Heather Dansie
Jun 14, 2024

Newsflash: Journalism matters to young audiences

Research from Newsworks shows that, contrary to some expectations, news content readership is rising, particularly for people in their late teens and twenties. And that was before Rishi Sunak called a snap election.

Newsflash: Journalism matters to young audiences

When you think “newspaper”, let’s be honest, the mind doesn’t immediately spring next to “teenager”. 

A few young souls may be found with their nose deep in the Sunday Times business section, but there can’t be many.

But when have young people ever been interested in the news, politics, and the economy? 

Looking back to the end of the 20th century’s golden age of news, the NRS found only half of young people aged 15-29 read newspapers in the year 2000. And governments and academics haven’t stopped worrying about the levels of young readers since. 

However, today in 2024 the story is a bit different, and it isn’t what you might think.

News content readership is… up.

And that was before Rishi Sunak’s decision to call a snap general election.

More young people in their late teens and twenties are reading the news than ever before. 

So, we need a reassessment on how we imagine young people interact with and feel about the news content they come across today. 

It is new, it is nuanced, it is certainly different to the way their grandparents read news content, but it is engaged. 

“Young people read news” is a bold statement to make. 

Few self-respecting young people would recognise or admit to the amount of time they spend consuming both hard and soft news. 

No, no, they are carefully crafting their Insta profile, binge-watching Netflix and scrolling, scrolling, scrolling TikTok dance moves. Sure. 

So, with the challenge in hand, Newsworks adopted the most intimate and robust methodology available to test this. 

The searches, the web pages, the opening and closing of apps including video and podcasts, and the clicks within apps. All of it. Six million rows of data to analyse.

Because after all, our phones particularly reflect our inner most thoughts, worries and ideas. Nothing could be more revealing in the modern world than the clicks we make on our devices.

And yes. Porn featured. And some sad family law. And lots of weird and wonderful medical links. But also, a lot of news. More than 100,000 news events were collected in the data set. 

Busting a lot of myths

The results of our work so far has bust a lot of myths when it comes to young people’s relationships with news content. 

First, in terms of reach, nine in ten young people read news content online, and seven in ten are reading news content online in news brands. That number is higher than those turning to the BBC (52%). 

And news is important to them. They are checking the news on average four times a day! And when we look at the tasks people do on their phone, after life admin, news features third in importance, just after video and music and ahead of fashion and gaming. 

Of course, not all readers are the same. We can’t simply group this huge cohort as one homogenous mass, instead we have found five segments based on reading behaviour which includes both the topics of interest in the news, but also within the same topic (eg entertainment news) variation in the style and type story they prefer.

News content also holds commercial value for this materialistic audience too. Some 29% use news brands to discover new products and services, and 52% believe that the advertising they see in news brands enhances the perception of a product or brand’s quality. 

But most importantly, perhaps, are the attitudes young people hold when it comes to the importance of trusted news journalism in the world today. Almost three quarters (74%) believe journalism is important in society today. 

The future is supposed to look bright, but the future looks very turbulent and for many; pretty bleak. And no-one can better articulate the chaos we find ourselves in than our journalists at the helm of the national news brands. 

When democracy itself appears to be at stake, when distraction threatens entertainment, let alone information, when finding trust is an effort, journalism matters. 

News shapes the world, and it shapes the way young people see the world. What this generation chooses to value now will impact the rest of their lives, both individually and collectively. 

It is therefore paramount that news brands target young people. It is paramount that young people read news. And no-one understands these needs and behaviours like news brands with their first-party data and their close relationship with their young readers. 

Journalism matters to young people. And, as they grow up, as has been true for every generation before them, it will matter even more.

Heather Dansie is insight director at Newsworks. She presented some of these findings at Campaign's Media 360 in May.

Campaign US

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