Millennials are often criticized for not consuming news, but, despite this perception, they actually are reading and responding to news constantly. Their habits, however, differ from those of previous generations and, because of that, they’re shaping the ways in which news exists. They’re innovating the industry, making the consumption of news more social, yet they’re still informed and are active in responding to what’s happening in the world at large.
Millennials’ approach to consuming news reflects how they differ from Gen Xers -- they perceive the “power of the pack” (or Facebook updates, tweets, and trending topics as we know them) as more valuable than the fact-checked, overly polished, POV of one reporter.
Ask a Millennial what’s the first thing they do when they wake up or before they go to bed and they’ll likely say they look at Facebook or Twitter (we even recently learned that 30% of men now say they won’t enter the bathroom without their phone!). To them, social networks aren’t just for talking to friends; they’re also for staying plugged into the world around them.
According to our survey conducted among 1,780 14-34 year olds during October 2012:
In a world where communication is consumed without geographic boundaries and in real time, the concept of “news” is clearly being re-shaped. A 17 year old today was barely 12 when the iPhone came out, so a world in which opinions, comments, and updates weren’t flying at them is not just forgotten, it never existed.
Millennials have grown up at a time where anyone with internet access can, in theory, be a journalist. By tweeting a picture, updating a status, or uploading a YouTube video, sharing news is a co-created experience between the media industry and its consumers. This is a generation that expects to understand something like Hurricane Sandy’s impact through the expressed point of view of their peers online. One creative Tumblr blogger’s Sandy experience, “A New Yorker’s Sandy Experience As Told Through Gifs,” went viral last week amidst all the other news coverage.
We know Millennials see being the “first” (to share, to know, to comment on) as a valuable character trait. And with this in mind, it’s not surprising that they would gamble credibility for immediacy. This generation would rather watch the crowd form a POV within their social graph than wait around for the well-curated 5 o’clock news.
With that said, Millennials work to keep their network informed and they, in return, want to be looped in by their peers. “Staying up to date” is a relationship between consumer and world that requires mutual responsibility from each party. If they read, see, or hear of something newsworthy, they’ll quickly share it with their network. The word spreads rapidly, with their friends leaving comments, adding to the story and seeking out more information in response to their status or tweet. Previous generations may have had to seek out the news, but Millennials are finding it easier than ever to stay connected, especially because “the news comes to me” -- as one of our panelists put it. Twitter trending topics help them figure out what’s happening -- and represent a shift from a time when people validated news (the news as we once knew it) to technology validating news.
Like any other content Millennials engage with online, news, too, has social currency; it gives consumers gasoline to drive their conversations, recognition, and overall relationship with the world around them. How do the things you post shape your personal brand? It’s clear this emerging consumer behavior is driving innovations across the news industry.
Huffington Post launched HuffPost Live earlier this year, a streaming video network where community members from around the world can join in via their webcam. In the same realm of thinking, Yahoo created #Hashout, the first talk show conducted over social media. Additionally, sites like Reddit, which serve to make news social -- putting a unique spin on this overall shift in news consumption, are gaining popularity. Reddit users submit links and vote on the ranking of posts: a unique middle ground between the “new” behavior of consuming news through pedestrian updates and the “traditional” behavior of relying on established news sources.
Millennials certainly aren’t abandoning traditional news sources altogether, but they’re changing the nature of news in how they read, report, and react to it.