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Under 35s pose a problem for traditional news media, but is it an opportunity for magazine publishers?

Gen Y and Gen Z no longer find traditional news media relevant or as dominant when it comes to news content, a new report from the Reuters Institute has found, with people under 35 stating that they are after news content and delivery that aligns itself more with the way multi-platform magazines deliver content.

The How Young People Consume News and The Implications For Mainstream Media focuses primarily on the broadcast news and newspaper consumption habits of people under 35 in the US and UK, but includes useful insights to magazine publishers when considering what and how to deliver content to younger audiences. 

In fact, the key drivers of young audiences outlined in the report align well with the types of content suited to magazines and their associated digital assets. 

What under 35s want from news content 

The report finds that people under 35 are primarily driven by progress and enjoyment – and this translates to what they want from their news sources. It is primarily centred around the individual: what can the news content do for them as individuals – rather than for society as a whole. 

On the progress front, under 35s want news that: 

  • Is useful 
  • Helps with personal development 
  • Contributes to status and identity 
  • Can act as ‘social glue’
  • Helps develop their own point of view. 

On the enjoyment front, under 35s want news that: 

  • Is enjoyable and engaging to consume 
  • Has fun content and delivery 
  • Has a particular point of view or angle 
  • Is different to predictable/politicised/extreme opinion and ideology. 

The report authors state that this demonstrates a disconnect; how news brands and young people view the role and value of news is different:

  • Traditional news brands see news as: what you should know.
  • Young audiences see news as: what you should know (to an extent), but also what is useful to know, what is interesting to know, and what is fun to know.

“While it’s true that the industry is moving towards producing more content of this kind, most traditional news brands are still not associated with being useful, interesting or fun,” the report states. 

“They still need and want news to connect their world to the world – and fulfil an array of different social and personal needs – but they don’t necessarily see the traditional media as the best or only way to do that.”

Typical magazine content certainly fits the bill of news you should know (within a particular niche), what is useful to know, interesting to know and fun to know. And magazines can also fulfil under 35s desire for progress: the act of choosing to subscribe to a consumer magazine on a particular topic could be seen to contribute to personal status and identity; while B2B or career related magazines could be seen to help with professional development. 

How under 35s consume their news 

Traditional news media competes for attention with a ‘background’ or ‘indirect’ exposure to news via social media, online conversations, documentaries and TV shows. The report outlines that Gen Y and Gen Z don’t need to actively seek out news, it comes to them. 

Maggie, 21-24, US: a surveyed respondent in the Reuters Institute How Young People Consume News and The Implications For Mainstream Media report.

Sources peripheral to the news space – such as infotainment, lifestyle, cultural, bloggers and vloggers – are also seen as more exciting and holding more gravitas for younger people. 

In fact, exploring attitudes toward traditional news sources, the report outlines “an overarching finding that consuming news can often feel like a chore”. 

Multi-platform magazine brands with modern website designs and a focus on driving engagement through social media channels have the opportunity to present news relevant to their niche in a way that under 35s will most likely consume. 

How to deliver news to under 35s so it doesn’t feel like a chore 

The study also reveals that the differences in the relationships young people have with the news depend on three key areas: the moment, the person and the medium. 

Four key news moments (dedicated, updated, time-filler, and intercepted) are described in detail within the report, as are four types of news consumer (Heritage News Consumers, Dedicated News Devotees, Passive News Absorbers, and Proactive News Lovers). 

The impact of the various media is also investigated, revealing key roles, usage, pros and cons of platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and podcasts.

To go into more detail on the moment, types of under 35 news consumers, and different mediums – including matrices and infographics – read the report here

Overall, to best engage under 35s, the report recommends: 

  1. The experience of news should feel as easy and accessible as Facebook and Netflix. This is partly about how the content is written and presented (clear language, more explanatory content), but also about how it is surfaced (instant, frictionless access, recommendations that feel relevant and useful, right tone of voice). 
  2. News brands need to tell stories in ways that fit the expectations of young people and the moments when they are open to news. This means creating formats that are native to mobile and social platforms as well as incorporating these ideas into their own websites. Visual formats, as well as on-demand audio podcasts, resonate strongly with young people because they have become integral to how they spend time on their mobile phones in general, and how they share and discuss content.
  3. The way the news media covers stories may need to change, including addressing issues such as too much negativity, stereotypes, diversity and how news brands present both themselves and their content on third party platforms. Younger audiences respond to stories with a ‘point of view’ as well as human stories told from a ground up perspective. 

However, the report concludes “Even if the media adopts the suggestions outlined in this report, there is no guarantee of success. Our segmentation work suggests that a significant proportion of young people in the US and UK will be hard to engage given their low interest in news.” 

That might be true for traditional news outlets. But it may also be an opportunity for niche magazine publishers with an online presence: magazine publishers, with authority and credibility, who can provide a combination of ‘what you should know’ but also what is “useful, interesting and fun to know” in the right tone of voice suited to their target market. 

A challenge for traditional broadcast and newspaper media; an opportunity for magazine publishers with young audiences. 

To read the report in full, visit: How Young People Consume News and The Implications For Mainstream Media 

Written by Lyndsie Clark

Niche Publishing Network Founder and Editor Lyndsie Clark has over 10 years of niche publishing experience, working in a variety of roles spanning B2B editorial, sales, operations, events, BD, and management.

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