Pew: younger people actually prefer reading the news to watching it

Well, great news for all those media publishers investing in video in hopes of better catering to young adults: a new study released this week from the Pew Research Center found that younger people are actually more interested in reading the news than watching it. Meanwhile, it’s the older generation who prefers watching the news instead of reading, Pew found.

This to some extent contradicts the popular opinion that, to reach the youngest generation, media publishers have to invest in snappy, short-form videos that they can push out to social media sites like Facebook and Snapchat. While that’s still a valid part of a company’s larger social strategy, it may not apply to how young people prefer to ingest the news of the day.

When Pew asked U.S. consumers aged 18 to 29 whether they prefer to watch, listen or read the news,  42 percent responded “read” versus 38 percent who “watch,” and just  19 percent who would rather “listen.”


Of course, there’s not a huge gulf between the numbers of those who prefer to watch versus those who read, and the news readers don’t hold a solid majority, either. However, when compared with other demographic groups, the younger news consumers are more interested in reading the news than older people, as it turns out.

For example, only 40 percent of those aged 30 to 49 said they prefer to read the news, while only 29 percent of those 50 to 64 said they’d rather read. An even smaller portion – 27 percent – of those 65 or older claimed they’d rather read the news.

Meanwhile, about  half (52 percent) of 50- to 64-year-olds and 58 percent of those 65 and older would rather watch the news, says Pew.

To some extent, this can be attributed to the older generation’s preference for watching news on television, while the younger generation is quickly switching to reading the news on digital platforms and the web.

In other words, it’s the newspapers that are really fading fast here.

ft_16_09_30_newsreadersIn fact, Pew’s study backs this up by asking where people like to read. About eight-in-ten (81 percent) of 18- to 29-year-olds who claimed they’d rather read the news, said they like best to get their news online. Only 10 percent said they’d read a newspaper. The 30 to 49-year old age group reported similar results.

Older news readers (ages 50-64) are more evenly split between reading online and reading the paper, they said, with 41 percent opting for the web, and 40 percent opting for the paper.

While more young adults may be reading instead of watching the news, those who watch are changing their behavior as well, the study found.

More than any other age group – and even doubling the percentage of 30 to 49-year olds, the younger demographic (18 to 29) was found to be shifting their eyeballs to news videos on the web instead of TV. (37 percent watch video on the web, compared with 57 percent who watch the news on TV.)

Also interesting: because of their interest in reading and watching digital news content, Pew’s study pointed out that – even though younger adults have consistently shown less interest in the news in general – when it comes to the digital realm, this group tends to get news at equal or higher rates than the other, older age groups, even unintentionally.

So yes, that means younger people are almost accidentally becoming better-informed simply because they spend more time online. Now, hopefully they’ll all go vote, too.