Media

Millennials Surprisingly Prefer News Articles Over Videos

By Noah Waldman October 17th, 2016

If you’ve just fired every writer at your company and replaced them with vloggers and cinematographers, it is with a heavy heart that I must announce you’re not going to reach as many millennials as you think.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 42 percent of adults aged 18 to 29 prefer reading the news, compared to 38 percent who prefer watching it and 19 percent who prefer listening to it.

This trend is far from a death knell for video, which continues to grow at an exceptional rate. But Pew’s study, along with last month’s Wall Street Journal report that revealed Facebook was critically overestimating video metrics, may suggest that the increase in video is more about supply than demand.

In July, researchers at the Reuters Institute came to that same conclusion in their report, “The Future of Online News Video“: “So far, the growth around online video news seems to be largely driven by technology, platforms, and publishers rather than by strong consumer demand.”

According to the respondents who don’t watch news video, 41 percent of people think that reading articles is faster and more convenient than watching a video, and 19 percent feel that video doesn’t add anything to written news. (Thirty-five percent also cited pre-roll ads as deterrents.)

It seems that digital video is best suited for either big breaking news stories or short, soft content that can be taken in without sound. The appeal of video is sensory. People following breaking news might like video because it allows them to retain information with a visceral sense of immediacy, bringing them closer to an important story. Conversely, if you’re interested in a soft news story that’s relatively trivial, video lets users quickly and silently consume information without a large cognitive investment. (It’s also worth mentioning that if videos include captions, they straddle the line between watching and reading.)

Other than reading being faster, the study doesn’t give much explanation to why people prefer text, but it doesn’t hurt to speculate a little. Text is a medium that requires active participation, so perhaps audiences would rather engage with complex stories than have a video spoon-feed them information. Text allows people to consume at their own pace and lets audiences develop opinions on their pace instead of keeping up with the speed of a video.

Video may be everyone’s favorite medium at the moment, but these studies are a sound reminder that text isn’t dead. And eulogies that say otherwise are a bit premature.

Image by Unsplash / CC Zero
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