Young People Will Open Their Wallets for News, Two Experts Say

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“One young woman in her mid-‘20s said, ‘I read everything I can about molecular biology; I want to devour that industry. Then I want to go watch funny celebrity videos.’ Interesting thing is they expect the same quality of experience from that that they get from other publishers.”

That quote came from Jeff Sonderman, deputy director of the American Press Institute. He helped to conduct a study for API last year titled How Millennials Get News: Inside the habits of America’s first digital generation.

He knows that most people feel a little Millennial-fatigued. But what made this study different was that interviewers sat down for in-depth talks with groups in the 18-34 age range. So it was more than yes and no. Interestingly, 85% said news is important to them, and 69% get news daily—57% regularly follow at least 4 hard news topics.

 “They care, they read,” said Sonderman. But, of course, the big question is: What do they pay for? Here are some facts from the study:
- 87% pay for some kind of media;
- 40% pay for a news product;
- Just over half read a paid news product each day;
- The likelihood of paying for news doubles after age 21 to 44%;
- 21% pay for a print magazine;
- 15% pay for a print newspaper;
- 14% pay for a digital news app.

“So they do open their wallets,” Sonderman said. “And print still holds on; it’s the new vinyl.”

He said that there are three ways that millennials use content in their lives: To find their place in the world; to enjoy and share; and to solve problems and answer questions. Of the topics they are most interested in, crime/public safety (44%) and tech science (43%) scored highest.

“They want to be able to talk about stuff with their friends and colleagues,” Sonderman said. With a bit of a sigh, he added that Facebook is indeed king—88% get news and information there, 57% every day. “It was the first or second choice for 20 of the 24 questions.”

Close to that, 83% get news and info on YouTube. Instagram came next—50% get news there. The average millennial uses 3+ social networks. “Which one is right for you?” Sonderman asked publishers. Almost 60% go to Google to learn more. “SEO is huge for B2B, to find practical content. Your social strategy should be to write stuff that thousands of people want to share on Facebook and other places.”

More information on the study can be found at this link.

Chris Altchek, CEO and co-founder of .Mic, a huge news site aimed at Millennials, spoke next. “We saw an incredible opportunity to build a news and media brand for the next generation,” he said. “They are pragmatic, optimistic and collaborative. We now reach half of all college-educated millennials, and employ 125 people, including the former executive editor of NPR, and the former head of the digital Washington Post.”

Added Sonderman: “Mic is one of the sites that says, ‘we’re going to tell people stories in a way that speaks to them.’ …to help you make up your mind on how you feel—[and try to gain] a trust and loyalty. You need a place to get into [important issues] where you’re not lost.”

Altchek looks at it like they are writing for their peers. “We’re just explaining a topic to a smart person that doesn’t know about it yet. A majority of the staff are millennials, but the more subtle point is the diversity of our staff. For us that meant building a very representative editorial staff and telling a lot of stories.

.Mic reaches the majority of their audience through social media with an intricate platform content strategy. Their interview of President Obama was cut 11 different times for all the different audiences.

“From a business standpoint, this group of people will have more wealth than any group in American history,” Altchek said. “We have to find the paid products that will work with that group.” Companies like  JP Morgan, Tag Heuer and Federal Express are advertisers on .Mic,

“More than half of our business is native advertising,” said Altchek. “I don’t think content marketing is a fad. I think it will be the only form of marketing 20 years from now. Publishers traditionally trip over their own feet when it comes to branded content and labels. [Native] can have many iterations. You have to figure out what formats work and don’t work.”

“Trust and authenticity are so important to this generation,” added Sonderman. “they’ve learned to tune stuff out really fast. But they are open to native advertising.”

An archive of presentation decks as well as video of this session and others can be accessed at this link.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…