While selling digital news subscriptions to Millennials remains difficult, research by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, suggests there’s reason to be hopeful for the future of paid media among Millennials.
Free sources of digital entertainment and news are abundant, and, as digital natives, Millennials are most equipped to navigate this free content landscape. Still, the Media Insight Project insists, the vast majority of Millennials ages 18 to 34 (93 percent) use significant amounts of paid content, whether they personally foot the bill or someone else pays for them.
The research comes out of a larger report on Millennials as news consumers released earlier this year. Previous analysis of the report also highlighted the key differences in how Millennials engage with news according to their age.
Millennials are more likely to use paid entertainment content like music, movies, television, and video games, but 53 percent report regularly using paid print, digital or combined format news content. Forty percent of Millennials report paying for news content out of their own pockets. Millennials over 21 years oldâ€”those most likely to be on their own and out of schoolâ€”are twice as likely to pay for news as younger Millennials.
â€œA younger adultâ€™s willingness to pay for news is correlated with his or her broader beliefs about the value of news,â€ The Media Insight Project says. â€œThe people who want to stay connected with the world, who are interested in news, and who are more engaged with news on social networks are the most likely to be willing to personally pay for news. That â€˜news orientationâ€™ is the biggest driver of a personâ€™s willingness to pay for news, more so than a personâ€™s age or socioeconomic status.â€
While young peopleâ€™s engagement with paid digital content is promising, only half of Millennials who say keeping up with the news is important to them personally pay for news services. Publishers still struggle to develop business models to reach the next generation of news consumers, with print publishers winning out slightly as Millennials prove more likely to pay for print magazines over digital magazines (21 percent vs. 11 percent). Millennials are also more likely to pay for print newspapers than online newspaper content (15 percent vs. 10 percent). Even Millennials who pay for news rely heavily on free content sources like Facebook and search engines.
Despite persistent obstacles, the Media Insight Project asserts, â€œThese basic findingsâ€”Millennials do regularly use and often personally pay for news contentâ€”challenge the notion that Millennials believe everything on the web must be free.â€