Generational News Preferences: The Pressing Need for Newspapers to Prioritize Digital-First Strategies

The 2023 Local Newspaper Study has been released and it provides compelling evidence that redesigning newspaper websites to cater to digital first audiences isn't just an optional upgrade – it's an absolute necessity.

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By Lee Egstrom & Aiden G. Robinson

There’s something undeniably powerful about the touch and smell of a freshly printed newspaper. The way it folds under your fingers, the crisp sound it makes as you turn the pages – it’s a sensory experience deeply ingrained in our culture. However, as comforting as this nostalgia is, the future of news consumption is not just about the rustle of newsprint. The study reports that “63% of readers access local news through both print and digital newspaper platforms” and a full “66% of Americans access newspaper content from a smartphone” which means the many newspapers who have embraced a digital-first strategy are staying more relevant to their audiences.

Decoding Generational Preferences

Let’s delve into the surprising insights in The 2023 Local Newspaper Study to understand the evolving news consumption habits and preferences across generational divides.

Gen Z (18-24)
While social media takes the top spot for news consumption among Gen Z at 54%, the study reveals that a substantial 45% rely on daily news websites, debunking the myth that the youngest generation is all about social media. Breaking news emails trail at 33%.

Millennials (25-39)
Millennials, true to their reputation as digital pioneers, equally embrace social media and daily news websites, with both platforms garnering a 48% and 45% preference, respectively. Breaking news emails are also popular among this demographic, with a preference rate of 37%.

Gen X (40-59)
Gen X, often considered the “sandwich” generation, clearly prefer daily news websites, with a 47% preference rate, according to the study. This preference overshadows breaking news emails (41%) and home delivered daily papers (37%).

Boomers (60-74)
Baby Boomers also underscore the importance of a strong online presence for newspapers, with 43% preferring daily news websites. Breaking news emails and home-delivered papers are also popular, with 38% and 31% preferences respectively.

Silent Generation (75+)
The Silent Generation maintains a fondness for the home delivered daily paper (40%). However, the study highlights that even among this demographic, daily news websites are a close second at 38%, with breaking news emails right on their heels at 36%.

What Do These Numbers Mean for Newspaper Publishers?

While each generation has its unique preferences, the common thread running through them all is the significant role of newspaper websites. These platforms are not just surviving but thriving in the digital age, reflecting a robust demand for credible, reliable news sources. The study proves that the newspaper’s role in society is far from over.

The time to invest in a digital-first strategy is now. It does not matter if you are trying to reach the social savvy Gen Z or the the Greatest Generation. The time for ensuring you have a cutting edge engaging, user-friendly, and responsive website is now.
As indicated by The 2023 Local Newspaper Study, sponsored by America’s Newspapers, the Inland Press Foundation, and the SNPA Foundation, a well-designed website is a crucial part of your newspaper’s future.

Don’t just ride the digital wave, lead it.

Make your website the primary platform for your readers, and ensure your newspaper remains an integral part of their daily lives, regardless of their age.