Commentary

Millennials, Gen Z: What They Really Think About Today's News

In a recent survey, we found that 18- to 39-year-olds perceived some problems with news quality during the pandemic. Are we doing them a disservice by assuming that they are unable to distinguish between real and fake news? Between quality and drivel?

Social media has long been blamed for falsely spreading “fake news” with impacts on the real world, such as swaying public opinion in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Yes, it is true our research found that young adults are relying primarily on social media for their information consumption (63%). Other studies have confirmed this number, with recent research from Alter Agents indicating 68% of this group rely on sources like YouTube and Snapchat for news. But traditional TV news comes in a close second, at 61%.

Still, Gen Z-ers and millennials are taking it all in with a grain of salt.

In fact, multiple studies have shown that older generations are more likely to share fake news without fact-checking. As digital content has been part of younger cohorts' everyday lives since they were able to get online, perhaps they are better “trained” to sift through the nonsense. Many of our respondents believed that the news they are consuming is not accurate, and is instead geared toward scaremongering (37%) or exaggeration (38%).  

What does this mean for brand communication? Perhaps we should go back to the drawing board to find out what young adults are thinking and feeling -- particularly as sentiment and behaviors may be shifting dramatically during a crisis. Uncovering a holistic view might not be as hard as brands think.

The next step is rethinking how we engage with the Gen Z audience in particular. This generation is less about building a vast network and more about focusing on personal communication and one-to-one relationships. This trend may lead to fewer, but more intimate, relationships built on new values.

This is evident in the apps they use, since millennials (and older) are considered the Facebook generation and GenZ exhibit higher engagement with friends on apps like Snapchat.

Marketers also can’t rely on traditional methods to elicit feedback from this audience. Traditional market research relies on use of email panels to engage and collect feedback from the population. This shift to less sharing and deeper engagement in trusted relationships may be in part the explanation of the decline in market research participation. Increasingly market research agencies and brands will require new methods and channels to have meaningful exchange with the Gen Z audience.

In short, we need new ways to connect with young adult audiences. We have found that the right ecosystem, built on trust, can help to engage them. As indicated above, the research on news consumption shows that they can see through the bulls**t. So, for example, providing users greater custody of their data, and providing guarantees for privacy, can help us tap into the insights from these important young adult audiences, and help us form communications that will resonate with them.

5 comments about "Millennials, Gen Z: What They Really Think About Today's News".
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  1. Fred Jacobs from Jacobs Media, July 7, 2020 at 6:15 p.m.

    Paul, I love where you're going with this, but I'd like to see the study you're refering to.  Can you let us know about it, share a link?  Thanks. 

  2. PJ Lehrer from NYU, July 8, 2020 at 9:37 a.m.

    The fact that they punk'd Trump in Tulsa speaks volumes...
    http://pjlehrer.blogspot.com/2020/06/trump-was-punkd-by-teenagers.html

  3. Paul Neto from Measure Protocol replied, July 8, 2020 at 6:36 p.m.

    Hi Fred - this link provides some context and a link to a study PDF. https://www.measureprotocol.com/blog/millennials-and-gen-z-during-covid-19
    Thanks!
    Paul

  4. Michael Schiferl from IPG, July 9, 2020 at 2:40 p.m.

    There is often an assumption when people say they "reply on social media" for info/news, that it's somehow devoid of info/news from legacy media outlets. It isn't. And, often news outlets have both enormous direct reach (often far greater on social platforms than their original legacy platform like TV) or have their content shared (yes, organically) many times over.  And most major news orgs share or create original news/info for IG, Twitter feeds, YT, Snaps, etc. directly too.  Example: E! may share a video w/their 3.6M Twitter followers which also runs on their TV program. Those people who follow them via Twitter would likely say they get info "from social media", and perhaps never watch TV show. 

  5. Paul Neto from Measure Protocol replied, July 9, 2020 at 5:16 p.m.

    Hi Michael - it's very true indeed that the lines are blurred between channels and for most, even us in the industry, have trouble attributing where their information comes from exactly. Though what is interesting is when you ask them, where do they perceive it to come from may be the critical question!

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