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The best practices for reaching a Millennial audience

The long-term viability of media companies today depends on understanding Millennials — a massive, influential demographic that grew up connected to the Internet, social platforms, and smart devices.

This generation, tethered to the world through technology, has developed digital routines that directly affect how they consume and share news. Younger readers have expectations about the reliability, tone, transparency, sharability, and relatability of the content they engage with.

Newsrooms must meet and build upon these expectations to captivate a generation that is shaping everything from the workplace to politics, pop culture, and media. This study explores, in practical detail, how to do that.

Millennial readers present an opportunity for publishers, not just a new set of challenges. A study we conducted with Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research as part of the Media Insight Project confirms a growing field of research showing that Millennials are interested in staying up on the world around them, despite stereotypes to the contrary.

Eighty-five percent of the Millennials surveyed said keeping up with the news was at least somewhat important to them, while 69 percent get news daily. They’re just doing it on their own terms, with a broad definition of what the word “news” means to them. And they’re craftily filtering information from multiple sources and social networks instead of sitting down with their cup of coffee and the local paper in the morning.

In this best practices Strategy Study, we interpret findings from the Media Insight Project studies on Millennials and the news and the four different types of Millennial news consumers, and interview over a dozen leaders in Millennial media. Interviewees included researchers, editors at national outlets, and people leading initiatives that legacy media use to reach younger audiences such as The Chicago Tribune’s RedEye, The Charlotte Observer’s CharlotteFive, and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Unravel.

This information was supplemented with my own experience at Gannett’s San Francisco publication The Bold Italic, where I worked as editor-in-chief until Gannett closed the company and sold off the assets earlier this year. A fellow researcher, Ellen Black, also conducted qualitative interviews with Millennials for this study and quotes from those conversations appear throughout the report.

Key findings

As you work to serve these digital natives better, you will also be developing new skills and standards that will benefit all your audiences. You also will create a foundation of innovative thinking that encourages experimentation and iteration to keep adapting to rapidly changing media consumption — not only for the Millennial generation, but for generations to come.

We identified nine key strategies for journalists and publishers who want to reach this young audience, and in the chapters that follow we explore each of them and provide practical guidance:

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