Millennials Still Want Their Newspapers
Older people have complained about the young for a very long time. More than two millennia ago, Socrates wrote, “And yet I know that you are as much wiser than I am, as you are younger. But, as I was saying, revered friend, the abundance of your wisdom makes you lazy.”
More recently, a May 20 Time cover story belittled the “Me Me Me Generation” as “lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.” The Atlantic very quickly published an online piece, pointing out magazine covers in past decades, from New York Magazine’s “The Me Decade” (1976) to “The Generation Gap” in Life (1968), containing stories with similar descriptions and lamentations about youth. As the cliché translated from French goes, “the more things change, the more they remain the same.”
Generalizations about behavioral differences among age groups are seemingly a never-ending part of the human condition, as well as a staple feature of market research. Today, the young generation is nicknamed “millennials.” That appears to be a rather loose term, as some sources use it to refer to those ages 14-30 (market research firm YouthPulse), while others employ it for those born from 1977 to 1992 (Pew Research), who are now ages 21-36.
One does not need be a social scientist to realize there likely are huge differences between, say, a carefree, college-bound 18-year-old and a married, debt-laden soul of thirtysomething years, even if both spend time tapping iPhone screens.
Nevertheless, the impact of rapidly changing media technology raises concerns about how millennials connect with the world around them. Scarborough Research data and new studies conducted for the Newspaper Association of America by Nielsen and by Frank N. Magid Associates show interesting, if surprising, aspects of millennials’ relationship with newspaper media.
One of the ways millennials navigate the information downpour is by using content generated by newspapers and distributed through their various media platforms. Data from Scarborough Research — which conducts more than 200,000 interviews throughout the country each year — show that 57% of those ages 18-34 read newspapers, in print or online, during the course of an average week. That figure may startle some who presumed legacy media are irrelevant to the young.
The same data also reveal curious facts about age related to media usage on mobile devices. The median adult age (those 18 or older) for those who own a smartphone or tablet computer is 38. The median age for those using a mobile device to access newspaper content in the past month is 37. Those who are “newspaper mobile exclusive” — meaning they have accessed newspaper content only on mobile devices — are younger, with a median age of 33. That is nearly identical to the median adult age of a Twitter user (32).
Evidence on engagement with media from a recent study by Nielsen conducted for NAA points toward reasons why millennials connect with newspaper content. In that study, 60% of the 18-34 age group using the print newspaper considered their local newspaper “trustworthy,” as did 60% of those who used their local newspaper website.
By contrast, only 43% of those ages 18-34 who used social media sites agreed these sites were trustworthy. In a similar vein, 55% of the millennials who used local print newspapers agreed that they operate in an ethical manner and have the public’s best interest in mind, as did 54% of those who used local newspaper websites. For social media sites, 45% of those ages 18-34 agreed with that statement.
Newspaper media continue to have a utilitarian function for millennials, as they do for other age groups, when it comes to shopping habits. The recent “How America Shops and Spends” study conducted for NAA by Magid shows that 68% of those ages 18-24, and 75% of those ages 25-34, acted in some way on print newspaper advertising in the past month. Whether they visit a store, clip a coupon, become aware of a sale or go to a website to find more information, millennials act when exposed to newspaper ads in print.
That study also reveals that a plurality of ages 18-34 (35%) preferred receiving advertising circulars online. However, the data also show that 86% of all 18- to 34-year-olds who regularly look at Sunday newspapers also regularly check print circulars for grocery or food stores. Eighty percent do so for department stores, while 70% look for discount stores.
There is no question that members of the younger generation tend to be more active in using digital media to seek and absorb information they consider relevant to their lives. Newspapers continue to refine existing methods and invent new ones to reach younger generations through their digital platforms.
Some of these companies may employ subscription-based apps to reach young mobile users for specific content, and some may target advertising of interest to younger users across their digital offerings.