For Millennials, newspaper readership hinges on convenience, technology


We are surrounded by news, yet still Canadians seek it out throughout the day in various ways.

Newspapers continue to be an important resource for news because they have developed strong brands and established their credibility.

However, technology plays a large part in the “if,” “how,” and “when.” It has driven the change in how readership has evolved.

Millennials and baby boomers seem to be polar opposites in their behaviour, and I thought I would look at those pesky, hard-to-attract young adults in this blog post.

We conducted an informal study of 18- to 34-year-olds to gain better insight into how Millennials access news and what they consider news. Combined with what we can take from the NADbank Study, we start to see a very different picture of news consumption emerging.

Today’s young adults have grown up with the Internet, computers, and mobile devices. Their behaviour has been shaped by the tools and toys they have been surrounded by.

Their expectations are completely different than those of their boomer counterparts. Boomers know the routine and the news cycle; they have their habits and media platforms. Young adults are in spin mode; they have a number of preferred channels, but much of their consumption happens by snacking and serendipity.

It’s all about convenience. 

Whether they are “news junkies” or “news avoiders,” life revolves around millennials’ mobile devices. 

Even walking over to a newsbox is “out of the way” when they can pull out their phones and tap their fingers on an app to gain instant access to whatever they want. They pick and choose their items of interest, rarely deferring to a culled product.

They love aggregators, serious news items mixed in with blogs and edgy commentators. They get their news feeds on Facebook and Twitter, and they share what they like — and do not like — with the world. 

Metro UK has a new Facebook strategy that formats feeds specifically to appeal to Facebook users throughout the day, with easy share buttons that encourage readers to comment and share. Metro’s traffic from Facebook has increased fourfold since they implemented the new approach. 

Our research found millennials were quick to rattle off a list of at least five or six favourite sources, found mostly on the Internet. The range of interests included local newspapers in Canada, some from the United States, and magazines and TV Web sites from across the globe.

When they talked about printed newspapers, there were three primary sources to read:

  • Paid dailies at home with their family.

  • Free dailies on the way to work.

  • Specific in-depth articles on a particular topic of interest when directed to them.

They expect daily newspapers to have the headlines, but really love them for their analysis and value their credibility. While the list of what constituted news for them personally varied widely, when asked to name the top three news events of the day, the same four stories were repeated over and over, even for the “news avoiders.”

Millennials maintain a broader range of sources that they can always be plugged into compared to older adults. In 2002, everyone read an average of 1.4 different newspapers a week (in a market where there are six newspapers published every day).

Ten years later, our 2012 study shows:

  • 18- to 24-year-olds read an average of 1.61 different newspapers each week.

  • 25- to 34-year-olds read 1.47 different newspapers/week.

  • Those 35 and older who read 1.49 different newspapers/week.

In addition, our research showed different newspapers have more or less loyal audiences. The national newspapers and the free dailies have audiences that read a wider variety of newspapers than the local broadsheet and tabloid.

Print is still the dominant way for Millennials to read newspapers: Just over 30% read one every day, less than for older adults (48% for 35+, and 54% for boomers). They also spend less time with print each day: 41 minutes compared to 48 minutes by adults over 35.

But they love digital.

It is not news that young adults are more likely to get their news online. In the average week, 42% of Millennials read a newspaper online, compared to 31% of those over 35.

Mobile is what everyone is talking about, and while people find lots of ways to read their newspapers online, we found: 26% of adults 18-34 who read online read only on their mobile device, compared to 19% of adults 35 and older.

Millennials are more likely than older adults to access newspapers via apps and the Web site and spend more time reading those than older Canadians:

The good news is Millennials are captivated by the news and the world around them. They are engaged and seek information from a wide variety of sources. Newspapers have to keep their place in the monkey circle, as we call it in Canada, and be as easy as a finger tap away!

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