Need to Know This Week: Identify opportunities to engage Gen Z and Millennial audiences


API, in partnership with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, released a new report on how Gen Z and Millennial audiences engage with essential news topics, where they go to get information on those topics and how closely following those topics relates to other behavior such as paying for news. 

The study, based on a survey of nearly 6,000 people ages 16 to 40, offers insight for newsrooms on honing their beat coverage. Social media teams may find it especially helpful: it outlines how the close followers of different “hard news” or “news you can use” topics differ in the platforms they rely on for that information. For close followers of crime, Facebook is a dominant source. But when it comes to news about national politics, those who follow it closely are just as likely to use YouTube or Twitter as Facebook. TikTok comes up most when it comes to social issues, as well as health or mental health.

Below are some additional ways to evaluate how to engage young audiences within beats such as politics, social issues, traffic and transportation, health and public safety.

“Members of the Gen Z and Millennials generations will soon become the industry’s dominant news subscribers and supporters. This detailed analysis into how they follow news offers opportunities for journalism organizations to reassess how they interact with them and to experiment in areas where new opportunities exist.”

Michael D. Bolden, API Executive Director and CEO


Talk to Gen Z and Millennials to learn where coverage and products should go next. This 2020 piece by audience expert and former API adviser Nico Gendron discusses how the Wall Street Journal structured conversation and incorporated the needs of young people in determining coverage. 

Run and measure small experiments within your beats to learn how to better reach Gen Z or Millennials. The Chattanooga Times Free-Press used API’s Metrics for News to shake up and then measure the reach of coverage of an annual community event popular among young people. 

​​ Identify and be open to where collaborating with local influencers may boost reach. The team behind the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Unapologetically ATL email newsletter worked with a local influencer with 7 million Instagram followers as part of a launch of the newsletter. 

Establish open lines of communication through active Instagram and other accounts. The Florida Times-Union has focused on “news you can use” and spurring interaction on its Instagram accounts, which has resulted in users alerting them on the platform to news stories. The Dallas Morning News’ Instagram account became a lifeline during major weather events.

Start social video by leaning into a topic your newsroom owns. As you figure out strategies for reaching Gen Z and Millennials in your beats, leverage your journalists’ expertise to make social video that stands out, like The Buffalo News has done with Buffalo Bills coverage. 

Examine if what you’re learning could lead to different ways audiences can pay for news. The Washington Post is exploring ways younger audiences are willing to pay for news. 


+ Our earlier release on Gen Z and Millennials noted that many in the age group think that “news stories that seem to mostly create conflict rather than help address it” are a major problem.

+ Attend this Nov. 29 Sustainable Media Center event about how teens engage with media — and how that’s about to change.

+ Many Millennials and members of Gen Z are open to paying for certain types of news — special content, products or events that news organizations may offer.


+ CalMatters has a College Journalism Network intended to broaden and deepen CalMatters’ higher education coverage while mentoring a diverse new generation of journalists. 

+ Reckon collaborated with nonprofits experienced in bridging divides to convene conversations with Alabamians under 40 about the future of their state, which inspired practical coverage for that age group and others.

+ The Kansas City Defender works to strengthen the underserved community it covers in person and on social media.

+ The Los Angeles Times built a “meme team” within its larger audience group.