We have focused on bringing people back to our owned and operated platforms. This makes sense as this is where we have more control and this is where we monetise. But research shows younger generations, particularly Gen Z, spend a lot of time on social media platforms and little to no time on ours.
The report goes on to say that each week:
78% of 18- to 24-year-olds access news via aggregators, search engines, and social media.
40% of that age group uses TikTok.
15% saying they use TikTok to find, discuss, or share news.
So, what if we invested in the distributed platforms to meet these younger audiences where they are?
We still don’t know if native digital generations will have more of a propensity to pay for news as they get older and have more of a need or desire for news as they become more active citizens — paying more taxes, buying houses, looking at education for their kids (all the fun things that adulthood brings!).
It’s a bet. If we invest in our brands on other platforms now, will it pay off as those people get older and have a greater propensity (we think) to subscribe?
The investment doesn’t necessarily need to be huge, but it does need to be real. And we need to understand that there is likely to be little to no short-term revenue on those platforms — this is a long-term play for most of us.
My colleague Ioana Straeter and I were talking about the interview with Rachel Richardson. Ioana told me the interview confirmed her observations during lectures she gave with students between 20-26 years old. Ioana was lecturing in Germany and told me the No. 1 source of news — which was for most of them the only source of news — was watching “Tagesschau” on Instagram.
Tagesschau is the public TV evening news programme, an institution in Germany. The students couldn’t tell her why they chose this to follow. Her guess is that there is some kind of conditioning: They grew up with their parents and grandparents watching Tagesschau on TV every evening at eight. This generation has taken part of that habit, just with more flexibility on timing and via Instagram and other channels, not TV.
If we truly want to make this investment, we can’t just repurpose content for other platforms. It needs to be native. TikTok is different than Instagram Reels, which are different than YouTube, which is different than video elsewhere. Each platform has its own nuances that we need to recognise, and this means hiring accordingly.
Also, younger people want the news in a very different way than we are used to. It’s not just format, it’s the style of content. There is much data that shows this generation wants more facts and raw information so they can determine what to make of it.
Frankly, it’s not easy to have a good overview of all platforms. Riske Betten, head of product at Mediahuis NL, pointed out to me that we are in the business of publishing and distributing — but these are two very different roles. Product tries to bridge, but we also expect editorial leaders to manage this on a day-to-day level.
Maybe we need to take a “pit stop” between the two to determine what should be published where (on or off platform) and in which mediums. Laura Hertzfeld recently argued that every newsroom should have a matchmaker (or perhaps we think of it as a brand advocate) to help look at content to figure out what formats could best be used and where it should be distributed.
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