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26 . 10 . 23

Selling newspapers to Gen Z

Words by: Print Power
With the overload of channels and information, opinions and fake news, hallucinating AI, media literacy becomes increasingly important.

In the developed world's digital age, news consumption is a staple of everyday life for those aged 16-40. An overwhelming 79% of Americans in this demographic group engage with news updates daily, utilising an array of both traditional and modern channels, including social media.

Interestingly, a recent study by the American Press Institute revealed a demand presenting all sides, diversification and neutrality in news reporting, alongside a crucial emphasis on accuracy. However, the onslaught of information online appears to be taking its toll by creating digital fatigue and an environment ripe for the spread of misinformation, an issue that 90% of the study's participants identified as a significant problem. An alarming 70% admitted to falling prey to such misleading information. Consequently, compared to a similar study from seven years ago, this group of Gen Z and Millennials is showing less enjoyment of news consumption.

Media literacy development has become an urgent need among this group. One successful initiative addressing this problem is led by Kelsey Russell, a 23-year-old US-based Masters student, who has garnered a significant following on TikTok. She shares her daily learning from reading the New York Times' print newspaper to 70,000 followers, who have shown their approval with 4.7 million likes.



Russell's motivation lies in her belief that her generation, Gen Z, has a desire for media literacy skills. Despite being the generation with the most information access, they feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to place all of it. Russell's TikTok series provides a solution by retelling the news in an engaging and relatable way, with the goal of making intelligence attractive: 'make smart sexy".

The same American Press Institute study found that 30% of American participants aged 16-40 reported feeling worse the longer they stayed online. Moreover, 27% reported setting limits for their online time. Russell believes that reading print media gives people control over their own time.

With a focus on making print media "cool" again, Russell suggests using what already exists and works, such as the influencer model and celebrity culture. She also believes that Gen Z's interest in newspapers stems from the desire to find something they can't find on social media platforms like TikTok. While Russell's initiative illustrates the potential for reinvigorating interest in traditional print media among younger audiences, it also underscores the importance of media literacy in an era characterised by information overload and the prevalence of misinformation. 

"Print media gives us the opportunity to sit down, and decide when we want to feel the emotions we want to feel, rather than letting some arbitrary algorithm decide how we should feel".
Kelsey Russell
TikTok content creator

Below are the key points from the interview in Slate magazine

1. On me-time, control and pace

'If you read an article and it’s emotionally distressing, and you’re able to recognise that it makes you feel sad and frustrated, you can then do something to make yourself feel better.
When you read print media, you give yourself that space to feel those emotions compared to if you read something online and then you immediately switch over to Instagram … and then you go on Twitter … and then you go on Facebook … and then a CNN notification comes up on your phone. With all those distractions, those emotions no longer belong to that blocked-out time period. They are now convoluting your schedule, your work, the fact that your mom just texted you that something’s going on with your grandparents—it’s just too much for your body to handle. Print media gives us the opportunity to sit down, and decide when we want to feel the emotions we want to feel, rather than letting some arbitrary algorithm decide how we should feel'.

2. On how to make newspapers cool 

'It’s kind of funny and ironic to say this, but I think social media is the way to do it. Let’s be real. I think one of my favorite things about our generation is how unserious it is. How easy it is for us to fall into trends. This is going to sound crazy—but I think celebrity culture is the way to change it. Make it trendy.
You know the tube girl trend right now? What if that was a trend of girls having a magazine on the train and reading it? I think it’s about using what already exists. Let’s use the influencer model. Let’s use celebrities. Let’s use what works and implement print media into their lives. That’s what’ll make it cool again.

3. On why Gen Z is interested in newspapers

'Gen Z doesn’t want to read the newspaper to hear about what they see on TikTok. They want to go to the newspaper to find things that they can’t find on TikTok or to check some random fact that they think they heard on TikTok.
I just think it’s about them giving Gen Z what they want, even if it might seem kind of silly at the time. It matters to us. We want to know that the echo chamber of print media cares about what we’re thinking about.

"You need voices from Gen Z. We need a Gen Z Oprah"
Kelsey Russell
TikTok content creator