”
and investigations into data practices and privacy, in part stemming from the
actions of its parent company. Overall, eMarketer says that 2019 will be a year
to watch in terms of changing user behavior and engagement across social media
and Instagram, eMarketer predicts that:
They will bring in a combined $67.25
billion in worldwide ad revenue, up 23.5% from 2018.
They will see US expenditures increase
20.6%, to $27.57 billion this year.
Time spent on Facebook among US users
will remain flat this year, at 40 minutes per day.
Time spent on Instagram will inch up
only slightly, to 27 minutes from 26 minutes in 2018.
the report points out that, much as marketers have had trouble shifting ad
dollars away from linear TV despite declining audiences, they won’t be inclined
to quit Facebook either, even in light of its mounting problems. In fact, Next
year, eMarketers predicts that marketers will put $32.18 billion into social
ads, with the vast majority—$27.57 billion—spent on Facebook. That will bring
social ad spending to 47% of TV ad spending ($69.17 billion) this year.
Snapchat, eMarketer predicts that usage will slow. However, the company will
have better luck garnering revenues from its existing users. eMarketer estimates
that Snapchat’s US average ad revenue per user (AARPU) will top $10 this year
($10.18 to be exact), up 30.4% over 2018 (when AARPU grew just 10.9%).
2019 productions include:
An explosion of the stories format (followed by a backlash)
The spread of vertical video
The newsfeed will maintain its dominance as social media’s primary UI
Social shopping will gain traction
turbulence in the social media landscape, we’ll all need to keep an eye on
Facebook’s place and popularity in the marketing landscape as well as the ripple
effect that increased scrutiny on platforms data usage will have on all
players. It will also be interesting to see if the stories format remains
relevant in the long haul, as well as continued shifts in the perception of, and
tactics around, influencer marketing.