reflections 300 youngaudiencesCall it junction, call it focal point, call it … cross roads, maybe? No matter the name, “young audiences” and “news” are the two key success factors for every media when they work on their strategy for the future. Regional televisions are not an exception.
Both young people and news content have been in the focus of CIRCOM Regional’s most important forum for years. But it was only recently when we deliberately looked into how they (inter)relate. During the last two Annual Conferences we dedicated special sessions to this issue. We approached it on a large scale to get the overall picture, but did not stop only to have the general framework. Also, there were first hand evidence of success stories in quest for the best way to “make it work”.

In 2022 in Galway Prof. Dr. Alexandra Borchardt, distinguished media expert, teacher and author, challenged the myths about young people and their attitude to media. Next year in Donostia-San Sebastian Konrad Collao of Craft pictured the GenZ in all their diversity and their complex understanding of “news”.
Today young people do not consume broadcast media in the traditional way. That is for sure.
Do we, the media, be it the regional televisions in Europe, have the hold on them? No way.
Do they like us and do we serve them? Sometimes yes, sometimes – no.
Should we play the blame game? Definitely not.
So, what is the problem and where do we go from here?

At the 2022 Annual Conference Alexandra Borchardt pointed out to the contradiction: “Journalism is still really good in doing the news of the day, keeping you up to date with what is happening… But what is journalism not doing well – it is not really providing people with the topics that are relevant to their lives” . At the session Young Audiences she talked about the necessity for media to “get into the heads of young people to change the perspective” and reflect the society the way they are, in their diversity.

Younger generations are not indifferent, they are very much value driven and want to understand the world around them, she said. Fast forward, the next year at the Annual Conference Konrad Collao went on and reflected on three types of news consumers, the three of them driven by different motivations. “Local news actually cuts across these groups more than most (other groups)”, he said at the session News and Young Audiences. “Because most people want to know what is happening around the corner. And despite the fact that we are told that “GenZ is a global generation, they are all cosmopolitan … Actually, young people live very local life”. And they approach news in a practical way. Food for thought about news in regional television media ...

So, what should be the preferred news for the young then? “The News” (old school political, economic, social etc.) or simply “News” that is to say “news is everything new and of interest”, no matter the aspect of life? Konrad Collao explored the answers, you can watch it here. Also, young people are open-minded and – yes, they want to know the solutions of the problems. They are drawn to constructive news, pointed out Alexandra Borchardt. And yet, there is the worrying trend of news avoidance. One reason for this is trailing topics with no solution in site. Another, even more frequent one, is news fatigue for similar reasons. Young people tend to get tired of ongoing events whose coverage will not end any time soon. Why it is so? One of the answers is – young audiences do care about their own mental health. Think about the “if it bleeds it leads” rule – not the case anymore. Again, food for thought, this time for media in general...

Needless to say, there is no easy answer when it comes to the news consumption itself. Digital media abound with information and the Internet offers so many distracting factors. How a generation risen in the age of Web 2.0 would cope with these? The social web has impact on the way GenZ consume news, it defines their understanding of what news is, their trust in information in general and in those who deliver news content. Despite the assumption that today audiences and users define the rules of the game, in fact isn’t it the news that finds them, not they find the news?
Dare to challenge the perception and defy it? Why not!

This is what Sophia Smith Geller did. With a background in traditional television and radio broadcasting (BBC) several years ago she moved on to the realm of social networks. She quickly became successful Tik-Tok creator while being a senior news reporter at Vice World News. At the Annual Conference in Galway Sophia told how did it feel and what did it take to plunge into this type of content and get huge audiences. At her disposal is a whole branch of formats – news explainers done straight on camera; explainers of her own articles; in situ reporting etc. She argued that the social media ecosystem defines the visual grammar and the editing and look that comes with it. Some of the pro’s and cons of bringing Tik Tok to your workplace, she said, were that it fostered collaborative working culture, allowed for creative freedom, while at the same time it would be necessary to protect from online abuse and to work closer with the IT guys on computer and networking security. Finally, treat Tik Tok as seriously as you treat broadcast, concluded Sophia Smith Geller.

Nowadays reaching out to young audiences is put firmly in the context and the ecosystem of social media. In 2023 at the Annual Conference in Donostia-San Sebastian Nella Etkind, Head of Studio at the South-African company Seen, raised the curtain how did things look from inside? Nella shared the secrets of making videos that go viral and get billions of views for their content (yes, you got it right – billions of views!) . “We don’t have massive teams and spend little money”, started Nella and got straight to the point “We tell stories that help diversify narratives and create more empathetic understanding about the world around us and hopefully try and make it a better place”. Develop the right strategy, work on the right story told with the visual language of social media, focus on what makes you specific (that’s what marketers call “find your unique selling proposition”) – these were some of the features of the successful communication with young people. To get to the top it would be needed to work with formats and personalize the storytelling. “It is not about how it looks, it’s about what it says. It’s about what it means”, explained Nella Etkind and continued: Make your audience your creators! Learn from your analytics data, study them.
And last, but definitely not least – look ahead! Look into the future!


Watch the session Young Audiences at the 2022 CIRCOM Regional Annual Conference in Galway, Ireland. The Conference was hosted by TG4, the Irish language broadcaster.


Watch the session News and Young Audiences at the 2023 CIRCOM Regional Annual Conference in Donostia-San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain. The Conference was hosted by EITB, the Basque Radio and Television.