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The Future of Media Has a Youthful Face

A whole new audience of Millennials and Generation Z engaging with publishers in ways they never dreamed possible.

Editorial staff levels are growing again, and youthful readers obsessed with their smart phones are a big reason why.
New data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows how even as employment at newspapers continues a precipitous drop, the rate of employment in “internet publishing and broadcasting” has more than doubled in 6 years.
Part of this growth is due to a larger audience, namely Millennial and Generation Z readers, who are deeply connected to their smart phones and uniquely engaged with an ever-expanding 24 hour news cycle. It hasn’t always been this way. This chart shows how unsuccessful printed newspapers were in their attempts to engage youthful audiences, largely due to constraints of space, time, and market economics, which didn’t allow editorial staffs to create the kind of content young readers were most interested in.
Yet the advent of smart devices, the Internet, and social media has enabled online publishers to cover more topics, faster, across platforms and media, and connect with millions of young readers who not only actively consume news, but also cultivate, create, and share it.
If you really want to begin to understand the young, this is a good place to start. Bottom line: digital natives prefer to be connected to the news through their smart devices. The news cycle of yesteryear hasn’t disappeared either, it’s just been thrust into a never ending cycle of other news: News from your friends, news from your neighbors, etc. It’s one big pile of news now, and publishers have found more ways to connect to it.
A seemingly endless supply of studies and trends show just how engaged young readers are with online content. A Nielsen study discovered that Millennial and Generation Z are surprisingly traditional when it comes to their media consumption. For one, representatives of both groups list reading online as one of their top spare-time activities, just behind listening to music. The survey also found more traditional print and television news still held sway for nearly half of the Millennials and Generation Z respondents.
Another Nielsen study looked at 3.1 million New Zealanders aged 15+ and found they spend what equates to two working days online each week, mostly on their phones. “Millennials and Generation Z are trend setters…,” according to the report, “Both groups are interacting daily with organizations on social media up much more than the rest of the population.”
A study from Poynter concluded Millennials get a bad rap as a “newsless and disengaged generation.” Sixty-nine percent of 1000 surveyed said they check news at least once a day, and 49 percent check it multiple times. Forty percent even said they pay for some form of news. And if you think that’s only flowery entertainment news, think again; 57 percent of those surveyed said they follow at least four hard news topics.
And with all of this, the publishing business may be well on it’s way to becoming profitable again.

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