How Millennials Get News

Millennials may not read newspapers or watch 60 Minutes, but they’re still interested in news.

Millennials. Depending on your point on the time/space continuum, the word is either a badge of honor, a term of derision, or an enigma wrapped in American Apparel.

Cranky Gen Xers and Baby Boomers who are caught in the roles of breadwinner and caretaker may look at Millennials as a band of entitled job hoppers who live on fair trade coffee, dolphin-safe tuna, and caramel macchiato lattés. In contrast, The Greatest Generation, with their wisdom, experience, and wistful memories of youth, often see Millennials as young adventurers who’ve figured out how to do what they love and love what they do. Older folks seem more impressed with a YOLO mentality, even if most of what the Millennials do seems to involve a lot of tapping on that little camera that doubles as a phone.

History shows that the generation that is about to relinquish control fears that the next in line are just not up to the task. They don’t pay attention. They can’t keep a job. They play too much. And the more we hear that “most young people get their news from Comedy Central,” the more we think it’s true.

According to a new survey “How Millennials Get News,” by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute, we Boomers can relax—a little bit. The retirement of Jon Stewart won’t create a Millennial information deficit, after all.

The survey acknowledges previous reports showing that Millennials (adults ages 18-31) “do not visit news sites, read print newspapers, watch television news, or seek out news in great numbers.” Instead, Millennials “spend more time on mobile devices” thus narrowing their scope of news and current events.

The AP/API survey reports that

  • 85% of Millennials say keeping up with the news is at least somewhat important
  • 69% get news daily
  • 45% regularly follow five or more “hard news” topics
  • 40% pay for at least one news-specific service, app, or digital subscription

That only 45% of an entire generation regularly follows five or more hard news stories is of concern.  But according to an earlier survey by AP/API that looks at news habits for all Americans, three quarters of Americans get news daily, including six out of 10 adults under age 30. That survey also shows that 57% of younger Millennials (ages 18-29) follow national government and politics. That number jumps to 77% of those ages 30-39. But 64% of the younger Millennials follow news of social issues, while only 56% of the 30-39-year-olds do.

Millennials aren’t saying “whatever” to the world around them. According to the latest AP/API survey, “Millennials acquire news for many reasons, which include a fairly even mix of civic motivations (74%), problem-solving needs (63%) and social factors (67%), such as talking about it with friends.”

As with any poll or survey, there are myriad glass-half-full/glass-half-empty ways to look at the data. Are the Millennials ready to take up the mantle of leadership? Will they know enough about history to lead in the future? Did we? Ready or not, here they come.



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