Young people don’t just get information on social media, study finds

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Most Americans check the mainstream media at least once a week for the latest news. ― AFP photo

Tuesday, September 6, 2022 7:57 AM MYT

NEW YORK, September 6 ― Young people are often blamed for being out of touch with what’s happening in the world, but that’s not the case. According to a recent survey, 79% of Americans belonging to Generations Y and Z follow the news on a daily basis. They consult social networks for their news, but also traditional media and platforms such as LinkedIn, Reddit or NextDoor.

It’s a fact: the younger generations have an ambivalent relationship with the media. They have little confidence in the various modes of access to information and in journalists, which leads them to seek information differently from their elders.

The latest report from the Media Insight Project looks at the media consumption of 5,975 Americans between the ages of 16 and 40. Three-quarters of them consult traditional media at least once a week for the latest news. Even more surprisingly, 45% of respondents do it every day.

These figures contradict the idea that traditional media have no place in the lives of (young) consumers. Consumers are even ready to put their hands in their pockets to access the news: 28% of respondents pay to access content from magazines, newspapers and specialized applications. Unsurprisingly, Millennials are more likely to do so than their younger Gen Z counterparts.

Concern over fake news

Nevertheless, younger generations continue to turn to social networks to follow the news. The vast majority of Americans (91%) go to these platforms to read the latest news each week. They appreciate the informal tone of the news content they find on these sites, as well as the freedom of media coverage they allow.

However, young consumers are concerned about the proliferation of fake news on social media and the role it plays in this phenomenon. For example, 48% of Gen Y and Z Americans fear they have shared misinformation without realizing it. Two-thirds of them also wonder if their loved ones have done the same.

While so-called fake news is commonplace on social media, Millennials and Gen Z are convinced that it can also be found in traditional media. This explains why these points of sale struggle to find favor in their eyes, even if these consumers turn to them for information. Only a quarter of 16-40 year olds have a positive image of the media in general, compared to 35% for the local media.

Young people are a demanding audience for traditional media

Another notable fact is that Millennials and Gen Z are taking less and less pleasure in following the news. Most of them feel compelled to do so in order to be good citizens, even if they derive little satisfaction from it. This feeling of weariness may explain why only 37% of young consumers talk about the news with their friends and family, compared to 53% in 2015.

These results represent a real challenge for the information industry. “News organizations are constantly struggling with how to best serve younger audiences,” said Michael D. Bolden, CEO and executive director of the American Press Institute. “These generations have both traditional and new opinions about what they want from the media, and there is great diversity in how they follow the news.”

One such expectation relates to how the media handles diversity and equality issues. Nearly half of 16-40 year olds believe that media coverage does not accurately portray immigrants, low-income people and African Americans. “These are important and actionable directions for our industry,” says Michael D. Bolden. ― Studio ETX

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