Research Insight

Millennials Hate Traditional Media. Or Do They?



If you scan recent media headlines or listen to common assumptions, you’ll hear that the Millennial generation could care less about the news. You’ll see that Millennials, often defined as people between 18 and 33 years old, aren’t watching television or reading newspapers. You’ll read that radio is dead and magazines are history. You’ll read that Millennials are not like other generations, and if brands and companies want to reach them, they need to focus on social media engagement because that is where they are spending their time. The problem is that many of these headlines and assumptions are wrong. Millennials consume content and news in much the same way as everybody else, with a few exceptions.

Let’s look at a few specifics.

  • A recent MPA study showed that 93 percent of Millennials have read a magazine in the last 60 days
  • Recent Arbitron data shows that 93 percent of Americans over the age of 12 still listen to AM/FM radio at least once per week, with the Millennial generation increasing their radio usage while other generations are falling
  • The newest Pew State of the Media Study found that 23 percent of Millennials read a newspaper yesterday, which is not that much lower than the general population
  • A new Deloitte study shows that watching TV is still the #1 media activity for Millennials overall, and they are watching more TV than ever before, although listening to music tops TV viewing for the younger Millennials, and overall Millennials are watching more TV online

One thing I have learned from my research of the Millennial generation is that for every study proving a point there is likely another saying the opposite. But the insights above do show us that we have not yet entered a world where everything has to be digital to reach Millennials. While it’s true that Millennials over-index in areas like viewing TV shows online, getting their news from online sites and spending more time on social networks, I do not believe we are yet to the point where engaging Millennials requires a dramatic shift in approach. A lean towards digital is smart, but the primary lesson that I see for marketers today is that there is no silver bullet to reach a Millennial audience. The best approach is one of “surround sound.” Our Edelman 8095 study of 4,100 Millennials found that most use four or more sources of information to help them make brand purchase decisions. Marketers should employ a healthy mix of traditional media and new media engagement to communicate to Millennials.

Rather than focusing on new channels to try to reach Millennials, use “surround sound” but more importantly focus on telling more interesting brand stories. Focus on your content and message. Communicate real and interesting product benefits. Show how your brand/company/product offers value to Millennials. Have an authentic voice. Inject humor into your brand when it allows. If you do these things well, Millennials will help spread your brand message for you, and you won’t be chasing the elusive answer to what the right channel is to engage them.

Alex Abraham is a senior vice president at Edelman and the director of the 8095® Millennial Insights Group. Follow him on Twitter @alexbabraham.

  • ” 93 percent of Millennials have read a magazine in the last 60 days”

    This is surprising!

  • It is funny how rational thought prevails in this study. Are millennials one dimesnional consumers? I don’t think so. The fact is no one is a one dimensional consumer unless you are so disconnected from reality to believe that one channel is vastly superior to another. There are countless studies that show marketing diversity (a MIX) is the smartest way to reach any defined segment. There are very few examples of sustainable one dimensional media efforts. And they are few for a reason.
    Bravo on another intelligent piece of insightful research that makes complete sense!

    • Mark – Marketers often over-think their approach to reach specific audiences and to your point, lose sight of common sense. There is no “silver bullet” to reach them. If we rather focus our energy on creating interesting stories and offering value, then apply those via a diverse marketing mix, I think we’ll find more success. Thank you for the comment – Alex Abraham

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