Media companies try to meet young readers where they are

By Nevin Kallepalli

New York, United States


By Sarah Schmidt


Brooklyn, New York, United States


By Dawn McMullan


Dallas, Texas, USA


The business model of most news organisations have the same primary goal: bringing subscribers to their platform. This is an ever-evolving process that must move swiftly alongside technological development and user habits. 

But then there are media companies whose strategy is the opposite: How can the news meet users — especially young readers and potential readers — where they are? Throughout the recent INMA World Congress of News Media, strategies for meeting young readers where they are came up again and again.

Are young readers willing to pay?

Lucy Blakiston, co-founder of Shit You Should Care About, said the company is trying to “normalise paying for the media you love,” among young people. This means subscribers receive their newsletter — a true labour of love between the founders — and access to their “close friends” story on Instagram. 

Describing their subscriber model, she said: “They’ll come for the news, but they'll pay for the friendship.”

“It’s not that they are not interested in compelling issues, it’s just that they’re not interested in reading on a homepage,” Sinead Boucher, CEO of Stuff in New Zealand, told INMA attendees. “That’s one reason we’re investing in audio. We just launched a 10-minute daily news audio, and it’s going amazingly well and appealing to a young audience.”

Gert Ysebaert, CEO of Mediahuis Group in Belgium, has found the same:

“We did some in-depth research on on Gen Z and how they look at journalism, how they look at news media. And one of the interesting outcomes that came as a surprise is that they are willing to pay, more willing to pay than Gen Y actually. But that doesn’t mean that they want to pay for what we are doing now.

“We have to really connect with them and give them what they expect. And they expect much more transparency, authenticity. Different formats are also important. I also think audio will be very important in getting Gen Z to pay for journalism.”

Platforms that attract young readers

Scott Stein, vice president and general manager of content ventures at Gannett, discussed the company’s affiliate commerce business Providing detailed, trustworthy research fills a real need, Stein said, particularly with younger audiences, noting 97% of Millennials read online reviews before purchasing. 

The News Movement (TNM) was created in 2020 with the sole purpose of providing “information people can trust, in the places they find the content they love.” TNM co-founder Ramin Beheshti told INMA study tour participants his team wants to “reimagine how news is created.”

For TNM, those “places” aren’t news Web sites. It primarily targets young audiences on social media, both on older platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Youtube, or newer ones like TikTok. Following the playbook of what media performs the best on these apps, they specialise in short-from video starring their team of anchors. Their goal is to engage Gen Z, and they have already started thinking about Generation Alpha. 

Beheshti offered two key points that drive TNM’s strategy: 

  • 60% of Gen Z gets their news entirely from social media.

  • TikTok is often their search engine of choice.

In 2023, TNM acquired The Recount, which describes itself as a “video-based service covering U.S. politics,” with the objective of demystifying power. Their anchors speak in their own voice and don’t chase headlines; they target topics their team believes they can actually add value to. 

Both TNM and The Recount are extremely responsive to user data in how they develop their editorial and business strategy. They stay nimble in their presence on multiple social media apps, and are looking toward emerging platforms such as Discord and Twitch. Consistent with everything about their company, their unconventional revenue plan thinks beyond the subscription and ad-based model. 

A smaller operation with a similar goal of making news approachable and legible to younger audiences is Shit You Should Care About. Originally getting her start on Instagram in 2018, the Blakiston created the platform as a user-friendly account that rendered the barrage of current events into a consumable format for her peers. 

SYSCA has amassed millions of followers on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok since then, and expanded to a podcast and newsletter.

The overall success Shit You Should Care About is evident in their values. They prioritise transparency, an approachable tone, but above all, earnestness, Blakiston said. Of the many quippy maxims she offered the audience, one in particular stuck: “We give you the news, not the blues.”

Meeting readers young readers where they are isn’t simply about proliferating media as much as possible — this can feel forced and inauthentic to audiences. Key to both the TNM and SYSCA strategies is adapting the format of their news to the constraints of the platform, whether that be a poppy graphic or short-form video. 

Rather than assuming an authoritative voice that tells the public what they should care about, both try to respond to what their readers think is important, offering a mix of light, thought-provoking, and hard news content.

About the Authors

By continuing to browse or by clicking “ACCEPT,” you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance your site experience. To learn more about how we use cookies, please see our privacy policy.