STUDY: Young People Love News But Won’t Pay for It

New Media Insight study brings bad news for media.


After so many research studies, you may think we’ve all finally figured out the Millennial generation.

Not quite.

A new paper released by The Media Insight Project, a collaborative project involving the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, doesn’t provide much in the way of good news to those who write things for a living…or those who work with them.

In short, Millennials love the news. They just don’t want to pay for it.


So they very much want to keep up with current events; 40 percent check various outlets “several times a day.” They’re not just reading Elite Daily and partisan poli-blogs, either:

“70 percent of Millennials say that their social media feeds are comprised of a diverse mix of viewpoints evenly mixed between those similar to and different from their own.”

That’s encouraging, right? The survey also tells us that social media hasn’t destroyed the news business — at least in terms of exposure. From Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute:

“If anything, the enormous role of social media appears to have a widening impact, not a narrowing one, on the awareness of this generation.”

Here’s an interesting graph revealing the where in the new media equation:


Young people aren’t dumb, though: the primary topics for which Facebook serves as a key news source are “pop culture,” “music, TV, and movies,” and “social issues.” National politics ranks near the bottom of that chart, so young people know that you don’t really turn to The Social Network for in-depth reporting.

The big catch is that, while young people are more than willing to pay for news services and a majority spend their own money on movies, video games, cable TV, and e-books, they seem to view the news itself as a public commodity that should be free.

  • 21 percent have a paid subscription to a print magazine
  • 16 percent subscribe to a print newspaper

These numbers are higher than the same totals for digital subscriptions. A couple of quotes, however, reveal how young people feel about paying for news content:

“I don’t think you should pay for news,” said Eric, age 22 in Chicago. “That’s something everybody should be informed in. Like, you’re going to charge me for information that’s going on around the world?”

Or Sam, age 19 from San Francisco, who said in his interview, “I really wouldn’t pay for any type of news because as a citizen it’s my right to know the news.”

News is online, it’s searchable, and it’s free.

Anyone not following that model will have a tough time moving forward. Maybe the answer lies in more advertising.

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