Topics & themes

Research on advertising’s larger topics and themes from audience attention to measuring effectiveness.

Generation News

Generation News explores newsbrand habits in a connected age, and provides evidence that that those habits are stronger and greater in number than ever before. In a world saturated with news, the role of newsbrands as a trusted lens on the world is more important than ever.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that we live in an increasingly digital age. There are more opportunities to consume media content than ever before. Newspapers have evolved to become newsbrands, expanding out from the traditional print format to tablet, mobile and online formats.

Despite these developments there is still a mistaken belief that young people don’t read newsbrands, in particular the printed version, and that older people are purely readers of the printed version, not ever looking at digital versions. It is as if young people don't ever form the newsbrand habit and older people don’t change existing ingrained habits.

We know from NRS PADD data that newsbrands reach 4.8 million 18-34's every day and 13.5 million of them every month. The corresponding figures for 50-65's are 5 million daily and 10.6 million every month.  

When Newsworks partnered with the University of Bath and research companies Flamingo and Tapestry to explore newsbrand habits in a connected age for our Generation News project, we instinctively knew that the myths surrounding newsbrands and the generations would need to be dispelled. 

We used an innovative mix of ethnographic and quantitative research, and found five new newsbrand habits. Importantly, we used a methodology for measuring the existence and strength of those habits, developed by Professor Bas Verplanken of the University of Bath and Sheina Orbell of the University of Essex. This methodology, which uses implicit questioning techniques and addresses the manifold features of habits, has been validated in numerous academic studies over the last decade.

Key findings

Young people still form strong newsbrand habits, despite facing a far more cluttered news landscape than previous generations did at their age. 74% of 18-34 year olds turn to newsbrands to get a balanced point of view and 78% agree their newsbrand introduces them to stories they wouldn’t otherwise read.

Millennials are more likely than boomers (50-65 year olds) to exhibit their news habits on digital devices - allowing them to 'snack' on news throughout the day - and have developed different routes of accessing newsbrands. For example, 73% of 18-34’s agree they visit a newsbrand website to get more information when they see an interesting story on social media.

While there are some generational differences, the overall newsbrand habits of millennials and boomers are more influenced by engagement and interest in news than by their generation groups.

Over one million 50-65 year olds read a digital newsbrand daily (NRS PADD April 2014-March 2015+comScore 2015) and enjoy the speed and ease with which they can access news, while also indulging in newspapers. Yet unlike their children, boomer's newsbrand habits are more centred on specific times of day.

For both generations, the saturation of news in a multi-platform world has strengthened the role of newsbrands as providers of 'real' and 'professional' journalism. Similarly, there is a cross-generational appreciation that newsbrands provide a sense of satisfaction and 'a lens on the world' by telling you what you need to know and no more.

The research identified five news habits, which transcend both millennials and boomers:

  • Fix - access news constantly, prompted by a general need and state of distraction
  • Track - access news regularly throughout the day to keep up to date with breaking stories
  • Fill - access news to pass the time when moving from one place to another
  • Indulge - making time to enjoy the news as a break from everything else in the day
  • Invest - read the news regularly to get an in-depth perspective on stories

While the habits are universal, millennials are more likely to adopt the Fix and Fill habits and boomers have more time to adopt the Indulge habit and – to a degree – Track and Invest.

Find out your habit using the News Addict quiz.


Scratching a constant itch for news


Routine: It's a constant, any time you've got a spare second.

Reminder: It's prompted by a general need and state of distraction – and often you just find yourself doing it without realising, any time you have a spare second.

Reward: It fills time, provides a break and distraction, fuels conversation.

Generations: Accounts for 27% of Millenials newsbrand habits and 17% of Boomers.

Platforms: The strongest platform for PC and mobile, but four in 10 occasions are print.


Keeping yourself informed about the news


Routine: Happens at regular points during the day, keeping up to date with breaking news.  Dosing on little hits of lifestyle news.

Reminder: Focused on downtime or dead time, taking a break or being at a loose end.

Reward: Easy to find, interesting articles are the goal, helping you meet the need states of relaxing and being in the know.

Generations: Accounts for 33% of Millenials newsbrand habits and 37% of Boomers.

Platforms: Digital devices provide quick and easy access to breaking news, print provides updates on ongoing stories.


Moving from one place to another, using news to pass the time


Routine: Most common whilst commuting, provides just enough content to get you switched on – or switched off – for the next part of the day.

Reminder: A regular prompt based on your daily practice of moving from one place to another.

Reward: Raises a smile while filling the time and inspiring you for whatever follows.

Generations: Accounts for 29% of Millenials newsbrand habits and 8% of Boomers.

Platforms: Mobile is the strongest digital platform for this habit, although print accounts for almost six in 10 occasions.


Making time for yourself to enjoy the news


Routine: The news habit most associated with enjoyment, taking some time out to read the news.   

Reminder: Centred around a break from everything else in the day.

Reward: Interesting articles with a strong point of view are the key here, in a ritual that helps you relax and unwind.

Generations: Accounts for 8% of Millenials newsbrand habits and 23% of Boomers.

Platforms: Print dominates this habit, accounting for over seven in 10 occasions, with online the next strongest.


Surrounding yourself with an in-depth perspective on the news


Routine: The print paper over breakfast is the classic example here, with lots of content being consumed – finance, sports and local news in particular.

Reminder: A regular activity, a conscious decision to find out more about a news story, to get an in-depth perspective, to be surrounded with news.  

Reward: The chance to immerse in news, finding something interesting to fuel a leisurely conversation.

Generations: Accounts for 12% of Millenials newsbrand habits and 15% of Boomers.

Platforms: Print is the main platform for this habit, with the remainder of occasions split across digital devices.

This study shows that newsbrands remain as addictive across generations as they have ever been, with young people relying on them as much as their parents do for a balanced and informed view.

Bas Verplanken, professor of social psychology, University of Bath

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