Publishers should target the medium, not the platform to capture the next generation of news consumers.
The 2022 Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford paints a grim picture. More people are avoiding the news than ever before, especially younger generations. But these social and digital natives are not necessarily next up in the queue of eventual news consumers nor are they a target audience, yet. This article aims to highlight who publishers should target and how.
Targeting too young, too soon.
It’s easy to read the aforementioned report and feel exasperated. Thirty eight percent of people surveyed around the world are selectively avoiding the news, up from 29% in 2017. In the U.S., it’s 42%, up from 38% in 2017.
The percentage of avoiders grows the younger the dataset gets with 20-somethings actively avoiding certain genres of news as a form of self-care.
“I actively avoid things that trigger my anxiety and things that can have a negative impact on my day. I will try to avoid reading news about things like deaths and disasters.”—Male, 27, UK
This is distressing for any journalist to read. However, there’s an interesting yet subtle distinction in how younger consumers are classifying news which helps explain it.
“…younger audiences often distinguish between ‘the news’ as the narrow, traditional agenda of politics and current affairs and ‘news’ as a much wider umbrella encompassing topics like sports, entertainment, celebrity gossip, culture, and science.”
This means that younger generations are lumping proper journalism in with their entire digital diet. This makes sense based on how different types of information bleed together on social feeds. A video from the New York Times on the war in Ukraine might be sandwiched between a video from an influencer doing the latest viral dance trend and a video showing how to make burrata caprese. If you’re on your phone for another dopamine hit, “the news” isn’t going to satiate.
So called “older generations” (35 is the cutoff in the report) are much more interested in “the news” as opposed to “news”. They seek out the news because they feel it’s important, useful and a good way to learn new things as opposed to younger generations looking for entertainment or something to discuss with friends.
This sense of duty to be informed is the perfect audience subset for publishers and that passionate niche only grows larger with age. Some publishers are setting the bar even higher than 35. The Washington Post’s Phoebe Connelly, director of Next Generation Audiences told Poynter’s Senior Media Writer Tom Jones that younger audiences are anyone under 45. That’s just ten years younger than the average news consumer.
The Reuters report shows that younger audiences are less engaged and are even having a difficult time understanding the news. I should be clear that these audiences shouldn’t be ignored. It’s worth exploring how to increase media literacy and develop a sense of duty to be well informed. But newsrooms need to be strategic with their limited audience targeting resources, so whether it’s due to self-care or just wanting to be entertained, publishers should mostly put the millennial and Gen-Z generations on the shelf while they mature into vintage news consumers and focus on the tier below their current audience.
45 is the new 55
Most consumers are getting their news from social media on mobile devices, even this older demographic. But there are key opportunities in this subset for publishers compared to the younger audiences.
- They are about 13% of the U.S. population (37 million and the third largest set)
- They are twice as likely to have a digital subscription to news than 35-45 year olds. (8% or 3 million)
- About 25% either mostly watch or have a balance of watching and reading the news. (9.2 million)
This last bullet point is key because it highlights a consumption trend that can result in huge engagement and revenue growth for publishers.
While only about 25% of older consumers mostly watch or consume the same amount of content via video or text, the younger generations are consuming nearly 35% via video. Our research at Oovvuu finds this to be true across its publishing partners as well. A global average of 34% of news consumers prefer video while on a publisher’s website, not just social media.
This trend isn’t going to change. TikTok is a video-only platform and it’s the most popular social media platform in the world with the youngest users. TikTok will come and go, but those users have been conditioned to consume video from the days of Facebook and Twitter to Instagram, YouTube and now TikTok. When they grow up and fit nicely into the 45 to 55 news-hungry demographic, odds are they’ll still want video.
Engagement and revenue opportunities
Already, 41% of consumers who prefer video say it is more engaging than text. When publishers embed contextually relevant video on a news story the time spent on that page doubles. It also increases the likelihood of that viewer returning to the site.
This strategy isn’t new. It’s usually mentioned every few years when a publisher “pivots to video” for the umpteenth time. The problem lies in the execution of that strategy. The road to proper video implementation is riddled with landmines: auto-play, long non-skippable pre rolls, too many ads, loading too many videos and weighing down the page, and a lack of contextual relevance are all recipes for disaster with news video consumption. One landmine can turn off a consumer or an advertiser. They’ll still want or pay for video, it just won’t happen on your site.
The winning formula is the right video, at the right time, in the right place.
This formula works because video is 34 times more profitable than display advertising when implemented correctly. At Oovvuu, we’ve found that publishers who are willing to follow the formula are rewarded with media agency partners who are willing to pay premium CPMs for those videos and consumers who actually engage with the content. Here’s the formula again with more detail.
Contextual Relevance + Premium and Timely Placement + Click-to-Play = Premium CPMs
The reality is that journalists still need to do the work, and publishers can empower them with this strategy because it translates across all levels of the organization. Contextually relevant video journalism making more money for the publisher means newsrooms could do something they haven’t done in a long time…grow.
Contextual relevance applies to video, but also the consumer
There is one more potential pitfall to this strategy worth mentioning. A digital publisher or broadcaster can have a 1:1 perfect match between an in-house video and an article, but over time the publisher will still see a lack of loyalty from its consumers. But why if the video and article are in perfect harmony?
Social and digital native audiences are more casual, less loyal, less trusting and more skeptical in their news consumption. Loyalty and trust are built through representation and diversity. A publisher who relies on one brand or one internal group of talent – no matter how good – is likely turning off younger consumers.
Publishers can’t hire every demographic. They also can’t source every video. This means that publishers and video providers need to work together to have the best audience representation possible. Publishers who have video from hundreds of providers around the world are able to publish a larger variety of reporting perspectives and viewpoints with more races, accents and dialects offered from news presenters.
Contextual relevance through diverse video sources will leave audiences feeling represented, empowered, and part of the news. Couple that with a proper video strategy and consumers will be more likely to engage with “the news” and less likely to disassociate with it.