How digital publishers are engaging the next generation

Dan Seaman, vp, product, Viafoura

Despite attempts to change how media produces news content over the years, only some of these experiments have produced lasting outcomes. When publishers shifted from print to digital, they mostly retained the storytelling formats and content based on print constraints, shaping how digital journalism has been published online for the past 25 years. 

However, young people, particularly Gen Z and Gen Alpha, raised without print as a primary format and weaned on social and mobile platforms, are demanding new ways of consuming news content. Young audiences value journalism, and it is up to the media industry to evolve.

Gen Z and Gen Alpha are consuming news in different ways

In a recent study, ‘The Next Gen News, Understanding the Audiences of 2030,’ the Medill School of Journalism, along with FT Strategies and The Google News Initiative, developed a framework for an ideal new experience for young people. 

Younger audiences are already actively shaping the future of news consumption via their preferences and behaviors, and the report highlights several critical trends that define this audience’s engagement with news.

This audience thrives on multitasking across digital platforms, indicating a preference for engaging with news that seamlessly integrates into their digital ecosystem. Young consumers also place immense value on authenticity and trust, filtering through trusted social networks and relying on influencers for news discovery. News with personal significance or resonance — i.e., addressing topics of direct relevance or providing actionable insights — is more likely to capture and retain their attention.

The ‘Next Gen News’ report contains several essential takeaways that can support publishers’ audience development strategies.

Embracing digital multitasking dovetails with younger audiences’ preferences

Publishers need to recognize and cater to the fact that younger audiences often engage with multiple streams of content simultaneously. Creating seamless, integrated news experiences that fit into this digital multitasking lifestyle is crucial. 

Integrating social features such as comments, polls, live chats and live blogging directly into news platforms can foster a sense of community and belonging, encouraging active participation and deeper connections with the content. For example, a publisher can provide a second screen-hosted live chat experience on their owned properties during live events. Bringing staff into the conversations by answering questions or responding to user comments can help connect them with the audience. 

In the study, young people said they would often go directly to the comments before reading the article. By curating and showcasing this reader-generated content and not just leaving comments ignored below the articles, publishers will signal that the community is valued and their voice is being heard.

Catering to different modes of consumption facilitates direct reader relationships

Understanding and designing content for the different modes in which younger audiences consume news — such as skimming (sifting), diving deep (studying) and sharing (socializing) — can help publishers meet their audience where they are. The constraint of the print deadline and column limit for story formats is gone, so content should no longer be tied to this approach. For instance, conducting live as-me-anythings (AMAs) with staff or topic experts is a compelling way to connect with younger audiences. 

Developing direct relationships with audiences through personalized experiences, customization options and engaging content transforms occasional visitors into loyal community members.

How publishers are engaging the next generation

As the digital news industry looks toward 2030, it’s clear that the future of news consumption will be interactive, personalized and community-driven. Media companies must adapt to these evolving preferences to stay relevant and competitive. 

Advanced community engagement solutions offer media companies the tools they need to attract, engage and retain younger audiences. By creating spaces for meaningful interaction and leveraging the power of user-generated content, these solutions empower media companies to transform their platforms into dynamic, engaging communities that resonate with the next generation of news consumers.

The ‘NextGen News’ report serves as a wake-up call and a guide for the media industry to innovate and adapt to the changing landscape of news consumption. The future lies in creating interactive, personalized and empowering news experiences that resonate with younger audiences, building a more engaged, loyal and vibrant news community for the digital age. 

Sponsored by Viafoura

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