Young Subscribers Flocking to Paid News Content

“Why should I pay for news when I can get it for free online?”

Apparently, the Millennial generation has asked that question and found a really good answer, because they are subscribing to paid news services at a faster rate than any other age group.

According to Jason Schwartz in Politico, “millennials are subscribing to legacy news publications in record numbers—and at a growth rate, data suggests, far outpacing any other age group.”

“Since November’s election, the New Yorker, for instance, has seen its number of new millennial subscribers more than double from over the same period a year earlier,” he notes. The Atlantic, The Washington Post, New York Times and The Economist are all reporting similar increases in that age group, blowing away an oft-repeated stereotype.

“Oft derided as pampered, avocado-toast-eating layabouts, millennials have long been seen as unlikely to pay for news,” Schwartz notes. Now, according to a new Reuters Institute Report, we can put that idea to bed.

In 2016, 8% of 25 to 34-year olds paid for news, according to the report. Last year, that figure jumped to 20%.

Why? Schwartz sees two big reasons: 1) increasing discontent with highly politicized online news is making more Americans will pay to support good journalism; 2) services like Hulu, Netflix and Spotify have conditioned younger consumers to pay for the content they truly value.

Nic Newman, the lead author of the Reuters report, noted that 29% of Americans who responded to the survey say they are paying for news because they “want to help support or fund journalism.” Americans on the political left were four times more likely than those on the right to cite supporting journalism as their reason for paying, Newman said.

No doubt the political climate has played a role in this. As the past year has unfolded, we’ve realized just how bad we are at spotting fake news, and younger readers are turning to publishers they trust for the news they consume.  As clickbait masquerades for journalism online, Millennials are getting savvy to it, and searching for alternate sources they can trust. And when they find those sources, they do share it.

“We’ve heard from even high schoolers who share Atlantic content on social media that, when they share the Atlantic, they know that they’re signaling that they’re thinking more deeply and critically about the world,” said Sam Rosen, head of growth for The Atlantic.

Call it the silver lining of all the angst, but journalism should indeed be grateful for this current war on news media. The massive amount of mistrust in the media, while having political overtones to be sure, was largely a self-inflicted wound brought on by a quest for eyeballs via native ads and social popularity.

Now, readers are waking up. Trusted journalism is a foundation of this country, and the only way to have it is to support it. We can all take a lesson from the Millennials on this one.