Survey: Millennials, Gen Z use traditional news outlets
September 1, 2022
A survey of 16- to 40-year-olds shows that members of the Gen Z and Millennial generations are active consumers of news and information, with nearly a third of them willing to pay for it. But their relationship with the news is complex — their trust in the press is low, many are experiencing digital fatigue, and they are worried about misinformation in both traditional and social media.
News consumption among Americans ages 16 to 40 is high, accoridng to the New Media Insight Project study. Seventy-nine per cent report getting news daily. Thirty-eight percent describe themselves as active seekers of news and information. And a third pay for news subscriptions. Millennials and Gen Z get news frequently from social media, but also use a wide range of sources — including traditional news outlets. They follow a variety of news topics every day, including so-called ‘hard news’.
Gen Z and Millennials have both traditional and novel views of what they want from the press. Majorities, for instance, want news outlets to be fair to all sides, be neutral, and be accurate. They also want the news to provide diverse points of view, and to help people understand communities and people unlike their own.
At the same time, these Americans show unmistakable signs of news fatigue and are deeply troubled by misinformation online. Fewer 16- to 40-year-olds than seven years ago say they enjoy getting news, and they are talking less with friends and family about the news. Many also report feeling worn out by being online. And, overwhelmingly, Americans ages 16 to 40 worry about deception and misinformation. Fully 9 out of 10 feel misinformation is a problem. Seven in 10 feel they personally have been victims of it. And they are unsure who to blame for the misinformation crisis. Indeed, Gen Z and Millennials are as likely to blame the news media — a group that largely sees itself as fighting misinformation — as they are politicians or the social media platforms.
AMONG THE STUDY FINDINGS:
- Millennials and Gen Z use traditional news outlets, not just social platforms. Nearly three-quarters of 16- to 40-year-olds (74 per cent) get news and information at least weekly from traditional news sources such as national or local TV and newspapers, including their websites or apps. Fully 45 per cent do so daily. Most continue to rely on social media more heavily as a pathway to news; 91 per cent get news there at least weekly. Nonetheless, these findings contradict the stereotype that traditional outlets have no place in the life of younger consumers. Of those who use traditional media daily, 28 per cent get news from local radio stations or newspapers either in print or online, 29 per cent from national radio programs or newspapers, and similar numbers for local and national TV-based outlets.
- Millennials and Gen Z continue to pay for news. In all, 28 per cent pay out of their own pocket for news content such as magazines, newspapers, and news apps. Paying for news also increases with age, as older Millennials are the most likely to pay for news (36 per cent) — twice the rate of Gen Z (18 per cent). In 2015, among Millennials then, 30 per cent paid for the same types of news out of their own pocket.
- These generations have both traditional and novel expectations from the news media. A majority (61 per cent) say they want the news media to be fair to all sides, to verify and get the facts right (69 per cent), and to be neutral (57 per cent). Almost as many (55 per cent) say it is very or extremely important for the press to provide diverse points of view. About half consider it important for the press to help people understand communities unlike their own (52 per cent) and to report on solutions to society’s problems (51 per cent).
- At the same time, enjoyment of the news is falling. By nearly every measure, the numbers for whether people enjoy the news and how they use it are lower than seven years ago. Today, less than a third (32 per cent) of 16- to 40-year-old Americans find the news enjoyable or entertaining. Seven years ago, 53 per cent said they enjoyed getting the news. That represents a drop of 21 percentage points. We find a similar drop in people talking about news. Seven years ago, 53 per cent of Millennials said they liked to talk with friends and family about the news. Today that number has fallen to 37 per cent of Gen Z and Millennials.
- Millennials and Gen Z are feeling digital fatigue and have adopted different tactics to combat it. While 9 in 10 Millennials and Gen Z report being online more than two hours a day, 3 in 10 report feeling worse the longer they are connected. Seventy-nine percent report doing something in response. About half (47 per cent) say they pay attention to the way certain products try to keep them engaged, 27 per cent try to set limits on the time they spend online, and 23 per cent use apps or settings to track their time.
- Trust in the press is low, but so is trust in social media. Local news fares better than national. Only about a quarter of 16- to 40-year-olds have a positive view of the news media generally or national news outlets particularly (23 per cent). Trust in local news media, while not great, is higher. About a third (35 per cent) have favourable attitudes toward local media outlets. But when we dig deeper, there are signals of higher confidence. For instance, most Gen Z and Millennials find local TV stations or their websites (53 per cent), local newspapers in print or online (59 per cent), and even national newspapers in print or online (54 per cent) as completely or very reliable when getting “hard news” topics. The numbers are similar for “news you can use” topics such as news about health or products.
- Many believe the media fails to accurately cover communities of colour and immigrants in America. Nearly half (49 per cent) believe media coverage of immigrants is slightly or totally inaccurate, and a similar percent say the same about Black Americans (48 per cent) and Hispanic Americans (45 per cent). Coverage of white Americans is viewed more positively, though 36 per cent still consider it mostly inaccurate.