Do you remember the days when the nightly TV news broadcast was a part of your nightly ritual?
Before or after dinner (depending on how early they ate dinner), families would sit together with their favorite news anchor and get a recap of the day’s events around the world. There was no smart phone or mobile device available to get them caught up in-between.
Networks were so powerful that anchors could inspire reactions like these from viewers:
Fast forward to today, and it’s a good bet that Millennials wouldn’t have seen that live broadcast in the first place. They would have opted to see the recap through their Google and Facebook mobile apps instead.
The American Press Institute recently completed a survey on Millennials and their news consumption habits, and they found that 57% start with Google. Additionally, they are likely arriving there through a mobile device of some kind.
In their State of the News Media 2015 report, PEW revealed that 39 out of 50 news sites get more traffic from mobile devices than desktops.
Of course, this figure comes on the heels of Google’s recent announcement that the frequency of mobile searches has overtaken traditional desktop searches.
Then there is the social media factor. Millennials are more likely to get their 2016 Presidential Race updates from their Facebook newsfeeds than from Sean Hannity or Anderson Cooper.
There are three critical factors for Facebook serving as the modern-day Dan Rather.
Factor 1: The Facebook news feed has turned into the modern-day water cooler. Social users take a peek at their feeds, learn a few things or two, and move on to their other affairs. They can consume the news on their terms without having to wait around for a particular news segment to air.
Factor 2: The news through Facebook and other social media outlets finds Millennials. And that’s the way they want it. As The Huffington Post puts it, “They want news, they say, though they don’t always aggressively seek it out.”
In that regard, getting the news is like buying something when you are “window shopping.” You may not have been planning to read an entire article about the budget deficit that your friend Rob posted, just like you weren’t planning to buy that brand new pair of shoes.
Factor 3: Perhaps the most subtle factor is trust. Millennials are more likely to trust their friend or colleague on Facebook than a news entity with a clear agenda.
Are the days of the nightly news totally dead?
Not exactly. Baby Boomers still prefer local news to get their political information. In fact, USA Today pointed out that Millennials also prefer the local news, with 46% using it as a secondary medium to Facebook.
But a case could be made that cable news could be in trouble. Prime-time median viewership went down 8% in 2014 across Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. While Millennials clearly want their news fix, they just don’t want all of the cynicism and slanted coverage associated with it.
With Baby Boomers and Millennials consuming the news in very distinct ways, campaign leaders for the 2016 presidential candidates will have to cast a wide net between television and social media.
But whatever they do, mobile needs to be at the heart of their strategy.
"Mobile is really this generation's version of their car," Chris Lehane, Democratic strategist, told the On Media blog. "It is the platform where they spend much of their time; it is their TV, radio, movie screen, phone and computer all in one."
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