Young people aged between 18 and 34 years-old spent just over a minute a day reading news during the 2019 UK election period, the recent study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) has found.
In comparison, the over-35s dedicated more than three minutes a day to news across TV, radio and print.
"We know that younger people are less likely to vote and the link with engagement with news may be one reason why," said Nic Newman, senior researcher at RISJ and co-author of the study.
Although young audiences are interested in a range of issues like climate change and the cost of housing, their dwindling interest in current affairs is of "deep concern" to the media as well as the main political parties, he added.
So what can media organisations do to rekindle young audiences' relationship with news? The answer could lie in rethinking the news agenda that many young people find repetitive, coming up with new formats and changing the overly "negative" tone of voice.
Data shows that when the under-35s do read news content, the Guardian, Buzzfeed News, HuffPost and the BBC do better than their competitors.
In the case of the Guardian, said Newman, it is partly because many young people share its left-leaning views and value its focus on issues that matter to them, such as identity politics, the environment, housing and inequality. As for the BBC, higher engagement is partly due to the website being easy to use and a lack of a particular agenda.
Many young people feel disconnected from politics in general and that is probably the biggest underlying issue.Nic Newman
To counter negativity in news, some publications like HuffPost and the BBC started to integrate constructive or solutions-based journalism into their reporting. This allows them to talk about the problems but also examine solutions which makes the audiences feel more empowered and hopeful about the future.
Other subscription publications like the Financial Times offer free access to students as a way of engaging them earlier, or reformat the content in third party sites, for example, Snapchat and Instagram.
Simpler story formats, explainers and background content all make news easier to digest, but to truly engage younger audiences, media organisations need to "make changes to their agendas and more diverse newsrooms will also have to be a part of this solution”, added Newman.
A good example of accessible content is the Guardian’s daily news podcast, Today In Focus, which looks beyond headlines for "a deeper understanding of the news". It performs particularly well with younger listeners and now many other news outlets are introducing more audio and video content within their stories.
"But there is only so much the media can do," concluded Newman.
"Many young people feel disconnected from politics in general and that is probably the biggest underlying issue."
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