Millennials Are Connected, But News Consumption Varies

Marketers (and maybe a few trade reporters) love referring to millennials as a single homogenous group.

But almost by definition, this young demographic represents a great deal of diversity -- especially as it relates to their use of information.

In fact, millennials’ digital news consumption habits fall into four separate types, according to new research from the Media Insight Project -- a collaboration between The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute.

There are the “the unattached,” who get their news and information mostly by chance. Skewing on the younger side -- 18-to-24 among a group that is understand to span from 18-to-34 -- these consumers tend to lack families of their own, or clear career paths.

“Their online lives are spent largely keeping up with their social circles, schooling, or first-time job hunts,” the report explains.

As for news, conventional subjects like community and world events are not central to their interests, while less than a third personally pay for a digital or print news subscription.

The unattached mostly go online for entertainment purposes like playing games or streaming music and movies, although about half express an interest in substantive world affairs and the opinions’ of friends on such matters.

Also among younger millennials, “the explorers” distinguish themselves by their thirst for news and information. Most have yet to start their own families or careers, and this group consists of slightly more men than women.

Explorers are highly connected -- 97% have smartphones -- and keenly interested in news and its pursuit via digital channels.

Driven by a belief in the social and civic benefits of being informed, they follow a variety of current events and what the Media Insight Project dubs “news-you-can-use topics.”

Older millennials -- between the ages of 25-to-34 -- fall into two group distinct groups: “the distracted” and “the activists.”

Having already staked their claim to middle-class status, the distracted are too busy having families and climbing the corporate ladder to bother with news and information as a force for civic or social change.

Like the unattached, they mostly bump into news and information by chance, rather than actively seeking it out. Despite their healthy incomes, most don’t personally pay for a news subscription.

Compared to other millennials, the distracted tend to get less news and information online and from social media in general. When consuming information, they mostly prefer lifestyle and news-you-can use topics that are directly applicable to their careers, families and personal lives.

By contrast, the activists actively seek out news and information, despite the responsibility of family and career. Activists are also unique for their racial and ethnic diversity. In fact, they are the only one of the four groups that is a majority non-white.

Of particular interest to publishers, a majority of activists personally pay for a digital or print news subscription. They are likely to follow current events and report using the news for civic reasons.

They also get news online, and are somewhat less likely than other millennials to frequently use the Web for social or entertainment purposes.

For their findings, the researchers conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,045 adults between the ages of 18 and 34, at the beginning of the year.

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