News and Millennials

Liveblog by Dalia and Adrienne

Tran Ha- Knight Foundation Fellow

Tran asks the audience to yell out what they associate with millennials. “Young” “Selfie” “Falcon”(?). Tran adds Justin Beiber, entitlement and says eventually the phrase, “I just don’t get why ____…” comes up.

She asks, what does the future of news and innovation look like for this group? Are we destined to a future of grumpy cat memes? As a fellow this year she looked at what millennials pay attention to. What are their needs? What is important to them? How do they define news?
Tran shares an anecdote from an interview of a young man who gets his news is more than information channels. He says that news comes from more places than TV, radio, etc. To him, news is what he sees on Instagram.

Another person Tran interviewed was a young woman named Haley. Haley says her main sources of news are Facebook, email and Instagram. She thinks the media covers too much of the same kinds of stories. A young man named Seman told Tran that something doesn’t become news to him until he sees the effects on Twitter. He follows people and personalities, not necessarily organizations.

Three prevalent myths about millennials.

  1. They are lazy : They expect news to come where they are, on Facebook and Twitter. They’ve developed their own systems for filtering what’s relevant. If it’s not relevant, it gets tuned out.
  2. (TL; DR) They don’t have attention to read or watch longform. : It surprised Tran is how many of the participants do read long form and enjoy the in-depth format. Matt from Austin grew up with 60 minutes. As an adult, if he finds a newsmaker who interests him, he’ll binge watch interviews on YouTube. Milennials need to be interested in the topic to seek out long form, and they will seek out on their own time.
  3. They won’t pay for anything. It’s about value. : This generation is frugal, but are willing to pay for what is important to them. Tran speaks of another interviewee who will eat gas station food, but pays for Spotify premium. This observation is interesting because they set a high bar for monetized objects.

Jared Keller – Director of Program at .Mic

The whole idea of the rebranding of PolicyMic as .Mic is to have expanded coverage. The sensibilities and values of the platform are still the same, with coverage focused at millennials. Keller says, “Research says we’re lazy, burdened by financial hardship, disconnected.” The Boston Globe calls us “idle trophy kids,” and other Op-Eds in establishment journalism have all made similar claims.

So, what do organizations think millennials look like? For instance, do millennials care about Egypt? Organizations think, we’ll have to frame this with” Jurassic park gifs for them to pay attention to it. (Keller then takes a selfie on stage!)
.Mic is trying to debunk the claim that “kids” don’t care about serious issues by delivering serious news.

A lot of this mis-information comes from how we consume. We get more news from social networks. Millennials are consuming news in a social context, from within a conversation. It’s not just the future of young people, which is usually used to describe a small swath of population.
It is more a sensibility – a new way of consuming news. It’s not necessarily about age. Keller illustrates the mis-categorization of millennials by saying his father gets news from Twitter, so he jokes he’s a millennial. Going with mobile means social – most of traffic to mobile sites come from social, they go hand-in-hand. Most people don’t consume news on Reddit, Mashable, or Gawker directly. They follow links from their social feeds.

As a media organization, why should I care? A lot of media companies have the idea that in order to deliver info to the generation that they have to create an article about Egypt in jurassic park GIFs(as seen previously). The idea being circulated is that millennials don’t like to eat our vegetables. Only sugar, and so the web is filled with sugar. Media feels the need to trick people to get them to read serious news by drawing readers in with cat gifs and then suggesting hard news. But that’s not the case. .Mic tries to produce news as it relates to young people by striving to deliver news in a way that makes sense to the generation.

All are about creating a profile of ourselves. Tool we use, extension of selves. We want people to take selfies, make news part of their identity, and it resonates with their lives both online and offline. Lives in two different mediums.

Keller shows a chart of unique pageviews to the .Mic site. He demonstrates that young people care about serious issues by displaying a chart of unique visits(citation) on the screen. He says, policy, health care, congress, Egypt, Ukraine, Russia – people are interested, and this isn’t a bait-and-switch, this graph is all stories without cats.

Presents serious stories like Obama and carbon footprint that got over 137K shares. More of an embarrassment for America than it is for Russia.

This isn’t fluffy stuff. We’re not targeting narrow identities. We’re targeting issues that actually matter to young people. What does this mean for media companies? If something is good they will share. WHo has red Na-Hisi Coates “Case for Reparations?” That’s serious shit. People read it.

He’s 27…so? He wonders why this matters. No one likes to be defined and called a millennial, it is insulting for that generation. No one wants to be put into a box, and be sold funny cat photos. Important issues can be covered and get visitors without the cat photos.
The only reason to label someone is to stick them in a box and sell them things. If we stick to this, we get two-tiers, cats in one and important issues in another – they don’t have to be separate.

Katy Peters – TurboVote

The theme of this panel is that no one wanted to be on this panel. No one wants to be a millennial when it looks like a Time cover.

What would mark me as a millennial or as a person of the internet. In 1989 I bought my family the Britannica and an IBM….I take it for granted that I have external memory sitting at my finger tips. It doesn’t really matter that I grew up with these technologies.

I’m up here because I run a site called Turbo Vote. It stemmed from the question: Why hasn’t the internet made democracy awesome? There must be a database out there somewhere for voter registration forms. That must already exist right? No. Well, we can build it right? Because internet. So they started to build it, but eventually figured it out.

One of the core complaints of big data is if you know so much about me, why can’t you talk to me? With all of the invasiveness, why can’t you talk to *me*. Why show me both Geico and Zipcar? You know only one of these can be relevant. Can we demand that of internet advertising? Looked at Matthew Morfleet implementing TurboVote. Looked at the institutionalization of voter registration. He realized it was boring, not personal. So, he recruited a set of student leaders, installed a mobile website on mobile devices. He then registered people one-on-one. We hired him.

Virginia Tech person – looked at the mass broadcasts, thought she could top that. Brought together a coalition, left messages to EACH student by someone IMPORTANT TO THEM. Strted thinking about what we have been doing. And we’ve been doing that already – Talsin Uni with a golf cart (hope the don’t hunt down students with it!). Keep thinking in encyplopedic terms..

As we collect more data, we were able to track changes in regulations. Which places you can vote. We track who sends things in, we can make that more personal. And the number ways that we talk to individual voters has grown exponentially more complex (and therefore more personal) over the last 2.5 years. Took sitting down and talking to the users to see that.

So I set out to build this tool this platform and what I was doing was building an experience

Lets each voter be at the center of each of their voting experience that is personal. If I see anything coming out of these surveys of the internet, this is the promise we’re busy trying to fulfill.

Action Civics and New Media

Chris Rudd – Mikva Challenge

Mikva Challenge is a youth civics organization in Chicago. The director says: “When you want young people to be pro ball players, you get them to practice. But when you ask them for civics, they get to be 18 and you expect them to be awesome at it.

For what? so that they can change the world we live in to something better.

When we talk about young folks, it’s in the frame of older people. “Young people don’t get it”
Now young people are now using their laptops and are creating awesome stuff.

They create products for them and their peers. The young people he works with create juvi. justice policies for Detroit. They get to put their own flavor on these processes.

Participatory politics, we wanted to create a game that the youth can play that will encourage them to engage. They didn’t invent something for young people, they did it themselves. If you vote, great, but if it’s all you do then there’s a problem. The young people he works with engage in new and robust ways. Older people want their way, but the young people don’t want to follow. So the older generation gets upset. But these younger generations can create and disseminate information in unprecedented ways. But it starts with a question. Must engage by asking questions. The main people to engage people, you ask them questions, you learn to engage them where they are at. and the question was: “What do young people need when they get out of the juvenille system.”

Created an app to help juvenille exiters expunge their record (link). Realized this was a huge problem and they needed to do something it. The kids brought the project to the board, and they didn’t understand. The web app developed helped to share this issue and bring awareness. Foudn their solution in the internet. The tech part is hard for non-profits. Met Kathy Deng, who wanted to work with him on the project. Released the app and people started paying attention. The public noticed that young people aren’t just killers or lazy, they do stuff. They do care.

We’re racist in this country. We don’t expect this from black and brown people. Through the internet, they’re able to engage with policy makers. They now have access to the relevant people. Young people who don’t have access in the political arena now have access.

50th anniversary of freedom summer. you had this whole movement that talk about freedom, but the young are not following the same organization patterns, they are doing it over facebook and through social media. In the 60’s it took weeks to get pamphlets across now it doesn’t take long to share petitions online. The young people he works with hate paper, but they like doing stuff online. They know it’s part of the youth’s future.

They released the app in Jan, and topic became high profile. Eventually, the Governor sponsored a bill for juvinile expungement. Quick turnaround of youth engagement. Policy change will affect 1000s in future.

How do we ensure we have a better internet, we have to make sure that people from diverse backgrounds are part of the people building and engaging. They toppled government in the middle east without drones. They take information, build on it and share it around.

We need to teach them digital literacy, news literacy, and how to push it forward to build a better world.

Time for Q&A:

Richard Tofel (ProPublica)
I hear that you don’t like the stereotypes, and no ones does,. What are the real trends? The image of young people in the 50’s and 60’s conjurs something. What do you see as the defining events? What are the defining trends that you do see of the millenials?

Katy Peters:
I work in civic technology, people interact in a way that is relevant. Channels that don’t serve us well. In politics the same sense that, I want to get engaged but I want this to work better. Willingness to engage with real fear to be let down.

Tran Ha:
I would say that I think one of the big difference, is how much information is out there for young people. This group is very savvy in terms of being able to sift through that information to know what they want to engage with. They are not passive consumers, they know what they want and how to get it and to cross check it with other sources to find accurate information.
They might not always do that, but in times when it’s important to do so they do it.

Jared Keller:
Bigger emphasize on id formation. Biggest time, outside of revolution and 60;s. Many tools to di these identites. Before, it was “I belong to this bowling club” but now every act is identity formation. Often people share things on their social that they’ve never read, b/c is makes them looks smart. In order to get important topics in news, needs to affect the person as a human being. What does this mean for my sense of self. Often taken as narcissism, like do something that makes you happy after college, totally unrealistic b/c so many more avenues to construct identity, more emphasis put on day to day activity

When you term a divide so big, 18-35 is a huge demographic. It also about interest. They’re all interested in different stuff. it’s hard to say what people are interested in, this is what they will share and do, stuff that interests them.

W/teens its about figuring out who they are. It’s about their peer group, not adults. teens don’t care about adult perspective. The people who traditionally defined news can no longer do that.

Q. D-school person
To what extent does the terminology arouMillennialsals need to change? What other words do we need to use?

Millennials is not an actual phrase. It’s a marketing terms. Say young people is you really have to. But now it’s defining generationally. Need to think about next generation of news consumer. From young people to my grandmother who’s great on Twitter.

Chris made good point that this is a broad group of people. 15+ years young to old. More looking at life stages. Beyond life stages, go to interests or psychographic information. It’s tricky when you’re trying to do broad strokes when looking at group in tumultuous points in life.