Class: News of the Century
Major: Integrated Marketing Communications, Class of 2016
On February 12, 2013 people all over the U.S. watched as President Obama delivered the State of the Union address. When NPR asked members of the College Republicans at Ohio State University what they thought the Republicans could do to increase their presence among the Millennial Generation, the generation born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s, the students said that the Republicans needed a better social media strategy. Lucas Denny, a member of the College Republicans, explains, “We [Republicans] don’t know how to brand our message … that’s our major issue”.1 Dan Morgano, another member of the group, continued to explain how Obama had ads on social media sites, such as Twitter, YouTube, and Pandora, while Romney lacked an online presence.2 The strong Democratic turnout in the past two presidential elections shows that Millennials can be reached through social media.
An increasing fear in society is that the Millennial Generation is ignorant of the news. Paula Poindexter, author of Millennials, News, and Social Media: Is News Engagement a Thing of the Past?, believes that Millennials are “endangered” when it comes to their news consumption habits. She is worried that Millennials are primarily engaged with entertainment.3 When asked about the news, Millennials say that news stories are not relevant to them. They feel that if stories are about them, then they are often focused on celebrity gossip or criminal behavior.4 Millennials are interested in stories that explain how events can impact their generation.
Ekaterina Walter, a social innovator at Intel who was named among the 25 Women Who Rock Social Media in 2012, disagrees with Poindexter’s opinion. She explains, “I think it’s a misconception that Millennials are not interested in the news. It is how they are consuming it that is changing”.5 Walter refers to the Millennial Generation as the ADHD Generation. She understands that Millennials multitask, and that businesses only have about five seconds to grab their attention as opposed to the thirty seconds they used to have to grab the attention of older generations.6
In today’s world, the phrase “news engagement” should probably replace “news consumption.” One way to get Millennials more involved with the news is to promote citizen journalism. When people post on Facebook, tweet, or write a blog, they are creating their own news and then sharing it globally. They are given the opportunity to voice their own opinions and to share information that they consider to be relevant. Another way that news media industries can try to get Millennials more engaged with the news is by publishing stories that have headlines that target Millennials. They also like it when they are quoted within news stories because then their perspectives and opinions are heard. This would help Millennials draw connections with news stories. Further, news media industries could hire Millennials as interns and then ask them for input about which stories to publish. In addition, these interns could create a webpage where they would post stories specifically related to Millennials. They like stories that are relevant and free to access.7 If the Millennial Generation and its engagement with news is to improve, then both Millennials and news media industries will have to make an effort to improve their current habits.
Customization of content could help news media industries increase the engagement of Millennials. As a recognized leader in business and marketing, Walter explains, “[The] personal touch element of social media is becoming more important. How do you become personal? … by customizing. Millennials are particular about content being customized for them”.8 She continues, “Noise increases, filters become more specific and sophisticated, but how do you make it into those filters? … Companies need the surprise, new experience, targeted specifically at me factor”.9 In other words, news media industries have to utilize real time marketing techniques. Walter explains, “Appeal to your customer’s ego through the fully personalized response. Not only is it flattering, but it is also very personal”.10 REI, an outdoor clothing store, began using real time marketing techniques this past Christmas. REI customers sent tweets to #giftpicks and, in less than an hour, employees answered the tweets with customized video responses. An employee explains, “The #giftpicks effort is … a great opportunity to humanize our brand a bit more. This experience is the digital replica of what you get when you walk into … our stores”.11 Personalized messages help to build relationships between industries and their customers.
Walter refers to the Millennial Generation as the Entrepreneurial Generation. She explains, “Millennials like information that will allow them to develop and showcase their own brands in unique ways. … They are passionate, they are motivated, they are aggressive and fearless in pursuing their missions and their dreams”.12 In order for news media industries to get Millennials engaged with news through social media, they must follow the current trend of narrowcasting, or targeting content toward specific audiences, and try to customize their news stories in order to make them more relevant, informative, and persuasive for Millennials.
1. D. Gonyea. NPR, “College Republicans Offer GOP Advice For Winning Over Their Generation.” Last modified February 17, 2013. Accessed April 27, 2013. http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2013/02/16/172119122/college-republicans-offer-gop-advice-for-winning-over-their-generation?sc=17&f=1001 .
3. pg. 6 Paula Poindexter, Millennials, News, and Social Media: Is News Engagement a Thing of the Past?, (New York, NY: Peter Lang, 2012).
4. Ibid pg.46
5. Ekaterina Walter, (A social innovator at Intel), interview by Sara Harmon, Telephone. February 14, 2013.
7. pg. 46 Paula Poindexter, Millennials, News, and Social Media: Is News Engagement a Thing of the Past?, (New York, NY: Peter Lang, 2012).
8. Ekaterina Walter, (A social innovator at Intel ), interview by Sara Harmon, TelephoneFebruary 14, 2013.
10. Ekaterina Walter. Building Social Bridges, “How REI Put A Bow On Social Marketing And Wowed Customers.” Last modified January 14, 2013. Accessed April 27, 2013.
12. Ekaterina Walter, (A social innovator at Intel ), interview by Sara Harmon, TelephoneFebruary 14, 2013.