Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
5 mins read

News formats: What we learnt from 3 Gen Z news lovers – Part 1

Just like most generations in their younger years, the current Gen Z are interested in specific social causes. To stay up to date with these causes, they consume news like anyone else.

To learn how they consume this news and in which formats, we interviewed 3 Gen Z News Lovers. Meet Dina, Pierre and Clara.

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Gen Z like news apps, but they could be better

Gen Z have not known life without the internet or mobile phones and this has shaped their consumption habits. News apps and notifications were surprising areas where we found that Gen Z consume their news.

Publishers have to fight to make sure their app finds itself onto the phones of Gen Zers. In a busy world, news apps must tell Gen Z what they want to know and quickly. This in-app newsreading could also benefit from personalisation. By adopting specific “interest areas” like on TikTok, Gen Z can consume the news that they want. This avoids them getting lost in a wall of varied and sometimes heavy content.

“Having a huge, unorganised wall of information definitely does not invite people to spend money on a product.”

Bente Zerrahn, Innovation Catalyst, Axel Springer

Clara explained that Le Monde’s app is best in class for her as it successfully lays out its news in a way that is easy and quick to consume in a busy life. Le Monde’s push notifications were also a powerful tool to guide her newsreading experience as they featured the detail that so many notifications often miss. Our Gen Zers suggested that news publishers should focus their investment on their own mobile tech rather than elsewhere so that people go directly to news apps, not to others.

Newsletters provide a perfect need-to-know level of information

Much has been written about newsletters and the reinvention of a classic tool, but they are still valued by Gen Z. Newsletters provide a finite amount of content, available in your inbox at specific points of the day. They offer a break from doom scrolling on ever-evolving newsfeeds.

Dina gave the example of her subscription to a New York Times newsletter. This newsletter arrives in her inbox in the early morning and she is notified of this through push notification. Upon waking up, this newsletter is crucial in providing Dina with her need-to-know news so that she can feel prepared for the day. This finite experience also gives a sense of achievability and can stop the news fatigue created by never-ending feeds of content.

Of course, there can be improvements made to the way newsletters work. Better and more specific newsletters were an area in which our cohort told us publishers could improve. By creating newsletters around topics that interest Gen Z, or through giving them the option of personalisation, newsreading could be given a clearer and more structured direction. Gen Z are keen to read more about areas which interest them in particular. They also want to be kept up to date with the main news from the world, so giving them this in a finite experience is a great opportunity for publishers.

We all know that on the whole, Gen Z are prolific social media users. But, this didn’t appear to be a place in which our Gen Z interviewees widely went to for their news. Particularly promising for publishers was the understanding amongst our interviewees that social media outlets are not the news. It was very clear that for them, social media outlets purely play a role in distributing news. The source of the news is with the news brands.

TikTok was discussed as a platform that some publishers have successfully leveraged to reach Gen Z. Dina highlighted the Washington Post’s TikTok account as the perfect balance of news and adopting the playful tone needed to fit in and reach the Gen Z demographic. On TikTok, the Washington Post do well to embrace trends and challenges to differentiate their news content from light-hearted and engagement friendly content. The fact that these “sophisticated” brands are able to balance their feeds is something Dina believes appeals to Gen Z. 

Source: The Washington Post TikTok

Having a separate news account on Instagram was also a fascinating learning from our interviews. To avoid mixing up the interest in activities of friends and family with news, Clara has created 2 separate accounts. In doing this, she essentially has decided to curate her own news. Her news focused account provides her with the type of news which she believes her news apps can’t, particularly around fashion, lifestyle, arts and culture. Perhaps publishers are best to split their social media offering and give visual life to the areas which really deserve it. 

Retro feeling still surround traditional products

Whisper it quietly but, it doesn’t have to be all bells and whistles (or these days all NFTs and Cryptocurrencies) to attract Gen Z. TV and print still play a part in Gen Z’s news consumption. One needs only to look at the renewed success of vinyl to see how products previously deemed outdated can live a new life in the future.

Reading a print copy of the newspaper when at a café or a library is something that many people enjoy. Clara signalled this as a good chance for a digital break. Pierre also still receives a print subscription to his favourite cinema magazine. Saying this, Gen Z are very aware of sustainability and the need to look after the planet. Thus, everyday print is not a solution, but its retro feel should not go amiss, and this is a place where a traditional ePaper could be leveraged.

TV news is a format that seems to not be under threat by the transition of the news industry. This is particularly because TV news can now also be widely streamed on mobile and PC, with its nature being less demanding and easier to multitask with as opposed to the dedicated focus required by newsreading. TV consumption fits well into the daily habits of Clara who integrates TV news into her morning routines. Whilst these formats have been around for a long time, Gen Z may not want them to go away just yet.

Whatever publishers choose to do to attract Gen Z, simplicity seems to be at the heart of their desires. Instead of looking at how to leverage the latest platforms, why not channel your focus into providing best-in-class products for your best-in-class news?

Matthew Lynes
Media Innovation Analyst @ Twipe

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