How to Write Online News for Millennials

by Courtney Zawistowski

Teenagers reading online content.

Teenagers reading online content.

Ah, millennials, that generation of kids who are glued to their phones, don’t care about anything but Instagram filters, and have no clue what’s going on outside their own little world, eh? Well…not exactly.

Millennials actually care about reading news and staying informed just as much as Generation X or the Baby Boomers. According to the American Press Institute, 85% of millennials say that keeping up with the news is at least somewhat important to them. They also report that 69% of millennials get news daily.

As a millennial myself, I can confirm that we do still care about keeping up with current events, whether it’s coverage of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce, or highlights from the presidential debate; however, we do tend to search for news (or accidentally stumble upon it) in different places than other generations.

 

We also look for particular qualities in what we read. So here’s what you need to know about writing online news for millennials:

Social Media is Key

You guessed it. We’re obsessed with social media. Facebook, Twitter, you name it. According to journalism.org, 61% of millennials get their news from Facebook. They also state that older generations get their news primarily from local TV, but only 37% of millennials utilize it for retrieving news compared to 60% of baby boomers (who are, to no surprise, not on social media as much as we are).

Since relying on local TV for news is decreasing with younger generations, it’s important that your news articles not only be posted online, but that they be posted on some sort of social media site, especially Facebook, the most popular social media site with 1.7 billion active users as of September 2016, according to Statista. Going this route is also beneficial because you can create a Facebook page for your news site (just like any other news source, like CNN, Fox News, etc.). This allows your millennial readers to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ your page and stay informed with anything new you post, keeping them even more in-the-know!

Also, don’t be afraid to include any quick links for your readers to access other articles, social media posts, or apps that relate to your news article or website. (For example, CNN has an app that alerts its downloaders when there’s a new news story).

Take Advantage of Visuals

Whether this be pictures, GIFs, or videos, I highly recommend complementing your news article with at least one visual. As you may have heard, we millennials have those darned short attention spans. This means we like stuff to be short and simple so that we can go back to switching between texting, SnapChat, and Pokemon Go.

We’re constantly stimulated with a lot of different information coming from a lot of different sources, most of which only requires our attention for a few minutes. This is why it’s important to use visuals if they can convey what you’re trying to say a lot quicker than the paragraph or two that it might require to explain something.

You also might have noticed a lot of news videos can be found on Facebook at any time. What’s more is that these videos almost always have subtitles that appear when your phone’s volume is off.

On a similar note, most online news articles are accompanied with a video which covers the same information. These are great, effective ways of combining your written word with a visual. This way, your millennial reader can choose to watch the video, or choose to read the article, depending on how much time or interest they have. (Or if they’re in class and need to satisfy their A.D.D. quietly, which I’m totally guilty of).

Keep It Short and Sweet

This one probably goes without saying. As I mentioned a bit earlier, we millennials have attention spans just long enough to read a Tweet. If you could get your information across in 140 characters or fewer, that’d be the way to go; however, you and I both know that’s rarely doable, so here are some ways to keep things concise:

  • Use numerals instead of spelling out numbers
  • Use short words and abbreviations when possible
  • Eliminate as much fluff as you can—get straight to the point
  • Make use of visuals to replace words

Now that we’ve talked a little bit about how millennials get their news as well as their needs and wants as online readers, you should have a good foundation to build on. But don’t be afraid to do your own research and include any other strategies that you’ve developed based on your own observations and experiences with millennial readers (whether you’re part of that generation or not).

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