Arts & Culture

How news organizations can adapt to attract a young audience

Teenagers are getting their news from social media, from the influencers they trust, with a strong slant of opinion.

The way news is being gathered and delivered is changing. A few years ago, people turned on their television to learn about local and world news, or they would read the newspaper. While many people still use these two outlets for news, the younger generation is not. So, where are teenagers getting their news? 

In a survey of thirty high schoolers from grades 8 to 12, 8forty found that teenagers largely turn to Instagram and Snapchat whenever they want to know what is going on around them and in the world. 

The way teenagers gather the news is by following the desired news broadcasters or brands that deliver the information they enjoy. Students who spoke to 8forty mentioned Instagram accounts such as Rap, Now This, and ESPN

“I get all my sports news from ESPN’s and Bleacher Reports’ Instagrams,” said Kyle, 17. 

Following the news via Instagram allows them to pick and choose the news they are most interested in, and what they believe they should know, and it packages it in an engaging form.

“The presentation of the videos and photos on these pages really grab my attention and made me interested to scroll and explore content,” said Harry, a student in grade 11.

In addition to following news outlets on social media, teens also pick up on current events from the influencers they are following from music artists to makeup artists to gamers. These influencers and celebrities are seen by teenagers as knowledgeable and informative, so teen followers feel they can trust influencers to tell them anything they need to know as it happens. 

Most news outlets have social media accounts to be accessible to younger people and to compete with the influencers who are continuously pulling the younger generation towards them for the news they want their followers to know. This, of course, pulls those teens away from traditional news sources. 

Teens say that they are confident about the news they gather from social media. According to a large survey done by Common Sense Media fifty-three percent of teens report that it helps them better understand what is going on in the world. 

One of the most concerning issues is that they those who get their news on social media are more likely to seek information from people who are inputting their opinions into the facts. Sixty percent of the news teens get is from influencers, not news organizations. News reporting traditionally focuses on objective facts rather than the opinions of the person reporting. However, teenagers are drawn to people who are promoting themselves as authorities even though they are not. 

YouTube is another social networking outlet for news and approximately six out of ten teens say they look for either popular personalities, influencers or celebrities rather news organizations on that platform. More than half (54%) of teens get news from social media, and half get news from YouTube specifically. 

Among those who get news from YouTube, fifty percent get their news from the “recommended” section on the platform. 

“I usually receive my info from YouTube videos,” says Alland, 16. “But in reality, I never intentionally look for new on YouTube.”

This is causing news media organizations to adapt to the new changes of sharing their news. Reporters are beginning to all get media sites and starting their own online persona to attract the next generation of people. Kids look for something new and dynamic, and that what the media tries to accomplish.

A British Columbia high school teacher expressed concern about the authenticity of the news that is being shared on social media. “I think the biggest concern with teens getting their news from social media is the accuracy of it,” she said. “What is the source? How are they getting that information? How legitimate is it?”

Still, she felt it wasn’t entirely bad. “I think having access to news in any way is really important, so exposure is great. It’s just how legitimate is the news source itself.” 

The students who spoke to 8forty made it clear that teens seek for something different from the news these days. They follow these accounts for entertainment. They want fun, they want to learn about the word in a simple and quick fashion and if the content isn’t appealing it loses the attention of the younger readers.

News organizations may find that to succeed in the future as today’s teens turn into adults means changing the way the package their stories, becoming entertaining, personable, and engaging enough to attract and maintain that attraction on whatever platform they are using.

Cover Image: Flikr / Mick Baker

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