Traditional news outlets have been warned against “dumbing down” content in attempts to appeal to a younger audience.
A new report by the University of Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has said assumptions about what young people want to read and view can risk making news outlets come across like an “embarrassing parent.”
Researchers studied the news consumption of people under 35 in both the United Kingdom and United states of America before producing the report, which has been published today.
As a result of its findings, the Institute has urged traditional brands to change the “format, the tone and the agenda of what they do” in order to attract a generation who feel news “needs to deliver value to them as individuals, not just for society.”
The report states: “With its vital role in society and cultural heritage, the authority of traditional news brands remains prominent among all audiences. But for younger audiences, news brands’ behaviour either on their own websites or a third party’s is not always in line with the content, format and style of how users interact with each particular platform.
“On social media, in particular, this also means a lack of sensitivity to the role each platform plays in the person’s repertoire of social media apps.
“A news item often appears as though it hasn’t tried to adapt at all to the new environment and therefore does not fit the aesthetic, flow and cues of the platform, so fails to get any attention. Or a news piece on social media can appear as though its sole aim is to get the user off that platform and onto the brand’s website. We know that this audience’s goal is a seamless online experience, so this too is usually successful.
“At other times, news brands risk credibility by trying too hard to fit a certain platform, imitating the style of other non-news brands that have had success there.
“Similarly, on their own news websites, more innovative formats targeted at younger audiences often risk going too far or make predictable and not very engaging assumptions about what the audience wants from news.
“Here, traditional news providers can come across like an ‘embarrassing parent’ by trying to be cool or dumbing down content. Equally, though, if done well, some of these formats have the potential to drive direct engagement. This often means trusting the authority and heritage of the traditional news brand.”
The research underpinning the report was undertaken as part of the Institute’s annual news report published earlier this year.
It monitored young people’s use of a series of websites and news apps including MailOnline, BBC News, CNN and Sky Sports.