Millennials are more interested in news than you think
Picture a millennial sitting opposite you on the train: head buried in their smartphone, burning up what little attention span they have by continually scrolling through a succession of eye-catching yet shallow Instagram posts, all but oblivious to what’s going on in the wider world.
Now, think again. Because there’s actual research that proves this commonly-held stereotype is a long way from being the truth.
The American Press Institute has undertaken numerous studies that show millennials are at least as interested – and in some cases more interested – in news from the world around them than older generations.
Topics widely considered to be hard news – politics, business and the economy, crime and public safety and religion and faith – are very much among millennials’ interests, as well as entertainment, celebrity gossip, traffic and weather. Indeed the University of Canberra’s Digital Media Report from 2018 showed that 18 to 24-year-olds actually displayed the biggest increase (nearly 20 per cent) in what was termed “heavy news access”, which correlates to consuming news twice or more a day.
What is different about millennials and news is the way we access it. I can speak first-hand to this.
Like many others in the cohort of people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, I access my news almost entirely on my mobile phone via social media. According to the University of Canberra research, more than 51 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds use Facebook as their primary vehicle to connect with news.
You won’t see me – or many millennials – reading a newspaper from cover to cover or even scrolling a news website from top to bottom.
Instead we prefer short microbursts of news on social media, from sources we’ve chosen to follow or which have been pushed into feeds through our platform-of-choice’s data-driven understanding of what content we like to consume. It’s fair to say the “stories” functions on Facebook and Instagram have gained traction because millennials have embraced the concept of storyliving (being there, in the moment) in preference to traditional storytelling (after the fact).
Do I worry sometimes that I might be getting fake news? Occasionally. But I think I (and other millennials) deserve a bit more credit – and need to be understood a little better.
We’re a long way from being digitally naïve. A large number of us fall under the banner of the Google Generation and, guess what, we’re very comfortable searching for things!
We Google customer reviews of products before we buy them. If we want to know if a restaurant is any good, we Google that too. Exactly the same thing happens with news.
If a news topic is particularly important to us, if we’re worried the social media snippet we’ve just read seems a little “off”, or if we simply want to know more about something in the news (and get a balance of opinions) – then we search.
How we consume news is very different from the generations that have come before us. But why we do it isn’t so different at all.
Whether we’re sharing news widely on Facebook or discussing it with just a few close friends on a private messaging app; whether we’re using an aggregator service like Apple News or catching up on our favourite podcast; whether we’re reading a news article online or, heaven forbid, have picked up a newspaper at the kitchen table – the motivation is the same.
We want to know about stuff. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.
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