News organizations are seeing a massive increase in subscribers because of millennials desperate to see past the influence of “fake news.”
An FKD Feature exclusive

All information about millennials paying for news has been the same: millennials do not want to pay for news. Now, this narrative is getting turned on its head — due to millennials learning to use subscriptions and their shared hatred for President Donald Trump. There’s been a “Trump bump” experienced by U.S. news publications, and millennials are leading the charge.

Are millennials really paying for news?

According to a report from the Reuters Institute, out of the more than 70,000 surveyed in 36 countries, only the U.S. saw an increase in people paying for online news. The percentage of people who pay for their news rose from 9 percent in 2016 to 16 percent in 2017. Millennials are the group that saw the most significant leap. In the last year, the number of 18 to 24-year-olds who pay for online news rose from 4 percent to 18 percent, and from 8 percent to 20 percent among 25 to 34-year-olds. Together, these two demographic groups make up 30 percent of the total market.

During this period of time, subscriptions for old media outlets rose significantly. In the United States, overall payment for news, including one-off payments and donations, increased 16 percent. Digital subscriptions rose 8 percent during this same time. The New York Times added approximately 500,000 new digital subscribers, others such as the Wall Street Journal added as many as 200,000 subscribers, and The New Yorker added around 250,000 subscribers.

Magazines such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic, which tend to skew to an older crowd, have seen a rise in millennial traffic. The New Yorker says it has seen a 106 percent increase in subscribers 18 to 24, and a 129 percent increase in subscribers 25 to 34. The Atlantic says it has seen a 130 percent increase in subscribers 18 to 24 in print and digital combined.

Getting the Trump bump

Election coverage in the U.S. played a large role in the sudden rise in subscriptions. Some people were elected because social media users were sharing fake news. Fake news can fall into three categories — news that’s invented to make money or discredit others, news that’s based on fact but spun to fit a particular point of view and news that people call fake because they simply don’t agree with the facts. With the president constantly discrediting organizations such as CNN and The New York Times, people are finding it harder to trust their news sources.

The study shows that those on the left in the U.S. were more likely to trust news organizations — 51 percent of those on the left trust the media compared to 20 percent of those on the right. The data also shows that the growing number of subscribers were likely to be young and left-leaning. One of the reasons more people are subscribing is to encourage honest journalism — 29 percent of responders said they were paying because they “want to help fund journalism.” It also helps that The New York Times and Washington Post keep dropping bombshell stories about the current president that will practically force you to get a subscription to keep up with all the information.

The president isn’t the only reason for rising subscription; the other reason is Netflix. Well, not just Netflix but also other media subscription services such as Spotify and Hulu. People in the U.S. are five times more likely to pay for online news if they if they were paying for other subscription services. This data also puts the old trope of young people not wanting to pay for news to bed, showing that millennials subscribe to digital news at higher rates when compared to other age groups.

Takeaway: Millennials are willing to pay for quality news reporting

Shocking as it may be, millennials have shown that they are willing to pay for quality news. The rise of fake news has created a ton of mistrust of the free news sources that live on social media. The increased scrutiny towards news sources led millennials to flock to news organizations with established reputations, which have seen a surge in subscriptions, especially digital subscriptions. The rise of digital media subscription services has normalized the subscription model for the millennial consumer. Millennials recognize that sometimes you really do get what you pay for, and as a result have become willing to spend money on subscriptions for quality content, including their news.

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Header image: Adobe Stock


Posted 11.07.2017 - 11:00 am EDT