Viewpoint: Generation Me ushers in digital news era

Watches are fashion accessories; we can check the time is on our cell phones. One-on-one conversation involves Skype, Facebook chat, or text messages. If we get into an argument, our cases are legitimized by looking up YouTube videos on our smart phones that are now outdated because they were purchased last month.

The fast-paced age of digitalization and globalization is the environment millennials are growing up in. So where does that leave newspapers?

Everything is making the shift to online material, and newspapers are in a transitional phase needing to keep up with the times and attract a new demographic that is vastly different from previous generations and consumes news at half the rate 18- to 25-year-olds did 20 years ago. Many newspapers have gone out of business, lost millions of dollars from attempted website launches and crumbled due to corporate greed. Attracting the readership of the next generation with disposable income has now become more crucial than ever.

Today, newspapers must retain readership of 18- to 25-year-olds by strategically appealing to “Generation Me.” The generation’s trademarks include self-centeredness, impatience and the tendency to seek pleasure and gratification before work (Dr. Jean M. Twenge authored the book “Generation Me” in 2006 and is widely known for coining the term). The New York Times is the leading model most actively seeking the 18-25 audience. Other newspapers are making advances in the same direction.

Online newspapers are beginning to see the value of customized news applicable to “me.” Facebook is a life force of this generation, and companies have utilized the website to their advantage. Publishers are now able to use Facebook tools as a means to publish relevant information to the newsfeeds of fans in a specified location.

The customization goes even further, as technology can determine interests based on certain articles that the Facebook user reads and the number of “likes” associated with a particular article.

The Washington Post developed Social Reader, a Facebook application shown on the home page of the online news website that allows users to share articles with Facebook friends and see what other friends are reading. From this, a news page is created on the user’s Facebook page with partnering medias such as the Associated Press, Reuters, Mashup and others.

The New York Times has a Facebook “login” option at the top of its online home page. Once readers log in, articles can be shared with a network of friends, and interests can be determined so suggested reading on other articles within the New York Times database is personalized. The New York Times furthers their tailoring efforts through a partnership with Everyblock, a medium that allows New York City readers to stay updated on neighborhood happenings, local restaurant reviews and the latest information on local city officials.

Founder Adrian Holovaty, who worked at the Washington Post before founding Everyblock in 2007, observed the millenials’ “about me” attitude before launching Everyblock.

What Holovaty noticed is relevant news demands attention from a demographic with the millennial mentality. Through the integration of social media and localized context, The New York Times and The Washington Post are understanding the demand and making efforts to reach a desired demographic with that need.

Impatience is another large component of the makeup of the millennial mentality. With today’s technology, fast information is an expectation. If one source doesn’t have it, another one will.

The New York Times places the time when an article was posted directly under the article illuminated in red. If a reader is able to see “25 minutes ago,” or “3 minutes ago,” the information is more justifiably up to date. The Washington Post, New York Times and other large publications offer constant news feeds to Twitter and Facebook, which is another way readers receive the latest news.

Media outlets also must cater to “Generation Me’s” impatience through presentation. Multiple platforms solve the long article drear and give a news story life, added angles and better coverage to keep the consumer engaged.

The Washington Post ran a story recently covering and fact-checking 2012 presidential candidates. The coverage includes two short paragraphs of text followed by three two-minute videos (Obama Care, Economic Crisis, and Apology Tour). On the same page, short descriptions of relevant articles and links are available for further information on a more specified subject discussed in the presidential coverage.

Short and concise is key to holding readers’ attention. The Daily Beast offers condensed news stories that take only a moment to read but still have the investigative power and credibility of Newsweek behind them. That is a perfect example to catering to the needs of today’s market.

The days in which newspapers were delivered to every front porch are over, replaced by news delivered to Facebook pages. The New York Times, through research, trial and error and advanced usage of technology is a leader in the crusade to win over our generation. Journalism and newspapers are not dying. They are simply fighting through a transition phase to appeal to advancing market.

Jessica Foreman is a senior communication specialist major from Loveland, Colo., and is a reporter for the Lariat.