The report, produced by social-first publisher The News Movement and consultancy Oliver Wyman, urges news publishers to invest in personalisation and creating more entertaining, informative content.
The report is the culmination of a two-year research project into what businesses should know about consumers aged between 18 and 25.
The research reaffirms the already widely understood notion that young consumers get much of their news from social media. But it also makes clear the extent to which they do not trust that information.
The report said: “For news Gen Zers are 2.7 times more likely to tap social media than broadcast news, and while they might trust traditional news sources, less than a third use digital or print newspapers and magazines for information in the first place.”
While 57% of Gen Z respondents to the research said they use social media as one of their most common sources of information, they also ranked it as their least trusted source. Radio was the most trusted, followed by print news, podcasts, the internet in general and YouTube.
However, the report said: “60% of Gen Zers worry that short articles or videos… do not provide the full story. And over 50% feel more susceptible to misinformation on social media than on traditional news sources.”
Because they favour personalised content, 50% of the research’s Gen Z respondents said they were worried their social media content might be too biased. Less than half said they felt informed about the news, “compared with nearly 70% of other generations”.
Being conscious of this, respondents reported doing their own fact-checking: the report found that Gen Z is “nearly twice as likely as older generations to fact-check their news, and nearly 60% say they’ve developed techniques to spot unreliable or fake news”.
However, this appears to clash with another of the report’s findings: “Gen Zers who say they fact-check their news were 2.5 times more likely than other generations to generally agree with the idea that Covid-19 was a hoax promoted by the government.” Some 77% of Gen Z respondents who said they fact-check their news reported believing “at least one Covid-19 related conspiracy theory”.
The report’s authors speculated that what the respondents described as "fact-checking" may be more of a sniff test than actual verification: “While [Gen Z] might use traditional sources to verify the information from bigger news sources, they are often relying on ‘social proof’ methods to quickly distinguish faulty information on social media.
“By using comments, discussion, tone of voice and popularity as indicators of whether they are looking at the ‘truth’, Gen Zers are often allowing intuition to drive fact-checking.”
The authors encouraged news providers to incorporate links into their social-first content to make it as easy as possible to check information, citing Snap’s dynamic stories feature as a successful example of established news outlets catering to young audiences.
How news publishers can reach Gen Z
The report had some key takeaways for news businesses hoping to reach Gen Z.
To get in front of younger consumers, the authors said “businesses must engage with this demographic on its preferred platforms, using content that is both informative and entertaining”.
For news in particular, they said: “Gen Zers like the convenience, immediate access and diverse viewpoints available on social media.”
Gen Z respondents said it was twice as important to them that their media content was created specifically for their age cohort than it was that it had an honest tone or style.
The authors recommended: “To reach this generation, news organisations and companies should create visually and sonically pleasing content dripping with (authentic) personality.”
Similarly, companies should hire “niche creators who are highly educated in their topic and arm them with quality information that can be shared in digestible fashion”.
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