Gen Z’s preference for “sensory journalism” reflects new trend in news consumption

by | Nov 12, 2018 | Public Relations

Generally speaking, Generation Z—the “digital native generation“—is no different than other sectors in that an overwhelming majority (nearly two-thirds) say they watch or listen to more news than they read. However, both Millennials and Gen Z are very different when it comes to how those visual elements are formatted and enhanced.

New research from strategic communications firm Brodeur Partners reveals that 48 percent of Millennials and 47 percent of Gen Z prefer journalism that includes virtual and augmented reality, compared to 33 percent of Gen Xers and 20 percent of Boomers.

The study highlights three trends in news consumption, all driven by aging Millennials and the emerging Gen Z generations.

“The way we all consume news is changing,” said Andrea “Andy” Coville, CEO of Brodeur Partners, in a news release. “And much of that change is being spearheaded by the demand for innovative forms of delivery for our news—such as the increased presence of VR and AR.”

Gen Z's preference for "sensory journalism" reflects new trend in news consumption

Gen Z's preference for "sensory journalism" reflects new trend in news consumption

In addition, while news consumption has long been visual, the domination that television once enjoyed is now being challenged by online platforms, like YouTube, where there is a strong preference for consuming news in video form.

Amazingly, nearly half (49 percent) of Gen Z ranked YouTube as the 1st or 2nd most important news source. Millennials were not far behind with 44 percent saying YouTube was their 1st or 2nd most important news source. By contrast, YouTube’s combined 1st and 2nd ranking was only 26 percent for Xers and 12 percent for Boomers.

Gen Z's preference for "sensory journalism" reflects new trend in news consumption

Only 17 percent of Gen Z ranked newspapers and magazines 1st or 2nd—compared to 31 percent for Millennials, 51 percent for Xers and 60 percent for Boomers.

The study also found that entertainment and engagement are increasingly important to consumers of news and journalism—the younger you are, the more you consider the journalism you consume on a daily basis as “entertainment.”

When asked what percentage of the news they consumer is “entertainment” and what percentage is “information,” approximately two in five (41 percent) boomers said that the news they consume is 50 percent or more entertainment. But that number jumps to 60 percent for Gen Xers, 76 percent for Millennials, and 74 percent for Gen Z.

Gen Z's preference for "sensory journalism" reflects new trend in news consumption

In addition to the survey, Brodeur talked to more than a dozen Gen Zers about their daily news consumption habits and found a consistent theme—platforms like Snapchat and Instagram are where they are spending time consuming traditional news.

“Journalists and media outlets need to think about how they deliver reporting to this new generation of consumers,” continued Coville. “They live in an 8-second world, and everything is sensory to them. So to get their attention, the media needs to continue to adapt the way they deliver the news, and brands need to think about how they package their news to reporters to help them tell their stories in a more sensory way.”

In addition, across generations from one third to one half of respondents said journalism isn’t relevant to them. 32 percent of Boomers, 41 percent of Xers, 44 percent of Millennials, and 39 percent of Gen Z agreed with the statement “Most journalism isn’t relevant to me.”

Gen Z's preference for "sensory journalism" reflects new trend in news consumption

Other findings from the survey include:

  • There’s general consistency across generations on the issue of “fake news.” When asked if they agreed with the statement “Most of the news I read is fake news,” Approximately one-third say yes, one-third say no, and one-third are in the middle.
  • Those who agree that most of the news they read is fake—Boomers 29 percent, Xers 40 percent, Millenials 36 percent, Gen Z 31 percent. Those who disagree that most of the news they read is fake—Boomers 44 percent, Xers 39 percent, Millennials 37 percent, Gen Z 31 percent.
  • When it comes to the most important characteristics of journalism, of six items tested:
    • Transparency was a very important trait for every generation but much less so for Gen Z compared to Boomers and Xers.
    • Millennials and Gen Z put much more emphasis on creativity than Boomers and Xers
    • Gen Z is four times more likely to rank engagement and three times as likely to rank interaction as the 1st or 2nd most important characteristic of journalism.
  • Two-thirds of the generation watch or listen to more news than they read.
  • Gen Z is four times more likely to rank engagement and three times as likely to rank interaction as the 1st or 2nd most important characteristic of journalism.
  • Well over half of Gen Z ranked social networks as the 1st or 2nd most important news source—compared to less than half of Millennials and one third Gen Xers.
  • 49 percent of Gen Z ranked YouTube as the 1st or 2nd most important news source—compared to 44 percent for Millennials, 26 percent for Gen Xers, and 12 percent for Boomers.

Download the full report here.

Gen Z's preference for "sensory journalism" reflects new trend in news consumption

The Brodeur “Generations and the Media” Survey was conducted using Toluna’s online panel in the U.S. (n=817) in September 2018.  The survey reached 817 American consumers aged 15 and over. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Toluna surveys. Figures for age, sex, region, and income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the census population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in Toluna surveys, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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