Both content and formatting important to young news consumers

Young girl on a bed with a computer and a cellphone. Images of the authors Marju Himma-Kadakas and Raul Ferrer-Conill.
Photo: Scandinav Bildbyrå, Kaspar Roost, and Karlstad University.
Making news more entertaining by formatting it with the stylistic practices of YouTube content may help to engage teenagers’ attention. However, if the topic covered is not relevant to the young audience, it might not be worthwhile, according to a new article published in Nordicom Review.
 | 1 September 2022

Traditional news media often fails to engage young audiences, who tend to prioritise social media platforms. Making news more entertaining by producing it like YouTube content may help to engage teenagers, but focusing only on formatting while forgetting content might not be worthwhile, according to a new Nordicom Review article, examining young audiences in Estonia.

– News organisations should reevaluate what news is for the young generation and how it could be presented to them to reach their attention span, says Marju Himma-Kadakas, postdoctoral researcher at Karlstad University and co-author of the article.

– The simple rule is to listen to your audience – in this case, the teenagers – and cover the topics they are interested in, for example, climate change or mental health. If this is set, the format is secondary – but it can promote engagement with the content.

High quality, short and relevant

According to the study, young audiences in Estonia think that engaging with news is worthwhile as long as the video quality is high, the length of the video is short, and the topic is relevant.

– If news are presented applying YouTubers’ techniques, teenagers respond positively because these techniques assist them in understanding the news content and emotionally engaging with it, says Himma-Kadakas.

– A tip for news organisations: Make the news attractive for young audiences, but do it together with the teens so it does not turn out to be “cringe“ – like 40-year-olds attempting to make “cool“ stuff for teenagers.

Himma-Kadakas also emphasises that the video quality must be prioritised in order to succeed with engaging a younger audience.

– The attitude that content created for social media platforms is something that media houses can do with low cost does not hold. Teens are well aware of what production quality is. YouTubers or any other social media influencers produce content with high technical quality, and teenagers themselves are often content creators. Hence, low cost that translates into low quality is a no-go.

The article “Is news engagement worthwhile? Studying young audiences’ engagement with YouTuber-like news content”, by Marju Himma-Kadakas and Raul Ferrer-Conill, is freely available for download on Sciendo.

Learn more about young audiences’ news consumption

Seminar by the Swedish public radio broadcaster

In May 2022, the Swedish public radio broadcaster held a seminar discussing whether the news media is something for the new young voters, and what news organisations should do to reach younger audiences.

Julia Romell