Editor’s note As marketers, it is critical that we understand how to connect with the people we are targeting with our online ads. We can take a lesson from the successes and failures of news organizations as they have tried to build a relationship with the younger adults in our society. In this guest article, DJ Miller reviews some of those successes and failures.

The so-called millennials pose a unique problem to those who try to keep them informed about what’s going on in the world. Gen Y is the so-called “me generation,” so trying to keep them interested in the wider arena is a task that traditional news outlets don’t believe is possible, with few of these outlets understanding how to deliver the news to this generation. They prefer to believe that the millennial generation has no interest in the news instead of adapting to the information preferences of this new generation, which is why the networks fail and more successful outlets grab their attention.

News By Satire

Image via Flickr by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Some of the news shows that successfully capture the attention of the millennial generation are surprising. One problem with traditional news networks has to do with their delivery. A University of Texas study discovered that most millennials distrust traditional media outlets, believing that they report propaganda that only reveals one side of any given story.

Millennials also think news outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News talk down to them, and they hate that. This is a generation that hates being pandered to, and if they think you’re talking down to them, they’ll shut you out in a blink.

Bearing that in mind, this group heavily favors a little satire. They want smart, pithy news stories, such as those delivered by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have more integrity in the eyes of millennials. They offer edgy social commentary and report across all spectra. Perhaps even more importantly, this generation views them as more relevant. They report on the stories and issues that matter. They go deeper, even when they’re being funny, and they don’t pander.

Information through Social Media

Image via Flickr by Steve Garfield

Not so surprisingly, social media is an influential news source for millennials. Social Media’s attraction is not all about sharing juicy bits of gossip and the latest Internet memes, however. 68 percent of millennials get their news from social media. They keep up on the latest stories through Twitter and Facebook, partly because they also want to become the go-to news source in their peer groups. They want to share the biggest stories and they want to sound knowledgeable around their friends, so in some cases being up on the news is an attempt to impress.

Here’s the thing, though; over half of millennials fear that the news they get isn’t entirely accurate. They may turn to social media to find the latest stories, but plenty of them still turn to news websites to determine their accuracy. This discrepancy actually creates room for a specific niche. There is definitely a market for a news outlet to step in and fill the gap by providing credible, relevant, and interesting news stories in a way that appeals to Generation Y.

If it’s easily accessible and simple to share, it will draw in millennials.

Turning to Vice

To that end, ViceNews is a major contender in this new paradigm of instant news. Shane Smith, the CEO of Vice, is more than ready to fill the niche created by the popularity of social media as a news outlet. Providing news videos and segments online is a practically foolproof way to keep Generation Y interested and actively engaged in the news. Part of the appeal of Vice grows out of Smith’s realization that news delivery has to change with any given generation so that it draws them in and holds their attention.

To keep the attention of today’s generation, organizations dedicated to delivering news must not only publish it in digestible chunks on the Internet, but do so covering stories that get people sharing – and talking.

Many traditional news outlets have failed at trying to do this while websites like ViceNews have capitalized or the gap needing to be filled. With reporters scattered in hundreds of locations around the world, readers are able to gain an insight about the issues that matter most without dealing with executive motives and commercialized propaganda. Vice delivers the raw truth, no matter what it means to its bottom-line.

The Blogosphere

Image via Flickr by Thaynara Paiva :3

The blogosphere is another relevant news outlet, appealing because it’s easy to find and the stories are easy to read. However, news-specific blogs aren’t the most popular stars here. Instead, millennial members turn to micro-blogs to report, share, and react to the news. You could say that Tumblr, one popular source, is no different from other social media sites, but that’s not entirely true. It’s unique for several reasons, such as:

  • The ability to share stories on a more anonymous level
  • The rate at which news spreads
  • The power to create niche blogs and subjects
  • And the ability to grab videos and stories from other sites to pass around to others

Tumblr sparks debate on a smaller scale, and it’s a younger site. Those qualities are also appealing to Gen Y, which often leads to the creation of multiple micro-blogs for users. One person might have a personal Tumblr, a Tumblr dedicated to a favorite fictional or celebrity couple, and a micro-blog that focuses on a particular charity, issue, or passion, ranging from cancer awareness to the political agendas in other countries.

Peer-to-Peer Sharing

Tumblr and other social media sites are also popular news sources because they allow for peer-to-peer sharing. However, there are other sites that dedicate themselves specifically to this practice, and they help the millennial generation spread news with their own special spin. These places, namely Reddit, Buzzfeed, and newcomer Steezio, highlight an essential millennial trait: they like lists. They also like nostalgia and stories that uplift as well as inform, which these sites offer.

The ability to quickly scan the information they need, but still grasp it and retain it is vital to this generation. They don’t always have the time to sit down and watch or read an entire dedicated news story, so sometimes they want their information condensed. This type of news-sharing proves that they also want to feel entertained, but owing to the fear that what they learn isn’t always accurate, peer-to-peer sharing also sparks lively debates.

Entertain them, give them a little edge, don’t talk down to them, and millennials are happy to keep up with the news. It’s the delivery that has to change.

That formula can apply to marketing sites as well. Entertain your visitors and give them something of value. They will love you for it, and come back for more.

About the Author:

DJ is an entrepreneur and MBA student. He loves to learn and spend most of my time reading or writing. He’s a huge sports fan and even runs his own fantasy sports advice site at Fantasy Help.

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