Why target Gen Zers, and how platform initiatives help

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Targetting content to individual platforms is seen as the way to reach the youngest audiences, who are "the future for news".

That was the conclusion of speakers at a Digital Media Asia forum which had set out to discuss ways of creating shareable, viral content for millennials.

Two initiatives from Indonesia and Malaysia which have been recognised in WAN-Ifra competitions got a special mention from the organisation's young audience consultant Aralynn McMane during the Singapore conference.

McMane, who now helps news organisations and nonprofits build young audiences through her Connections consultancy, says the life stages people go through are more relevant than categories such as millennials or Gen Zers. "Lifestages include firsts, such as first day at school, joining the school band, first formal, first pay cheque and so on," she says, emphasising the need to build a group's trust.

"The Jawa Pos went into print first for this group and has dream numbers of 14-17 year-old readers, which is creating a ready-made 'walled garden' of them for such issues as first car, college courses and a daily poll on questions, which are gradually getting more serious."

They are also strong Instagram users.

Another publisher notable for this age group is Star Media Group, whose R.AGE site provides a real journalism school for young readers, teaching them to write and create videos for viral and social audiences. "They see doing journalism as cool," she says. "Both came from young start-up style units with freedom to innovate," she said.

"If you understand the life-stage needs of your audience, you will attract their trust. Teach them how to sift and navigate content, and you will build affection for your brand."

McMane says influencers for this age group are at their first life stages, and print is having "an amazing renaissance" in teaching kids in this way. "Don't forget this age group," she urged, "it is the only way to have a future audience for news."

CNN Digital Asia director Marc Lourdes claims blanket coverage from teens on Kik to over-50s watching TV, for what he says is the most followed brand in the world. With TV channels, digital platforms and apps, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and messaging apps Kik and Line, "our audience is everywhere" with content tailored for each platform.

Lourdes says CNN is experimenting in delivering on developing technologies such as Apple Watch, "future-proofing ourselves to where audiences will be soon".

Sub-genres have been created for news which are easier for audiences and advertisers to look at, and having found from the US election that millennials' appetite for news had returned, it realises that "viral means real hard news".

A VR platform - with its 8.6 million video starts and live-streaming of the recent solar eclipse - is focussed on the experience, and a further innovation is a drone unit which had flown 320 missions in 400 hours of flight time. It's a "powerful new way to do professional journalism", along with the new Great Big Story brand for sponsored content based on quality storytelling "beyond the news".

"We have recorded 128+ million views across 80+ countries, for an audience of high income earners aged around 29 with an even gender split," he says. Content is viral and shareable for the young audience, and Lourdes says CNN does not look to social media to "drive traffic back to us", meeting its audiences on all platforms.

From IDN Media, a specialist Indonesian multimedia company for millennials and Gen Zers launched three years ago, chief executive and editor-in-chief Winston Utomo emphasised the importance of craft in attracting a young audience: "Creating viral content means focussing on pre-writing, writing and post-writing content with humour and entertainment and including categories such as travel and money," he says.

Stories need to have primary and secondary targets - "never say you are writing for everyone," he advised - and need the right platform chosen for them. "Write the content for each one, with headlines that are clickworthy, not clickbaiting, using emotional strong words which give 90 per cent of the pull.

If it is to be shared, a story needs to boost a feeling of identity, entertainment, relevance or emotion, and consideration given to what sharing it would do to a user's social currency. Utomo cited a story with sexual content - potentially a high read - which is a low share because sharing would lower the sharer's social currency among recipients.

All of that said, Utomo admits it is hard to monetise mobile, and most of IDN Media's revenue still comes from print.

Maggie Coleman

Pictured: CNN's Marc Lourdes - figures count

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