Millennial Think Tank: How Millennials Consume News

  by    0   0

This week our Think Tank tackled the subject of News and their preferred methods for consuming it. Our panel consisted of:

Watch or listen to the entire hangout, or read the blog post recap below:

Here are some facts to frame the discussion:

For Political news Fusion did a poll that showed the following as to where Millennials get their news:

  • 30% Television
  • 12% Social Media
  • 14% Google a specific topic
  • 10% rely on friends and family

When we turned to digital news, Neiman Lab found that the breakdown was as follows:

  • 21% favored
  • 10% favored Fox
  • 54.3% favored, Vice, Slate and Buzzfeed along with other sites

With that knowledge, we had a few questions for our panel.

Where do you turn for breaking news versus daily news?

Daniel used to get most of his news on television, but since giving up cable for economic reasons he finds a lot of news via Facebook. For breaking news he goes to CNN or CBC. He gets most of his news through his social feed, and scans the headlines there often. Facebook is the social site he spends the most time on (hear that Marketers?). He realizes that Facebook skews the news he receives with its algorithm.

For more on algorithms, read this post.

Helen is online most of the day, and follows various writers and reporters, often on Twitter where stories break first. She also does not have cable, but will go to her boyfriend’s place to watch when a big story is developing. Helen subscribes to the online versions of the Toronto Star and the New York Times, as well as curating her own lists of journalists and writers on Twitter that she checks on regularly. She also follows specific news hashtags.

Hessie, our sole Xer, gets big breaking news on Twitter and then turns to one of the major networks on television to hear in depth coverage. She also has an RSS feed and Flipboard set up for general news. Because, like Daniel, she spends a lot of time on Facebook, she often hears about things first in her social feed. Often, because she being made aware of new primarily through social, she’ll find herself in the dark about the type of news that’s coming through mainstream channels.

Kiernan has no television and sees no need for one. His exact quote was:

I don’t understand why you need a television; you can just bootleg anything you want whenever you feel like it.

For general news he goes to the BBC via its mobile app, and he watches both Russian television and Al Jazeera. He rarely goes to CNN. He likes Z magazine, but does not like American sources for news because he sees them as biased. Actually, he sees all news sources as biased, and therefore tries to consume news from a wide array of sources.

Tiffany is online all day for work, and while she owns a TV she doesn’t have Cable. She usually gets breaking news from Twitter, and other (usually unfortunate) news that is not timely on Facebook. She’ll visit CNN, NPR and the BBC online because she sees them as reputable.  She also subscribes to a magazine called The Week. It keeps her updated by cutting through the massive amount of weekly news and providing her with succinct explanations.

Joe gets most of his breaking news from Twitter, but also follows writers and journalists much like Helen does. He’s most interested in seeing a live stream of something happening, and getting context later.

How ‘up’ do you think you are on current events?

Kiernan is thoroughly up to date on current events, but would not sit and talk about them with his peers at his particularly conservative college. He and his friends feel that the current domestic political situation is depressing, and he steers away from discussing politics in real life because he knows that his friends’ opinions may be in stark contrast to his.

Helen is also really up on current events and politics, self describes as opinionated, and regularly discusses events with friends in real life and on social media.

Daniel actively avoids talking about current events and politics on social media and in real life. He tries to avoid being attacked online and worries about privacy issues and his reputation. He doesn’t follow politics and has no real interest, and many of his friends feel similiarly. He works with journalists and ex journalists, and they do talk about current events at work, but he keeps his involvement to a minimum.

Hessie also stays out of discussing politics on social or in real life because she isn’t up on current events and does not want to be dogged by people who live to have those discussions.

Tiffany is very up to date on current events, likes to debate, and likes to discuss issues in real life with people who have different views. Primarily this would be her friends and family, but has no interest in engaging people she does not know well online over sensitive issues.

Joe has backed off; he was highly informed, but because of information overload he decided to not consume as much news. Unless he thinks he can make a change or have an impact, he won’t bother to watch or listen to a news story.

How reliable to you believe social media news outlets are?

Helen is actively interested in the dissemination of information online, because there is also misinformation, sometimes intentionally put out there. The rush to be first is often the cause; she’s aware of people using images from one story inappropriately for another story. She rarely retweets the news and is more of a passive observer. She knows that things trending on Twitter may not be verified for a few hours.

Helen compared the news streaming on Twitter to CNN and their tendency to ‘make stuff up’ to fill the air time while waiting for more information on a breaking news item. She warns that it may take hours to get a true picture, and thinks that her peers realize this.

What news sources do you trust the most?

Joe thinks CNN is crap – he only trusts them to tell you that something is happening.  He implicitly trusts people who show their sources; embedded docs from primary sources, video, photos, and other sources lend credibility. He doesn’t think that you should ever trust just one source; he’ll read 4 or 5 articles from different sources to gain perspective.

All of our Canadians believe the  CBC is solid; interestingly they didn’t think that public funding gives the CBC the ability to be more honest or more full of integrity.

Kiernan had a different viewpoint and talked about MSNBC, Fox and CNN as corporately funded monsters who use a formula to show ‘both sides’ of a story when there may not actually be two equal sides.   He referenced the ‘global warming debate,’ when 99% of scientists aren’t debating that it is actually happening. Because he doesn’t trust one source, he listens to lots of foreign sources, knowing they have their own bias as well, to try to get a more complete picture.

Joe asked what makes the panel trust a news source.

Helen said that ‘tone’ had a lot to do with it; she finds the CBC to be measured and even keeled in its tone. She finds Fox very right wing, and almost hysterical. CNN has a smug leftiness to it. She wants a calm tone and a willingness to listen.

Many of our panelists watch Colbert and Jon Stewart, but realize that what they are watching is satire.

Do any of you read a newspaper in real life?

Kiernan reads the New York Times when he gets it for free on campus.

Tiffany reads the local paper for work.

No one else regularly reads the hard copy paper.

Do any of you listen to radio or tv in the morning?

Tiffany listens to the radio in her car, usually NPR for her 20 minute drive.

Daniel doesn’t have a radio and thinks it would take as long to find a station as it would to take a shower and be ready. When he lived with his parents he read the paper daily and  listen to the Business News Network and the radio on his way into school. Now he lives in the city, has no car, and doesn’t want to spend money on a paper. The big news for him this week was Taylor Swift pulled her music from Spotify.


Joe reads the Economist every month – he subscribes online.

Helen reads The Atlantic and McSweeney’s. She feels like she reads so much at work and consumes so much at work that she doesn’t want to read news magazines outside of work.

Kiernan subscribes to Mad Magazine, and Helen does Art Forum; large scale images don’t translate into the digital world. If there is a better experience to be had with a paper magazine, she’ll buy it.

What do you do when you have information overload?

Our panel reads a lot of news and articles online. Here is the breakdown listing the minimum number of articles consumed per day by our panel:

  • Daniel 20+
  • Hessie 20+
  • Tiffany 20
  • Kiernan 20 – 25
  • Joe  15 – 20

Information is coming at us all constantly. When they get information overload, here’s what some of our panel do:

Daniel listens to music, watches Netflix and plays video games; mind numbing things that don’t make him think.

Joe leaves his computer and goes somewhere else to give his brain a break.

Tiffany has made a conscious decision to start reading more again, and puts on head phones.

Do you pay more attention to Local or National News?

Tiffany has to pay close attention to local news for work, but ends up consuming far more information than what she sets out to discover when paying attention to local issues.

Kiernan watches a ton of foreign news; he rarely watches local news covering the rural area of Pennsylvania where he attends University. He’ll read the school newspaper; but spends more time on Yik Yak then on local news.

Joe watches local news 50% of the time because it’s very relevant to his life.

Hessie watches Toronto news, but is more likely to watch National news.

Helen cares very much about local news and politics because it affects her life directly.

Daniel consumes more national and international news, but does watch the news from his hometown region to try to keep up with what’s going on back home.


This discussion was packed full of information, so I’ve distilled down the most pertinent insights:

  • Many Millennials don’t own a TV, and if they do it is often used to stream things. Many would buy cable if they could create individualized and less expensive packages.
  • Millennials consume a lot of foreign news, and unlike times past, would never turn to one trusted news source.
  • Information overload is a very real thing, and finding a way to decompress is important. Smart brands selling recreational products would be wise to play on that fact in their marketing.
  • Our panel is very willing to pay for subscriptions for news or magazines (primarily online) IF they truly value the information. They will subscribe to hard copy magazines if the experience is superior to the digital version.
  • What our panel is seeking is more interactivity with news where you get to define your own experience, and choose what type of news will be delivered instead of having those decisions made for you.
  • Again, our panel is very aware that the networks they spend time on are controlling the information they receive, and therefore look to a wide variety of sources to try to gain more context about news stories.

Next week join our Think Tank as we focus on Entertainment and the Cult of Celebrity.

Photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc.

0 thoughts on “Millennial Think Tank: How Millennials Consume News

  1. bowden2bowden says:

    Not of comfort but also not surprising that this Demo gathers information from CNN, Slate, BuzzFeed. Networks that are as hysterical left as is Fox to the right. At least Gox tries to give a counter-point.
    As for avoiding discussions, that simply results in the louder voice dictating the naritive. Social media, once thought to be a great help for truth has actually poisoned the air with factless “truth squads” ready to pounce on the slightest miss-step. While the BIG PICTURE is being overlooked.
    Ask the tough questions, openly and fairly debate it, keep “your” passions in check and remember history. Not everything we have done in this Nation has come over night.
    BTW, when I was 26 working at a large corporation with a one year old, I could barely afford gas to get home. And that was with two incomes and a mortgage that was at 16%!

  2. susansilver says:

    I really appreciated Kiernan’s points in this one about watching the foreign news networks. They also have their biases, but it gives a much clearer picture of how other countries view the USA. We tend to wear rose colored glasses even when we are discussing our own politics.  

    Helen also impressed me with her curation skills. I think when we do find resources that we trust that it is super important to share that particular with a reason why.

    I’ve given up on Slate as a news source. When the trailer came out for Imitation Game they wrote the most infuriating post ever and completely missed the point. Everyone I know who cares in the community concluded that it was click baiting, but overall it was a dumb post. So we decided to ignore it and not even comment. That is the new downvote, refusing to share. Which is why I won’t be posting it here.  

    Buzzfeed is an interesting addition. They are getting into investigative journalism, which is so weird considering how they started. I am paying attention to see how that develops. But I wouldn’t put them on my trusted resource list yet.

  3. AmyMccTobin says:

    bowden2bowden Yes Randy, I have to say that they don’t trust ANY sites really… that was simply Helen’s quote calling Fox hysterical. The general attitude that no one source was to be trusted.
    I’m really interested in talking about how it was when you were young… because I’ve heard quite a few Boomers tell me the same. I really want to get a grasp on what the economic climate was like when you were starting out – MANY Boomers had to start out in the dreaded 70s gas crisis.
    And, to be clear, Daniel was not complaining about being broke… he was just making choices about what he can afford.

  4. bowden2bowden says:

    Not complaining either, just relating that we too had make choice much like today.
    I guess it is fair to say that our trust of “journalism” has tanked for the most part. But really some of the so called “sources” are laughable.

  5. susansilver says:

    bowden2bowden Agree with that last paragraph Randy. Journalism is very different than it was before the intrusion of paid advertising into the news cycle.

    I had a very cynical Journalism teacher in college who had nothing good to say about her profession. She  opened my eyes to how much of news is manufactured. For example, an editorial on a news program about a health food might actually contain footage from a corporation.   

    It brings into question what choices editors make in an era of such high content consumption.

  6. AmyMccTobin says:

    bowden2bowden And I think that THAT is the clearest message I got out of this hangout Randy, that none of our panel trust news sources… everyone is skeptical because they HAVE to be.
    I’d like to get the Boomer Think Tank going in part to give people some historical context – ALL young grads are broke.

  7. hessiejones says:

    It’s amazing to me how fragmented our media consumption habits are. As much as I read I still am NOT up on even the mainstream news. Shawn (my signficant other) tells me I should just go to to retrieve this information. But it is constantly buried with my routine of curating from 50 different RSS feeds on, plus Flipboard, Twitter and Facebook. Did I mention that I also subscribe to about 60 other emails from Forbes, HBR, Upworthy, NPR?  Seriously!

  8. MarkHauler says:

    jmeucci Fascinating. But how many come to a true understanding beyond the headlines? Many I know have 0 sense of historical perspective

  9. JoeCardillo says:

    I think one of the most interesting insights here was the way that everyone on the panel seems to cross check individual stories across outlets. This is consistent w/both responses we got about how Millennials watch the ethics of a brand over time, and research into how people do a great deal of research before buying or contacting a company.

  10. JoeCardillo says:

    hessiejones That’s why I’ve reduced my intake of news….without context (and by context I mean, how might this matter to me / relate to the human experience) there’s almost no way to process all that information (“pipeline bursts in Ukraine!” “woman falls off train trestle in Munich” “Guns n Roses releases new retrospective” …. these all blend in without context). Frankly, news orgs are guilty of chasing the 50 million “facts” model and it’s at least in part because trad. media made so much money off of gated access and arrogantly thumbed their nose at the web, then expected the same level of profits when they grudgingly made the transition. 
    All of this is consistent with the bundling / unbundling of content…Marc Andreessen has some interesting things to say about that disintermediation about halfway through this interview:

  11. JoeCardillo says:

    susansilver Here’s the thing that I think is happening: news orgs or hybrids are still in a binary model. Like / dislike, yes / no, follow / unfollow, etc… Slate and Buzzfeed are very successful at the clickbait game, and they are probably making more money than most. But in the binary world, we are forced to either like / trust them or not…when in fact the reality is that they do both good and bad work (as you might expect). It’s not entirely their fault, either, the web is largely built on binary thinking…and we can expect to see whipsaws in where people go to understand their world until that changes. 
    Also, related tangent: interesting to think about, for a decade the people at the top of the search / online content game probably thought when people searched they were looking for the best version of an idea or topic…but what if all that time people were simply comparing 5 or more sources to see who to trust?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.