Reading, watching, listening, and… swiping: the way Centennials consume news
It is pretty much unlikely that young people will visit the newsstand, even on a Sunday, to get their favourite newspapers and magazines (provided that is that there is a print edition), go home and turn the pages while having a nice cup of coffee with toast. All they have to do is reach out to their bedside table, or closer, to their pocket, to get their smartphone and start the day by checking their social networks in order be informed about what is going on in the world. It is very likely, as well, that they do not turn on the television, and if they do, it is to open a catalogue of audiovisual content on demand, which takes up a good part of their entertainment time.
The paradigm shift concerning information consumption is evident: the Spanish General Media Study points out that the consumption of written press between 14 and 24 years old is decreasing year after year since 1997, dropping from 21% to 18.5%. Does this mean, however, that the younger generation (Millennials and Centennials) have stopped wanting to know what’s going on in the world? Not at all, the production of news must instead keep up with the changes in the way of accessing it. The more appropriate question is: has the media been able to adapt to the new platforms to inform its audience?
Slide for more information
Since time immemorial, all new things have generated scepticism, and social networks are no exception. Traditional media has been adapting to each platform while other publications native to this environment have emerged. Twitter threads, stories and swipe ups, or directs on Instagram and Twitch, are just some examples of the journalistic possibilities available today, which will probably become obsolete when we reread this blogpost in a year’s time.
Emilio Domenech is a representative example of a millennial journalist. While Twitter seems to be his natural habitat, Instagram is the repository in which he shares his work in top level media such as La Sexta and Newtral, and Twitch, the ideal niche in which to lay the foundations of a way of doing journalism. Also noteworthy are the examples of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who surprised everyone by joining an online stream of a famous game of Among Us on Twitch to ask for the Democratic vote in the American campaign, or the Spanish government, which has just landed on TikTok to approach the younger public in their efforts to raise awareness of the risks of Covid-19.
All in all, social networks offer us almost infinite possibilities to be informed. Young people have not only replaced paper with portable screens but are also moving towards new formats in which interactivity is key. A keyboard, a camera and a microphone open a range of possibilities with which to connect with any user worldwide, such as an American congresswoman in a streaming video game session.
Talking without opening your mouth
“The situation known as mass culture takes place in the historical moment in which the masses enter social life as protagonists and participate in public issues,” states Umberto Eco in his work Apocalypse Postponed. This whole context is not only a trend that shapes the habits of an entire generation: it also sets a precedent for the consumption of information from now on and, therefore, for the functioning of PR in the most immediate future.
There is no way of knowing for sure what will happen, but with all these ingredients, it seems that screens will become even more important in our social relations, and also the contact between brands and consumers, agencies and journalists, or fans and superstars. Probably, if our past selves saw some of the TikTok dances of 2020, they would be surprised, to say the least. What will 2021 surprise us with? We’ll have to be on the lookout with our phone at hand to witness it.