Last week, there was an interactive live stream panel with General Assembly (GA) addressing the topic of millennial consumption of news and interaction with media. This panel included leaders from The Associated Press, Mashable, Mic, CBS News Digital, and the Missouri School of Journalism. They each shared their professional experiences as well as discussing the findings from a blended quantitative and qualitative research study from The Media Insight Project (MIP). The theory they debated was explained in detail in the MIP report, How Millennials get News: Inside the Habits of America’s First Digital Generation:
“For years, researchers and social critics have worried that the newest generation of American adults is less interested in news than those who grew up in the pre-digital age. Much of the concern has come from data that suggest adults age 18-34 — so-called Millennials — do not visit news sites, read print newspapers, watch television news, or seek out news in great numbers. This generation, instead, spends more time on social networks, often on mobile devices. The worry is that Millennials’ awareness of the world, as a result, is narrow, their discovery of events is incidental and passive, and that news is just one of many random elements in a social feed.”
Although it’s true that some millennials are more passively engaged news consumers – I would admit to being one of them – that is not uniquely generational. And because of the digital explosion and widespread exposure in social context, people like me cannot help but be surrounded by news-stimulated conversations and inevitably join in consuming and contributing.
“Millennials appear to be drawn into news that they might otherwise have ignored because peers are recommending and contextualizing it for them on social networks, as well as on more private networks such as group texts and instant messaging.”
Regardless, my husband easily contradicts the stereotype. He loves checking multiple news sites multiple times a day, scanning every headline and jumping into the written details of topics that interest him, as well as supplementary video and podcasts.
Additionally, one of my college friends, Amy McDonald, currently works as an online reporter with The Salt Lake Tribune in Utah. She loves sharing about current trends and events, often using Facebook and Twitter as conversational platforms. Since 1) she is a millennial and 2) witnesses news consumption of all age groups on a daily basis, I wanted to know how Amy views generational news involvement:
R.R.: “How do you see other Millennials respond to the news that you seek and write?
A.M.: “Millennials care a lot about what’s going on in the world…Millennials aren’t as interested in unbiased news as their parents, but that doesn’t mean they’re not interested in news and their own civic duty. My peers are interested in sharing their opinion on controversial topics or grappling with tough issues.”
R.R.: “Through what sources do you reach out to them?”
A.M.: “In my mind, millennials are very interested in news, but they aren’t limiting themselves to the traditional outlets. [Millennials] may not go directly to a news site home page, but they are reading the news. They are just consuming it in different ways: Facebook, Twitter, The Daily Show, Stephen Colbert, etc.”
R.R.: How do you personally define news?
A.M.: “I define “news” as anything people are interested in reading: pop culture, watchdog journalism, celebrity gossip or political drama (which are somehow becoming more blended these days)! I used to be snobby about what is actual news, but the internet has changed that.”
Amy’s professional and personal viewpoint aligns with the findings of the new comprehensive research study from The Media Insight Project, both agreeing “that this newest generation of American adults is anything but “newsless,” passive, or civically uninterested.” Rather, millennials are invested in societal change, expression of opinions, and being in-the-know of all levels of global interactions – simply via less traditional formats, devices, and platforms.
Tom Rosenstiel, the Executive Director of AP Institute and one of the panel members, made a simple, yet insightful comment: “In the end, journalism is conversation among citizens.”
Although this statement has always been true, it is even more applicable now with the overwhelming opportunity for everyday consumers to join in on almost any conversation. And conversation leads to broader opinions, more solid understanding and relationship development, especially with the extensive span of today’s discussion circles.
This attraction of more conveniently, more quickly, more concisely communicating and reaching huge amounts of people is something that both news sources and consumers have latched onto. For example, look at the effect of Twitter as described by Socialnomics:
“Twitter…has changed the media, politics and business. Many will report they hear their news first on Twitter- stories of natural disasters, sports scores, the death of a celebrity and more are shared first on Twitter…It is a new era of citizen journalists and we see people speaking up and speaking out about the things that are important to them.”
So if news is conversation, then conversation is news and that is good news. No matter if we are journalists or researchers or any kind of company, if we can find a way to relevantly converse with millennials, showing genuine interest in their opinions, they will engage.