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“News producers need to take steps now to secure their 2030 audiences”: FT Strategies’ doubles down on the importance of Gen Z 

In two week’s time, FIPP World Media Congress will take place in Cascais, near Lisbon. Alongside a world class agenda, a number of premium event partners will be on hand to assist media companies including FT Strategies, the media advisory and consulting business of the Financial Times. (P.S. there are still just a few tickets left for Congress but don’t delay!).

At FIPP World Media Congress 2024, Aled John, Director, Deputy MD of FT Strategies (and a FIPP Board member), will be presenting alongside his colleague, Ben Whitelaw, Manager of FT Strategies, about the importance of securing future audiences at a time of profound evolution of reader habits.

The session, taking place on the Specialist Stage at 5.30pm on Day One of Congress (Wed, 5th June), unpacks the findings of a 6-month research report entitled Next Gen News (conducted in collaboration with Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern), exploring the news preferences of the next generation of consumers. 

In advance of the event, we caught up with Aled and Ben to find out more about their forthcoming presentation in Portugal, not least how news organisations can reach Gen Z without looking “like your Dad dancing”!

Mx3HQ: At Congress you will be talking about the findings of a 6-month research project exploring the news preferences of the next generation of consumers. What prompted you to undertake this research project and can you tell us a little more about its research parameters?

Aled: Most news publishers are aware of the existing and growing gap between the news experience the next generation wants and what they’re currently being provided. Supported by the Google News Initiative, we sought to better understand the future of news consumption in 2030 with the aim of helping publishers to build closer relationships and more frequent touchpoints with young news consumers today and in the future.

Ben: In practice, that involved doing deep research into the emerging behaviours and modes of consumption for the next generation of news consumers. Our hope is that news producers of all kinds can use these insights to bridge what we call the Ideal News Experience gap. More on that during our session.

Mx3HQ: Without spoiling your presentation, can you give us a few insights about the research’s main findings?

Aled: There were two very tangible takeaways from the report: the five consumption modes we observed in our research interviews and the Ideal News Experience that helps to explain the gap between the existing consumer demand and the supply from the current ecosystem of news providers.

Ben: We have had lots of feedback about how the five modes can help design content and products for younger consumers. But, for me, the Ideal New Experience really illustrates how news producers are missing the mark when it comes to their offerings and provides a framework to think through how to improve them. I’m looking forward to getting feedback from World Media Congress attendees.

Mx3HQ: Did the findings vary by geography, or are Gen Z very much a global phenomenon in the way they consume media?

Aled: We picked three research countries — India, Nigeria and the United States — based on demographic considerations and their importance in shaping global news consumption towards 2030. Across all three countries, we found strong similarities, particularly around the affinity that consumers had towards individual content creators such as David Hundeyin (Nigeria), Faye D’Souza (India) and Plain Bagel (US).

Ben: We also found heavy use of personalised news accumulators that gave consumers control over their experience and provided filtering tools that helped them filter through the noise; for example, the InShorts app in India, which offers 60-word summaries of local news, or Opera News in Nigeria, where daily news is customised into a single feed. Enhancing personalised and customised experiences was one of our six recommendations at the end of the research.

Come and hear Aled John and Ben Whitelaw speak on Day One of the 46th FIPP World Media Congress (5th June, 5.30pm, Specialist Stage) uncovering ‘Next Gen News: Understanding the Audiences of 2030’. Tickets can be purchased here.

Mx3HQ: How are you integrating this research into your consulting work, and if you are able to tell us, how are the FT themselves using these insights?

Aled: We already run programmes on audience diversity and have expertise in identifying and growing valuable audience segments. These are areas that our publishers regularly want to know more about so Next Gen News builds on this thinking.

Ben: As for the FT, we’re lucky to be able to draw on subject matter experts across the newsroom to inform our work. And, like all of the publishers in our network, we share our learnings with different teams across the business and gather feedback that shapes how we think about these challenges.

Mx3HQ: One of the main problems with reaching Gen Z is that, for news organisations, older readers are more valuable to advertisers and more likely to subscribe. How do you balance the need for immediate revenue with trying to attract younger audiences who aren’t as profitable in the near term?

Aled: It’s a challenge that we hear many publishers face. Fundamentally, it’s about building a pipeline of future consumers that are receptive to your brand and product. One very practical way of doing this is by building new and younger audiences into your North Star goal, thus ensuring that it forms part of your core strategy.

Ben: There are some good examples of publishers doing this by creating labs or spin-offs to run experiments; for example, La Voz de Galicia built a team to create humorous health content on TikTok while Mediahuis is using design sprint methodology to create new verticals to help their wider organisation understand the preferences of younger audiences. It’s early days but these are bearing fruit in terms of brand awareness and organisational understanding of the behaviours of this new generation.

Mx3HQ: The Times’ Editor, Tony Gallagher, was recently quoted as saying that “we need to go after younger readers but we don’t want to look like your Dad dancing.” How can news media organisations reach Gen Z authentically?

Aled: Having a segmented view of your audience and catering for different aspects of it is key. This means developing capabilities to listen to audiences, encourage user feedback and act on that within the newsroom. This can really help reach a target demographic, whether younger, women readers or ethnically diverse audiences.

Ben: We’ve also seen publishers on our programmes have great impact with employing and empowering younger talent to reach new audiences. Some newsrooms can be top down in nature but allowing more junior staff to lead audience growth initiatives helps mitigate the risks of alienating the target audience. The importance of internal diversity and empowerment is captured in our four-pillar Audience Diversity Framework, which draws on the Financial Times’ work in this space and best practices from dozens of other publishers. 

Mx3HQ: If you had to select one news organisation or publisher that was doing exceptionally well in reaching younger audiences, who would you name and why?

Aled: Ben and I have mentioned a few already but I really like the trend for spotlighting solutions in the hope of building hope among younger audiences that are avoiding news. Future Crunch (now Fix The News) is a “good news” independent newsletter with 50,000 subscribers, and there’s also Positive News, a magazine that has been around for a while which reports “socially relevant and uplifting stories of progress”. 

Ben: I have to mention Jack Kelly and the team at TLDR News, whose series of YouTube channels focuses on news and current affairs in a format that fits the needs of younger consumers. In particular, I’d call out how it is very transparent and open about who funds their work, both in terms of their ownership structure and revenue sources. Younger consumers tend to be concerned about ulterior motives and being funded by a larger corporation so this is a great way of combating that.


Hear Aled John and Ben Whitelaw speak at FIPP World Media Congress between June 4th – 6th. You can view the event agenda here. (P.S. there are still a few tickets left for Congress but don’t delay!)