Only Dead Old People Read the News


Where O where have younger readers gone?

Probably to Buzzfeed.

Or to YouTube.

Maybe they’re making a Vine. Or texting their friends. Or playing a video game.

One thing is certain. Millennials probably aren’t reading your news.


They don’t like news.

At least that’s the conclusion of a new research study by Pew Research.  Pew found that Millennials consume far less news than older generations. Look at these numbers for the amount of minutes each generation spent reading/watching news:

  • Silent Generation – 84 minutes per day
  • Baby Boomers – 77 minutes
  • Generation X – 66 minutes
  • Millennials – 46 minutes

Older generations are spending 20 to 40 minutes a day more on consuming news. Even worse? Millennials don’t appear to even enjoy following news. Here are the percentages of people in each generation who told Pew they liked following news:

  • Silent Generation – 58 percent
  • Baby Boomers – 58 percent
  • Generation X – 45 percent
  • Millennials – 29 percent

Obviously, these numbers indicate that the younger generation has less interest in news and journalism. Bad news indeed for news organization – both traditional and online media.

Trying to put lipstick on a pig, Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine tried to argue that perhaps younger readers spent less time on news because they are more efficient at consuming it (those old people do take a long time turning those newspaper pages).

According to Jarvis:

“They [Millennials] don’t have to block out time to sift through a newspaper to find what matters to them and more time sitting, passively watching an hour or more of local and national TV news to get a one-size-fits-all summary that could be more efficiently delivered online: more meat, less bun.”

I’m not convinced Jarvis has it right. While Millennials are certainly entrenched more in technology – the advantages of the Internet and mobile devices are there for Generation X and the Baby Boomers as well (the Silent Generation probably is lagging in this area). All of us are moving to online information – not just the younger set.

Nor does this explain their disinterest in following news.

The key to getting Millennials to engage more with news content may lie outside of the content. Instead it could be with how it is presented to them. News organizations, especially traditional ones, still rely heavily on text to present information. Even online news sources are inherently text-based.

So the answer to getting younger people to become more interested in news may be to re-imagine the way it is delivered.

The answer could be threefold:

  • Be concise. Shorter stories. More bullets. Get to the point. Make it provocative and enticing right out of the gate.
  • Be visual. Make it beautiful and elegant. Make it pop off the page. Make it a video. Add music and flare.
  • Be interactive. Make it engaging. Ask for something – a share, an opinion, a thought… anything. Include the audience. Allow people to change it and make it their own.

What do you think? How can journalists and news organizations bring younger readers into the fold?


Poynter story on Pew’s new research

BuzzMachine on Millennials being more efficient

Balance in Journalism Rears it’s Ugly Head – Again

5 Responses to “Only Dead Old People Read the News”

  1. Though I may be a Millennial, I am always reading the news. When I ask other people my age why they don’t read the news, their response is either it doesn’t matter to them or they can’t do anything about it so who cares.
    I agree with your post, but I think the larger issue is writing in a way that most people can understand and pointing a news story in a direction that stirs up a passion in the young reader. By giving real-life examples of broad issues, a writer can simplify an issue and magnify its appeal to young readers. After that is established, the writer can then go into long term effects of the issue on hand by citing similar past events.
    Yes, presentation is key but there also needs to be a drive behind what is written.

  2. Hi Casey:
    Great suggestions. A lot of journalism – especially political reporting – seems to be written for insiders and about insiders. Making it matter to everyone, including young readers, is a great way to start connecting more with audiences.

  3. Hi George:
    We met briefly at the PR Take Flight event at BU last week and I have been following your blog updates. This post specifically grabbed my attention. I was born in 1992, and I suppose that puts me in an interesting position when it comes to the rise of digital content. Up until I was a freshman in high school (in 2006), I did not regularly use the Internet. I remember going to the library and using books and print resources for projects in elementary and middle school. I think the “problem,” or challenge rather, with young people now is that they missed this transition period that everyone else, including myself, had to go through. For them, information has consistently been readily available online and I think that is why they don’t take it so seriously. It’s kind of like a “it’s always going to be there” mind set…if they have a desire to read an article, it’s almost certainly going to be available in a matter of seconds. I agree with what you said about shorter, more to the point news articles. Information being readily available online, in my opinion, allows for young people to have shorter attention spans because they don’t have to put in effort to search for it. News sources need to grab their attention and keep it by getting to the point faster.
    – Sarah Edwards

  4. Hi Sara:
    Thanks for your comment. Glad to have you onboard. The best way to take advantage of any platform is to utilize its attributes. The internet has become a fast, visual medium. So if you want your content to work make it look great, make it move, and get to the point.

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