Credit: Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Most news organisations still ignore the fact that there is a gap between the news experience the next generation wants and what they are getting. It is not just about cobbling together a few TikToks - The Next Gen News report, co-produced by FT Strategies and Knight Lab, found that there are some fundamental differences between Gen Z and their older peers when it comes to searching and consuming news.

The project conducted 45 in-depth interviews with 18-24-year-olds in India, Nigeria and the US. Researchers then identified five modes of news consumption in young people.

Gen Z - broadly those born after 2000 - have lived their whole life in a world of the internet and smartphones which became their primary sources of information. Journalism produced by legacy brands is drowned out in the noise of social media, group chats, million notifications and daily conversations. Young consumers are inundated with information triggers and they are looking for easy ways to digest news, constantly filtering it through networks of people they trust, know or feel like they know.

Younger people also rely on the personal opinions of others in a digital context to frame and understand news. For instance, they will often skip to the comment section to decide whether they will read the story in the first place.

The researchers also found that this age group is willing to dive deep into topics of interest and want to explore different perspectives before forming their opinions and beliefs. An article can spur a three-hour deep dive, where a young person will keep digging to find new perspectives to make sense of the story.

Young people want information from sources they trust and they ask for news that is significant to them and actionable. Research also found that they look for stories presented in a way that works for them in terms of convenience, language or format. That does not mean dumbing down stories or turning everything into 60-second video, although multimedia plays a big role in their lives. Informal language, conversational tone of voice and unpretentious format will get their attention.

"It doesn't matter what language someone speaks. Everyone deserves news," said Ruona Meyer, freelance media trainer, researcher, and member of The Next Generation News Advisory Board at the report launch event.

Young people interviewed for the report said they do not trust news at face value, they want to understand the motivation of news organisations and see the bigger picture.

Their definition of news is "Is it significant for me and is it timely?" Little else matter. As one 21-year-old participant from the US put it: "If I see a new source, I read it, I hear it. And then I try to apply it: 'What does it mean for me? What does this mean for the person who this article affects? What should we do about it? What's the call to action for it?'"

Of course, not every news story can contain a call to action but looking for angles that focus on a constructive aspect can make news more engaging for this age group.

So what does that mean for your organisation? The best way to learn what your younger readers want from you is to ask them directly. To help you gather insights, the authors of the report put together a free tooling and workshop deck you can use in your newsroom.

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