Saturday, May 4, 2013

Keynote speaker discusses media engagement of millennials

Keynote speaker Paula Poindexter of UT Austin addresses conference-goers. Photo by Melody Mendoza

By Laura Garcia

The University of Texas at Austin journalism professor Paula Poindexter gave a keynote speech Saturday about the importance of engaging the millennial generation.

The future of the media industry depends on it, she said.

“Is news engagement a thing of the past?” she asked the crowd of student and professional journalists.

If so, she said working journalists are part of the problem.

Her new book, “Millennials, News, and Social Media: Is News Engagement a Thing of the Past?” was the topic of discussion during lunch at the Region 8 SPJ conference at the Marriott Plaza hotel in San Antonio.

Poindexter said she studied her own journalism students and conducted a National Survey of News Engagement to determine how engaged young people are in the news.

She found that the age group of people born from 1983 to 1999 are less interested in the news. They are more diverse and less religious too.

Facebook consumed their time and while Facebook engaged millennials, the news media ignored them.

She said 39 percent of millennials said they seek news daily compared to 75 percent of babyboomers.

Poindexter cited a Pew Research Center study which 29 percent of 18-24 year olds said they read no news the day before they were studied. This makes them the most uninformed age group.

Find Pew's news consumption statistics here:

Will the millennials follow their parents and start to consume more news?

“I say not.”
UT-Arlington student Krista M. Torralva asked Poindexter how to include uninformed students as sources in news stories. Photo by Laura Garcia

She explained that on the rare occasion that millennials are the topic of a story they are rarely quoted or used as a source. Unless it’s a crime story.

She said it’s that perception that is hurting news media’s relationship with the millennial generation. How do journalists try to engage with younger readers?

“Each and every one of us has a responsibility to get this generation interested in news,” she said.

She suggested regularly including millennials in news coverage and not just when it’s time to do back-to-school coverage. She said news outlets should appoint a millennial advisory board and not wait to do it.

Poindexter said that journalists need to be aware of how their stories look on the website on smartphones, tablets and laptops. It’s important to make sure the different formats work for their audience.

She also suggested a solution that wouldn’t be very popular with publishers: waive online subscriptions for young consumers. The paywalls discourage younger readers.

“You are setting up a wall to never get this generation,” she said.

She said every social media product a news outlet puts out should be thought of from the millennials’ perspective.

Check out the Millennials and News Facebook page, which aggregates news coverage of millennials, she said.

“I hope that at the very least I raised your awareness,” she said.

She added that campus newspapers need to really look at their paper’s website.

“Don’t piss ‘em off because they’re not coming back.”

San Antonio pro chapter officers Eva Ruth (left) and Vianna Davila listen to Poindexter's speech. Photo by Laura Garcia

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