Millennials' Media Habits Illustrated by Breaking News

Television faces new challenges in getting the attention of the Millenial adults — those in the 18 to 34 age bracket — because social media is making the way they communicate and share information different from earlier generations of consumers.

The death of Osama bin Laden was big news earlier this month, but less than a third of Millennials said they found out about the terrorist’s death from TV, according to new research from Frank N. Magid Associates’ Magid Generational Strategies unit. Even among those that were home when they heard the news, only about 40% heard from TV.

Instead, Millenials were hearing it from friends and other members of their personal networks who were spreading the news via Facebook, Twitter and other forms of communications.

According to Magid, Milliennials are much more likely to spread the word when they hear about a major piece of news than are members of Generation X or the Baby Boom generation. In the hour after they heard about bin Laden, nearly half of the adult Millennials spread the news. Only about a third of Generation Xers did, as did just a quarter of the Boomers.

As a result, about 40% of Millennials heard about bin Laden from a friend, family member or co-worker, twice the level for Baby Boomers. Millennials were also twice as likely as Gen Xers to find out via Facebook and six times more likely than Boomers.

About seven out of 10 Boomers and six out of 10 Xers got the news from TV.

Millennials were also more likely than Boomers or Xers to text and email others about the news as well as post it on social networking pages and Twitter.

“TV will always have its place, even for the Millennial generation, but Millennials aren’t hesitant to look for alternatives that may better fit with their lifestyle,” said Sharalyn Hartwell, executive director of Magid Generational Strategies. “Millennials will absolutely use whatever source delivers the information they want, in the way they want it.”

While Baby Boomer and Generation Xers mainly stuck to TV and online coverage, Millennials went online, tuned into broadcast and satellite radio and used apps on smartphones and tablet devices.

“A communications lifestyle isn’t something Millennials take lightly,” said Hartwell. “It is important to them not only to be available to their personal network, but to share with their personal network. It was instinctive for Millennials to directly share such big and important news.”

But TV remains king of media when it comes to advertising, she said, although it is becoming increasingly important for marketers to integrate social media into their outreach to younger consumers.

Facebook has become the top media used by Millennials, topping TV, according to Magid, which found that 55% of adult Millennials use the social networking site daily, compared to 52% who said they watch television daily.

For the older generations, TV tops Facebook by a wide margin.

It is female Millennials who are driving the shift to Facebook, with 61% on the site daily compared to 49% of males. (TV usage was similar between male and female Millennials.)

For getting news, local TV news is still the most important source among Millennials, but the margin is smaller than with other generations.

Local Newscasts are used at least once a week by 45% of Millennials, compared to 22% who say the use Facebook at least once a week as a way to get local news. And just 55% of adult Millennials say they would miss local TV newscasts a lot if they were no longer available, compared to 71% of Xers and 70% of Baby Boomers.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.