The other day, as we were musing around a conference table, someone asked a straight forward and seemingly naïve question: why don't people read print newspapers as much as they once did?

We all know that there are easily a hundred very gloomy statistics combined with many other detailed references that each describes a ray of the prismed answer. In pursuit of the elusive answer, I recently came upon research by L2, a membership organization affiliated with New York University with the mission of driving digital marketing innovation. The research just released focused on the media consumption habits and brand affinities of affluent Gen Yers. A few excerpts from the research:

 

  • Blogs on par with newspapers: If baby boomers are the TV generation, then Gen Y is the blog generation. Nearly half of Gen Y affluents read at least one blog daily, making blogs as popular as newspapers with this cohort. Blogs associated with such traditional media organizations as The New York Times and ESPN are as popular as those focused on a niche. Millennials' favorite specialty blogs include Mashable and The Sartorialist. Micro-blogging is even more pervasive; two-thirds of affluent Gen Y's use Twitter, with one in four checking their account in the past 24 hours.

  • Newspaper content commands as much attention as TV: On a daily basis, Gen Y affluents are as likely to read newspaper content as they are to watch TV, and they would rather have the content on a screen. In fact, four of five readers access newspapers digitally, and one in eight do so using a mobile device.

 

The research was targeted to brands looking to connect with an affluent GenY audience. While newspapers are typically one of the channels these brands could use to reach an audience, we are also the brands themselves. Our news organizations need to position ourselves to be successful once Gen Y behaviors and preferences cycle through the global population.

A few trends to keep an eye on include:

 

  • A seemingly generational shift away from valuing original source content and objective news and information.

  • An increasing preference for short form content, and a comfort with a proliferation of media choices.

  • A surprising lack of trust for the traditional role of “editor.” Among older newspaper readers, the editor of a venerable and trusted publication is respected as someone who will make the difficult and wise choices regarding the important news of the day. Research we've reviewed suggests that the Gen Y market views the role of editor with suspicion, as someone who is manipulating the news rather than an informed judgment.

 

These three trends, taken together, are a foundation for Gen Yer's interest in blogs, news aggregation and a less active approach to consuming news. While different from the old guard, these are not barriers to a newspaper organization's success. Instead, the insights can be used to craft our digital offerings and how we position our brands. And, while not the answer to “why don't people read print newspapers as much anymore,” perhaps some ideas on how we get people to read our content more.