Making dollars and sense of millennials

They’ll spend US$5,000 per year on tech media and telecom, but won’t pay pennies to pass through a magazine or newspaper paywall.

Are they mad?

No, they are Millennials – your new readers who are expected to control $1.4tn in spending power by 2020. So you better learn to “speak Gen Y” if you want to win their favour to further your financial future. 

Millennial image PressReader ()

But how does a publisher connect with these Baby Boomer (i.e. people born between 1946-1964) babies and build long-term relationships when many of them think working seven months in the same company constitutes loyalty? 

It’s really quite simple – give them what they want. And what they want is content that is.


Digital natives are blasted with more than 5,000 marketing messages every day and have become experts at ignoring content that adds no value to their lives.  

So when it comes to these engaging elusive echo boomers, it is critical that your content be tailored to their cultural and social interests. Typical demographic data such as age, geography and education is obviously an important consideration, but if the content is not culturally and socially relevant, they’ll ditch it the moment you pitch it.

Five years ago generational separatism was largely driven by technology. But that digital divide is decreasing as Gen X, Baby Boomers and their parents integrate more mobile and social technologies into their daily lives.   

What hasn’t closed is the content crack. Today, Millennials spend 30 per cent of their media time (over five hours per day) with content created and curated by peers and trusted sources they follow on social networks.  

They voraciously devour video, prompting Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research to assert that one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. Meanwhile their parents continue to consume more professionally-created content and spend twice as much time in front of the TV.

Other forms of media (e.g. music and movies) had to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of consumers and so must magazines. Millennials are not your traditional readers, so it’s really important to learn what makes them tick if you want them to click.  


ComScore recently provided audience data for media sites favored by millennials and compared them to legacy publications. To no one’s surprise, BuzzFeed reigned supreme in terms of absolute numbers.

Publications and their millennial readerships ()

Why? Because BuzzFeed makes sharable content a publishing priority. BuzzFeed feeds the needs of those who are 3.6 times more likely to share content on social than any other generation. Why do you think BuzzFeed loves lists?   David Letterman may have popularised lists for Baby Boomers on the boob tube, but BuzzFeed took them to the next level, productising them as ‘listicles’, just begging to be shared.

But don’t think that adding a Facebook or Twitter share icon to your content is enough. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to social sharing. What Millennials share and where they share it varies by subject matter. So make sure you diversify your social portfolio to ensure your content is always connected to these cross-channel consumers.

Cross channel content sharing ()

Figure 1: Cross-channel content sharing

Millennials don’t take what’s written as ‘the word’; they believe in what’s shared by those they trust. Sharing means caring, so start caring about creating content that connects Gen Ys through your news.


To maximise discoverability and revenue potential, your content must be everywhere your readers are, in whatever format they choose; and it must be frictionless.


In the pre-millennial era, traditional distribution channels were reasonably effective at generating revenue and audience engagement, but they are no longer enough to sustain either in this over-crowded and highly competitive market.  

Today’s news consumers engage with content through many non-traditional channels such as social media, free news aggregators (e.g. News360), newsstands (i.e. iTunes) and revenue-generating aggregators (e.g. PressReader). To reach millennials where they read, you need to be on all of them.


With Gen Ys, every minute is a mobile moment, so make those moments count with content that is 100 per cent cross-platform. Millennials are the largest segment of smartphone owners in the US and UK and close to half them also own a laptop, smartphone and tablet. 


North American millennials are forecasted to spend $62bn on media content in 2015, so accusing them of not willing to pay to play is as crazy as a publisher erecting a paywall without considering the impact on their target audience.  

Digital natives expect instant, seamless access to content shared with them by those they trust. The moment you raise a requirement to register or worse, a paywall, in front of that content, is the moment you’ve lost profit potential.  

Think play before you pay with these prospects and get them hooked with content that entertains, educates, enlightens and engages.  

Keep them coming back for more with quality content they can’t get anywhere else. Give them a reason to care about your brand and be an advocate through sharing.  

Soon you may find that the more they ‘play in your publication’, the more likely it is that they will ‘pay for the privilege’.


NewsCred: The Millennial Mind: How Content Drives Brand Loyalty by NewsCred 

Ultimate Software: Is There Really A Generational Divide At Work? 

Ipsos MediaCT: Social Influence: Marketing’s New Frontier by 2014

MarketWired: A Minute of Video is Worth 18 Million Words, According to Forrester Research

Comscore (Digiday): Turns out traditional publishers do just fine with millennials

ShareThis: New Consumer Study: Millennials are 2X as Likely to Purchase Products They Share About

Nielson: Mobile Millennials: Over eight per cent of Generation Y Owns Smartphones 

Journalism UK: Ofcom report: 30 stats on smartphones and internet use

Marketing Charts: Half of US Millennials Own a Laptop, Smartphone and Tablet

More like this

Economist’s Paul Rossi on Millennials

Vice: targeting millennials with hip video content

Millennial expert Lindsey Pollak’s message to magazine media

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