Editor’s Note: This was originally an academic paper I wrote in APA style for a class during my studies in Strategic Communications. However, it holds weight for why comedy should be taken very seriously when it comes to delivering news topics to younger generations effectively.
What is the Most Effective News Format for Millennials?
A meme pops up in your Facebook feed. It makes a bold claim about a presidential candidate that seems questionable. You make your way to YouTube and a comedian cracks jokes about an opposing candidate on a satirical news show. Are these reliable sources of information? Is our youth a victim of “fake news”? Growing technology use is an inevitable part of modern society. Amidst this fact, the common spread of misinformation across the internet has caused public concern among older generations (Brandon, 2019). The assumption that Millennials are misinformed about today’s affairs is a popular stereotype (Stein, 2013). This is partially due to the fact that major news outlets are heavily ignored by Millennials and Generation-X viewers who turn to YouTube and Facebook for their news (American Press, 2018).
Although the platforms through which younger generations consume their information is atypical to previous generations, studies have shown that younger demographics are highly resistant to false headlines and viewers aged 18-36 who choose to watch satirical and parody comedy news shows are surprisingly much more informed than their older counterparts who mostly turn to mainstream news sources. In exploring how younger generations retrieve their information about current events and which style they prefer, the research reveals that the comedic news format via streaming media platforms is the most effective way to communicate world affairs to Millennials.
How Younger Generations Get Their News
Older generations are used to getting their news from major media outlets, such as CNNand FOX. Millennials and Generation-X viewers obtain their information about current events in a non-traditional way. Streaming platforms, such as YouTube, are the main source of news for American Millennials; a boastful 83% of participants in the study (American Press, 2015).
Second to YouTube, in popularity among Millennials, is Facebook. In a UK study, 72% of the Millennial participants said they got their news from Facebook (Reed, 2018). Although there is misinformation on Facebook, it isn’t the Millennial Generation that is falling for the fake headlines. The Baby Boomer Generation shares false news seven times more than Millennials (Gebel, 2019). No matter the credibility of the sources, online platforms is the main way Millennials get their news.
Preferred News Format for Ages 18 to 36 Years
When exploring digital platforms comparable to major media outlets that produce live broadcast news, YouTubeis used as a measuring tool. Included in this research is the type of news programs, subscriber count, and median age demographic of viewers. The news channel listed as having “the most YouTube subscribers” at over two million is CNN. However, this doesn’t mean that younger viewers are tuning in. The median age for CNN viewers is 61-years-old (Berr, 2018). It also means that Generation-X and Millennials aren’t subscribing to standard news channels on YouTube.
The top ten most subscribed YouTube channels of 2019 were either comedic or entertaining in nature (Martindale, 2019). The Comedy CentralYouTube station, which hosts the online channel for the news satireThe Daily Show, currently has over eight million subscribers to date — four times that of CNN— and The Daily Showchannel has over five million subscribers, three million more than CNN (Comedy Central, 2019). Satirical news channel Full Frontal with Samantha Beehas hardly seen three years since its first episode and has almost one million subscribers (Busis, 2016). Clearly, comedy news channels have much larger followings than major news programs, but are these subscribers younger, older, or a combination of different age demographics?
When researching the age demographics for programs in comparison to CNN’s 61-year-old median, the results are telling. The age range accounting for the highest percentage of those who watch Comedy Central is 18-29 years (Statista, 2018). The median age for viewers of the satirical comedy show The Daily Show is 36 years old and the median age for viewers of the parody news show The Colbert Report is 33 years. Even major networks with non-comedic forms of opinion television news were similar to CNN’s age demographics. NBC Nightly News, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The O’Reilly
Are Comedy News Consumers Properly Informed?
Comedy news shows aren’t generally considered a reliable source of unbiased and factually sound information. These shows are considered a form of entertainment (Bode, 2014). However, Generation-X and the Millennial Generation retain more information when they are being entertained (Kipnis, 2004). The main reason The Daily Showwatchers tune in is for entertainment (Gottfried et al., 2015). The production prides itself on deviating from usual news sources by never claiming to be an actual news source, with its slogan being, “The World’s Fakest News Team” (Radio Public, 2018). Despite this, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Study reveals unexpected results. The Daily Showfans are the most knowledgeable consumers of national and international affairs compared to supporters of all other major media outlets including primetime broadcast news, online publications, and radio. Last on the list? Fox Newsviewers. They scored the lowest (Pew, 2018).
Millennials and Generation-X viewers care about what is happening in the world. Based on a study conducted by the Media Insight Project, 85% of Millennials say that keeping up with the news is “at least somewhat” important to them (Gottfried et al., 2016). In another study, conducted by a National Annenberg Election Study, The Daily Showspectators made top of the list, once more, for correctly answering questions about Presidential candidates compared to viewers of major national news outlets (Annenberg, 2015). Viewers of the satirical news show The John Oliver Showalso had the highest familiarity with net neutrality rules compared to major news network fans (Bode, 2014). So, despite comedy news shows delivering their information in a non-serious – and sometimes biased – format, viewers of this style retain more knowledge about current affairs than those watching major news networks.
The Most Effective News Format for Millennials
Comedy news delivered through streaming platforms may seem like a far-fetch way to successfully deliver important world affairs to large masses of viewers, but it has proven to work. Despite the overwhelming amount of misinformation on social media, studies have shown that Millennials are resistant to false headlines. Their critical thinking skills have proven to be stronger than the Baby Boomer Generation, ages 55-77 years, who are much more likely to believe the misinformation being dispersed online (Gebel, 2019).
According to subscriber rankings and median age demographics, younger generations prefer comedic styles of delivery for news compared to older generations, whom mostly consume news from major media outlets (American Press, 2015). Furthermore, despite zero claims by comedy news outlets to be a reliable source of information, studies reveal that comedy news watching Millennials are more informed on national and international affairs than their older generation counterparts (Bode, 2014).
Since the comedic news format, distributed through online streaming platforms, has proven to be the most effective way to deliver information about world events to younger generations, there are ethical responsibilities to major media networks to adapt to the changes for how news is watched. To keep up with the evolution of how the next generation of adults