Turns out traditional publishers do just fine with millennials

The conceit of a raft of new publishers is that traditional media companies have lost their way with young audiences.

And while it turns out many of the self-proclaimed millennial publications do attract proportionally more young readers, several so-called legacy publications aren’t that far behind in reaching  younger readers, having high percentages of millennial readers.

The advantage of having a millennial audience is being seen as ahead of digital curve, according to Michael Lampert, managing partner at media agency Mediacom. It’s also attractive to brands that want to establish loyalty in young consumers.

“It’s a nice way of saying ‘If we can bring this 20-something audience, then we have a customer for life if we manage it appropriately,’” he added.

Research firm ComScore provided Digiday with audience data on sites known for their popularity with the generation born roughly between 1980 and 2000 – BuzzFeed, Complex, Elite Daily, Gawker, Mic, Upworthy and Vice. We compared that data with similar numbers on legacy titles looking to make inroads with a younger readers on digital — Cosmopolitan, Esquire, GQ, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal — to see which deliver the greatest number of readers from America’s Latest Generation.

First some non-surprises: BuzzFeed reigns in terms of sheer number of millennials readers with 38.5 million U.S. unique visitors between the ages of 18 and 34 as of July 2014, according to ComScore. That’s roughly half (51.6 percent) of all the 74.5 million millennials who visited the Web that month. Gawker was second (24.3 million), Complex was third (20.3 million).

But before you think all hope is lost for the old guard, consider this: The New York Times has more millennial visitors than Vice. The Gray Lady has 15.9 million millennial readers, nearly 20 percent more than Vice. Vice’s young audience is also dwarfed by peers BuzzFeed, Gawker, Complex and Elite Daily.

Some solace for the “Time Warner of the streets”: It beat out The Wall Street Journal, whose millennial readership was half that at less than 8 million.

To be fair, some of this is a function of size: The Times has a far larger audience than Vice. But the rankings take an interesting shift when measured by which publications have the highest concentration of millennials. The ComScore data states that 30 percent of Internet users are between 18 and 34, and all but one of the publications studied, the Journal, had a higher percentage of millennial readers. Each publications index score represents their percentage of millennial readers divided by the Internet average.

With 71 percent of its readers between 18 and 34 and an index score of 239, Elite Daily is the most formidable millennial whisperer of the bunch. The site really is shaping up to be “The Voice of Gen-Y,” as it claims to be.

Cosmopolitan is second, with 62 percent of its readership part of the millennial species and an index score of 206. More than half of Esquire’s readers are millennials. Hearst, which owns both titles, appears to be doing well with the cohort.

Approximately two-fifths of GQ and Vogue’s readers are millennials, often cited as the generation responsible for the challenges facing print, yet they constitute a substantial chunk of these legacy titles’ digital audiences.

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