Publishers looking to connect with the millennial generation of digital natives need a different approach to win their engagement and loyalty than they do with older generations.
Older consumers of media, particularly those who grew up in the era of print newspapers and magazines, have a different way of reading and different views on masthead loyalty than younger readers.
Where older readers may identify with a masthead which they feel reflects their values and – in some way – their identity, younger readers don’t necessarily see publications.
For them, it is – to repurpose an old 1960s expression – more about the medium than the individual message. And to modernize that phrase, today's loyalty is to an experience rather than to a brand. It is a trend that heightens the importance of the user experience.
Factoring in Facebook
Perhaps this trend comes from a world growing up with Facebook feeds, where the content is algorithmically curated or comes from friends, and is drawn from a diverse and often expanding universe of sources.
This is very much understood at Nine Entertainment, the diverse media company which has emerged from the disruption of the traditional Australian media.
For many years, Nine Entertainment was exclusively the free-to-air television network operated by the Packer family. But since their departure and the ensuing turmoil, the company has re-emerged as a diverse conglomerate with a significant digital presence across multiple websites.
The way to win younger audiences is not through one title but through multiple mastheads.
Today, Nine Entertainment runs its television network, traditional newspapers after taking over the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age, and a growing stable of digital assets targeting younger consumers.
In this space, there is a recognition that the way to win younger audiences is not through one title, but through multiple mastheads.
Who cares about media cannibalization
A look at the stable, built up through the acquisition of several successful media startups, reveals several assets attractive to millennials. There is the Australian version of pop culture blog site PopSugar, news site Pedestrian.TV and its spin-off Pedestrian Jobs, along with Gizmodo, Lifehacker, and video gaming site Kotaku.
The underlying premise is that old fears about cannibalizing the audience are increasingly meaningless in the modern context.
There is little hope of keeping a set of millennial eyeballs on one site for any length of time; it is pointless to even try. Much better to provide them with a range of content because they are going to move between sites anyway.
Nine Entertainment has been slowly reorganizing its portfolio of sites into a new arm of its business, rationalizing staff and resources. It is also consolidating them into a greater whole, which offers not only a wider choice to consumers but cross-sells opportunities to advertising clients.
Meet the publishing creatives
Pedestrian.TV, for example, has become something of a go-to news site for younger people.
The journalists there largely re-write the news of the day and give it a distinctive tone and voice. But this then operates as a platform for sponsored campaigns and content from advertisers to co-exist alongside the news, a strategy which shows – once again – that old-style banner advertising is dead.
In this new model, Pedestrian functions less as a publishing house and more like a creative agency, as the company’s chief executive Matt Rowley recently told trade press in Australia.
Targeting millennials needs significant work in the user experience (UX) area, to make sure navigating and loading was smooth and fast.
“Our strategy is far from just focusing on the once voice,” Rowley told AdNews.
“It’s taking all these other voices we have across the group and almost putting them on steroids by injecting them with this unfiltered creativity that Pedestrian is so famous for.”
Nova’s lesson was about a multi-channel approach. Its first iteration of Goat was mobile-only, a decision predicated on the fact that mobile was the most popular channel for its millennial audience.
Soon, Nova found that it needed to expand its channels and target its audience wherever they were. So, it did content distribution to different devices.
Nova consolidated all station sites around Australia into one, made it faster to load, and added a consistent radio player. Users can listen to Nova radio while reading content across different Nova sites.
All this required significant work in the user experience (UX) area, to make sure navigating and loading was smooth and fast – because if it wasn’t, Nova knew that the audience would switch over in frustration.
So, where Nine Entertainment is looking to hold a millennial audience across several mastheads, Nova wants to read the individual listener through multiple channels and provide both audio and written content at the same time.
Maximizing the gaps
Other publishers have been watching what is happening in the millennial space and are starting to tweak it for older audiences.
Val Morgan, for example, is a longstanding name in cinema advertising in Australia and New Zealand and is now owned by the Hoyts cinema group.
Under the leadership of a former Pedestrian.TV executive, Morgan launched a digital platform called The Latch. It is aimed at affluent Australians over 30 with a mix of cinema content with lifestyle and wellness.
The company claims to have identified a gap in the market for audiences over 30. It also understands that many of the millennials now browsing Pedestrian.TV will be looking for something different in time.
All of which shows that while it might be in the doldrums, the media industry is busily reinventing itself in the digital age, with the user experience the core driver for success.
Photo credit: iStockphoto/dusanpetkovic