How younger generations consume news differently

How younger generations consume news differently
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More than 50% of India’s population is below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. By 2020, the average age of an Indian is expected to be 29 years. News publishers are greatly interested in reaching this younger generation of consumers. But their shifting attitudes towards news and erratic news consumption makes it difficult to define what kind of journalism might appeal to them.

Mobile-first audience

Smartphone ownership is growing in India. With affordable data plans, internet usage and penetration are also on the rise. By 2020, around 67% of India’s internet user base will be comprised of users under 35 years of age.

Young people are highly reliant of their smartphones. They spend a large part of their waking hours on their phones. They use smartphones for communication, shopping, learning and for consuming news. In a study conducted by Reuters Institute, it was seen that online news (56%) has outpaced print (16%) as the main source of news among respondents under 35.

Vasuta Agarwal, VP & GM, India and South Asia, InMobi states, “India, like most countries, is also moving away from traditional means of content consumption to more convenient, one-to-one interactions enabled by mobile. Be it gaming, video-viewing or shopping, mobile is now the primary screen for users.”

Main sources of news by age - India
Main sources of news by age - IndiaReuters Institute India Digital News Report - 2019

Social media & messaging applications

From social media to news aggregators, news online can be accessed through various channels. It is interesting to see that while those over 35 are likely to first go directly to a news site via an app or the mobile browser (39%), younger generations are more likely to turn to social media and messaging apps (57%).

Facebook (69%) and WhatsApp (60%) are central to how Indians engage with online news. As a result, many Indian publishers are now investing in social media teams to boost their online reach.

WhatsApp News
WhatsApp News

Shift to video and audio formats

The introduction of low-cost data services has driven online access in India up by a significant amount in recent years. Consumption of video content on the Internet is huge amongst Indian millennials. Video consumption on digital platforms is as high as 25% amongst the youth in India.

The typical content formats of 30-minute and 60-minute shows have now been replaced with video formats which are much shorter and easy to consume on low bandwidths as well.

With growing popularity among Indian internet users, audio offers infinite opportunities. Most popular podcasts among Indians are from traditional Indian news brands like The Times of India, NDTV and The Quint.

News Podcasts

Low loyalty

Younger generations consume news primarily through social media and messaging apps. This means they aren’t loyal to individual news brands. Young consumers turn to traditional brands only when a major story breaks and needs verifying.

This trend combined with low trust levels (36%) in news makes it increasingly difficult for media houses to monetize. The younger generation is used to getting news and information online for free. Now they do not want to pay for news.

However, a small number of Indians (39%) who currently don’t pay for news said that they are ‘somewhat likely’ to pay for news in the future.

The only way Indian publishers can reach a significant number of potential subscribers is by putting together a convincing content offering around great journalism that is delivered in a compelling manner.

Some people are willing to pay for online news in the future
Some people are willing to pay for online news in the futureReuters Institute India Digital News Report - 2019

Demand for personalization

India’s youth is specific about the kind of content it wishes to consume. It’s also specific about how it wants to consume it. They want news about issues they are interested in and which is relevant to them. Everything else is noise.

Significant numbers of Indians expressed an appetite for personalized content as it helps them deal with information explosion. The younger generation accesses news primarily on their smartphones. Personalizing news alerts will allow publishers to build loyalty by maintaining a direct connection with their readers. This could help them in effective implementation of paywalls and subscription models.

“To cater to a Millennial audience, established and traditional media houses are required to revitalize themselves, re-align their strategies and re-assess their ways of measuring the success of their content. This is the only way they can truly leverage the unbridled monetization opportunities that wait to be tapped.”

Saket Saurabh (Digital Business Head, Bloomberg Quint, 2017)

Younger consumers want to be constantly updated. They want information in bite-sized formats that they can easily consume while multi-tasking. They want quality but do not want to pledge allegiance to any one brand.

This makes it difficult for publishers to define strategies to attract younger audiences while continuing to satisfy older generations. But now more than ever, they need to understand this growing demography and strategize better to gain their trust and loyalty.