News media that want to engage with young news consumers must hire them to have them in the newsroom. And news media must understand that young news readers see a difference between “the news” and “news”.
‘The news’ is defined as (mainly) politics and current affairs provided by mainstream news brands. News’ is topically broader and for this alternative media is better here, a study from strategic insight agency Craft shows.
To engage the next generation of news readers, it’s critical for news media companies to learn not just how to deliver the news Gen Z is looking for, but to deliver it on the platforms where they live while ensuring they’re represented in the newsroom, according to a report from INMA (International News Media Association).
Three short INMA takeaways:
- Social media via their phone is a Zoomer’s preferred platform for news.
- This generation seeks authenticity and avoids crisis coverage.
- Engaging this generation means hiring them.
As Gen Z enters adulthood and becomes the next generation of news consumers, the old playbook needs to be rewritten for a digital-first world, according to the INMA report. This means understanding their platforms, like TikTok and YouTube, and their world view, which is more global and connected than any other generation.
Craft was assigned by Reuters Institute to conduct qualitative research on young news consumers in Brazil, the UK, and the US.
Five key Craft findings:
- For young people, news can be ‘narrow’ or ‘broad’. Young people make a distinction 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.
- Some young people selectively avoid ‘narrow,’ ‘serious’ news – at least some of the time. Rather than simply avoiding news, there is ‘news to be avoided’ – often to guard mental health. Because of this, young people seem to engage more with ‘news’ than ‘the news.’
- Many factors – both contextual and personal – influence a young person’s news consumption preferences and behaviours: The Hobbyist/dutiful consume news for enjoyment or out of a civic duty to know what is happening. The Main Eventer feel a practical need to keep up with developments as they impact day-to-day life, rather than out of enjoyment or duty. The Disengaged avoid ‘the news’ as a general rule but feel they need to know the unavoidable ‘big’ things going on in society
- Young people are highly sceptical of most information and often question the ‘agenda’ of news purveyors. As they’ve grown up in the digital age and been socialised by older generations to be critical of the information they consume, they judge mainstream news brands by (but not inherently value for) their impartiality.
- There is little consistency in what ‘young people’ want in terms of format – it is usually a matter of personal taste. Far from the consistent traits often ascribed to them, young people like a range of formats and media, and are drawn to information that is curated for them. There will continue to be a place for text, video, audio, and still imagery – sometimes all in one piece of content.
“Mainstream news brands cannot please all young people all the time, but they can give themselves a better chance of being chosen more often. Recognising the variety of preferences that exist within an incredibly diverse cohort presents a new set of opportunities for news organisations”, Craft says.
“That means diversifying their offers – not necessarily replacing what they are already good at – by broadening topically and lightening tonally, and meeting those who are less engaged with ‘narrow’ news on their territory. To deliver this, news brands should consider who is creating news aimed at young audiences and how that content aligns with each platform’s unique codes and conventions.”