The evolution of TV news – capturing millennial audiences

Last night, BAFTA brought together a panel to debate the evolution of TV news and, in particular, how to ensure that traditional broadcasters are reaching millennial audiences.

In mid-2015, Ofcom reported that, between 2008 and 2014, TV news consumption by people aged 16-34 dropped by 29%, with these viewers increasingly turning to non-traditional news outlets such as Vice Media, Facebook (26%), Google (22%) and Twitter (14%). And the BBC reported that 28% of UK 18-24 year olds cited social media as their main news source, compared with 24% for TV.

The American Press Institute reported that 85% of millennials say that “keeping up with the news is at least somewhat important to them”: 69% consume news daily, with 45% following five or more “hard news” topics; 40% pay for at least one news-specific service, app or digital subscription; and, contrary to the idea that social media creates a polarizing “filter bubble”, 86% report seeing diverse opinions through these platforms. The Institute reported that 88% of millennials get news from Facebook regularly, and more than half do so daily.

These stats – and recent evidence of passionate civic interest in this age group – show that millennials are engaged and hungry for news, so how do traditional broadcasters and emerging media outlets capture this critical group? And how do all makers and publishers of news and other content combat the rise of “fake news and alternative facts”?

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Engaging millennials in news content

Jon Laurence – Digital Editor, Channel 4 News – commented that the broadcaster’s news content received over two billion views on Facebook last year. He talked about the need to use social media as a destination in itself, rather than trying to direct people to another portal (although referral is obviously a key economic concern). He commented that Channel 4 News see Twitter as important for a breaking story, for expediency and to reach influencers; while emotional and identity-based content works best on Facebook; and on YouTube, mainly because of search algorithms, long-form content can work well.

David Gibb – Director, Digital, Sky News and Sky Sports – commented on the challenge to consistently tell broadcaster-branded stories across multiple platforms, and how to help an audience member navigate the paradox of choice.

Louise Ridley – BuzzFeed UK, News Editor, Longform and Special Projects – reported that 75% of their users are millennial, 70% come from mobile and 70% come from social media. Perhaps contrary to perception, Buzzfeed UK is investing heavily in news, current affairs and deep investigations as these really deliver in terms of numbers.

Nathalie Malinarich – Mobile and New Formats Editor, BBC News – discussed how the ‘craft’ of producing news has changed. Audience groups commonly reflect that TV is a formal medium, and digital allows users to feel part of a conversation. The format of news, and its delivery, needs to adapt to the platform of consumption: this might include vertical video, subtitles (85% of videos consumed on social media are on mute) or utilising FacebookLive or Instagram Stories, for example.

The rise of fake news

The panel noted that the speed at which all content can be socialised and shared – and the rise of “fake news and alternative facts” given credibility by traffic, volume and opinion – is creating a new pressure to promote trusted sources of quality journalism online. The panel discussed measures from the removal of advertising, transparency on algorithms, and kite-marking of proven sources.

The BBC and many others are working with Google on The Trust Project, which will prioritise content from reputable sources in search and listing algorithms. A final hopeful note from the panel was the opinion that quality journalism, exclusivity of stories and sources, and trusted known media outlets will be increasingly prized and sought-out by this highly media-literate audience group.

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