Publishers should infuse Gen Z into their news organisations

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


At our recent product innovation master class, we had a module devoted to Gen Z.


Because it’s a huge generation, 25% of the U.S. population to be precise. And frankly, I don’t think many media companies are well prepared. Yes, we have seen different generational characteristics before, but this generation is different. It’s the first truly digitally native generation, and they act and think differently — particularly so to the Gen Xers and surrounding generations that are currently leading media companies. 

Or as Ramin Beheshiti, former CPO at Dow Jones and now co-founder and president of The News Movement, showed us: “Ignore them at your peril.”

Advice from Ramin Beheshiti, co-founder and president of The News Movement.
Advice from Ramin Beheshiti, co-founder and president of The News Movement.

Do they use Google for search? No, they use TikTok. Do they get their news from traditional media? No, 60% get their news from social. Do they trust officials? Maybe, but not as much as their influencers of choice. 

If we want to truly attract Gen Z, we need to figure this out. 

One of the challenges is bringing this into everyday business.

How can you appeal to a 60-year-old woman as well as a 20-year-old man? The diverse interests of a wide audience is a perennial issue for news media. Personally, I am convinced that personalisation is key to this. We need to figure out how to get the right content in front of the right people rather than hope they figure it out themselves. And yes, Gen Z expects it.   

Here are a few tips that I gleaned from Phoebe Connolly, next gen editor at The Washington Post; Kamran Ullah, editor, Telegraaf; and Andrea Boehler, head of UX at VG, who presented alongside Ramin:

  • Educate and influence internally. But not by directive. Help other people by giving them the knowledge and tools, then spread that knowledge through success stories. People’s hunches are often correct. Sometimes give it a go without going through rounds and rounds of validation. 

  • Terminology comes up time and time again, so make sure you use a common language when talking about Gen Z. 

  • Gen Z live on smartphones and have little patience for bad technology. So when you try things, make sure they work. 

  • Make it visual and make interfaces “clean.” Too much text is a turn off, at least for the first interaction or two until they have decided to go deeper. This means we need to think about different form and maybe even personalise for that. 

  • You can do some relatively straightforward segmentation (a precursor to personalisation) if you get people’s age. The Washington Post has a neat giveaway to incentivise this: If you register and give your age, they’ll send you a digital copy of the front page on the day you were born. Genius. 

  • Set goals, ideally around the funnel such as repeat visitors and increasing subscriptions but also through indirect measures that will impact these, such as talking to and influencing internal teams. Just don’t forget this is a learning curve and so while you may smash some targets, others may need to be tweaked.   

If you want to deep dive onto Gen Z, you can watch the session on demand. More here

I also recommend this newsletter from a speaker at our recent INMA World Congress on the 10 things you need to know before you tell Gen Z anything

If you’d like to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, INMA members can do so here. 

About Jodie Hopperton

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