It’s A Generational Thing.

It’s impossible to please everyone, and every journalist knows it. Stories will always rub readers differently, and, in some cases, audiences may want to see coverage on entirely different topics or for media attention to be focused elsewhere.

A new poll by Axios/SurveyMonkey offers insight into how generations consume their media, and more interestingly what type of coverage they want to see.

Some results were much more obvious than others. For example, 60% of the Silent/Greatest Generation never gets their news from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, whereas 40% of Gen Z uses those sites to find their news every day. 27% of the Baby Boomer Generation reads a local newspaper daily, but only 5% of Gen Z does the same.

While differences in media consumption between generations were not overly surprising, there were clear generational differences about which issues should be covered more.

Why It Matters

“Of the following topics, which three do you wish were covered more in the news?” — the poll yielded some notable results:

  • 38% of Gen Z respondents desire more media coverage of the environment.
  • The Baby Boomers and the Silent/Greatest Generation want to see more coverage of health care as 37% and 39% placed the issue in their top three topics, respectively.
  • The most popular issue for Millennials was education with 33%.
  • Gen X brought these issues together, with their top three issues being health care (32%), education (28%), and the environment (27%).
  • All generations most closely follow politics and government in the news, yet few respondents from each generation wish to see more. Likewise, few wish to see more celebrity and pop culture news.

The results show that each generation cares about multiple core issues, but they prioritize them at different levels. It makes sense that people ages 13–22 demonstrate such passion when it comes to the environment as they will bear the brunt of the negative environmental effects created by the choices of previous generations.

By the same token, it’s reasonable that Baby Boomers and the Silent/Greatest Generation value health care coverage, as they account for over half of total health spending across the entire population. Knowing this, and knowing how much each generation values these issues, gives the media and all communicators more information to work with when engaging diverse audiences.

Clyde Group Insights

The data shows us that people’s interests change over time; different people want to see different things, and the media has to work with those evolving interests.

As communicators striving to create content that people care about, it’s understandable that we want to feed the audience exactly what they want to digest. But journalists cannot simply report what they know will drive click revenue. Rather, the media has an obligation to tell people what they need to hear.

The media influences what issues we talk about, how we talk about them, and which facts are available. If we push the media to only cover what we want to see, we become ignorant as our conversations become one-sided and our awareness of other important issues plummets. It is detrimental to the public good if the media stops covering topics just because people aren’t interested.

Ultimately, if we want to communicate something important, this Axios/SurveyMonkey data can help us find the correct lens to do so. If we need to pitch a climate change story to an audience of the Silent/Greatest Generation, we need to ask ourselves, “How can I make this into something they will find interesting?” Can we turn the climate change story into a health care concern knowing that their generation seeks that coverage? Or for Millennials, how can we turn a national security story into an education-related headline?

We can use demonstrated interest to increase interaction with areas of demonstrated disinterest. It takes both an understanding of who likes what and a willingness to meet audiences where they are to make sure stories are heard. The media must tell engaging stories on an array of important topics and present all the facts and details needed to make their coverage relevant, impactful, and honest.


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