How Can Publishers Reach and Engage Millennials?

Once a minority in the ‘real world’ population, millennials are the global economy’s new powerhouse. Researchers at Barkley calculate that millennials control $200 billion of direct purchasing powerand the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that they are the largest demographic group in history.

Publishers have no choice but to reach these young adults, but often struggle to implement a successful strategy. Why? Millennials are the most educated group in history and aren’t easy to please. They grew up with the Internet, rarely read their parents’ newspapers, and are setting trends in digital content consumption habits. Not to mention, publishers need to keep bringing in fresh eyes.

In addition to being a challenging landscape for media companies, it’s also one with immense opportunity: as a cohort, millennials are highly educate, love to learn, and are shaping the future of the workforce. Here are key tips to help you reach and engage them successfully.

1) Appeal to their Pickiness

Millennials have a reputation for being picky. But once you strike a chord with them, they’ll stick around for the long haul—in other words, they’re loyal.

Media companies can tap into this behavior by forming strong relationships with their readers. The step forward here is simple: interview audiences in your target market to understand what they enjoy reading and why. This insight will help you develop an impactful, laser-focused publishing strategy, which you can further build upon through the analytics that you’re collecting.

As one Inc article points out, a ‘good customer experience’ and ‘quality product’ are the two most cited reasons for millennial brand engagement. Even though this trend refers to products and services, media companies are no different: your content is a product that needs a strong market fit.

2) Incorporate a Social Component

Millennials are driven by their friends, networks, and peers. Approximately 84% rely on social opinions to guide their purchase opinions, with 51% trusting the opinions of stranger’s more highly than friends.

While this stat refers to brand engagement and performance, it’s equally applicable to publishers and media companies. As a publishing house, your business’s health depends upon viewership and engagement in your subscriber-base. Social media plays a major role in this ecosystem by generating exposure for your content, reinforcing your authority, and helping build trust with your audiences.

Be on the platforms they use. From SnapChat to Facebook, there are a number of social tools at your disposal. Think back to step 1 when forming your strategy: ask your millennial audiences what social platforms they’re using and how they’d like to engage with you. Pay attention to social sharing buttons on your articles, and see which method of sharing is generating the highest counts.

3) Be as Mobile as They Are

Research from Nielsen points out that millennials are the largest segment of smartphone owners. These audiences depend on their mobile devices for inspiration and are taking advantage of every ‘down’ moment to discover new content, particularly through ‘stream of consciousness’ social media feeds.

Publishers need to keep this trend in mind. Mobile isn’t an afterthought—it’s a core part of your UX. If you have a poor mobile experience, you’ll likely frustrate and lose your millennial audiences. This pattern will affect their sense of brand loyalty and in turn, impact your monetization strategy and advertiser relationships.

Not sure how to build the right UX for mobile optimization? Talk to your audiences: ask to interview them in exchange for a gift card or free subscription. Understand what websites they like browsing, and incorporate these best practices into your own media experiences.

4) Appeal to Varying Attention Spans

Given that millennials are highly educated, they’re hungry for information. But they’re often short on time with jam-packed work/life schedules. That’s why they’re finding ‘hacks’ to consume lots of information in very little time. As a publisher, you have quite a bit of control over this process: you’re in a great position to test different formats to see what ‘sticks.’ Try mixing up your articles to include the following:

  • Listicles
  • Videos
  • In-depth articles

Don’t assume that longer is better or that shorter is better either. Success will depend on the context in which your audiences are reading your articles, so make sure to account for this nuance. Another tip: try writing the same piece of content in multiple forms and targeting those different forms to different audiences. You’ll see that targeting plays a big role in your content’s engagement levels.

Final Thoughts

Reach the right audiences with the right messages (and products) at the right time in their browsing experiences. This sentence is the golden rule of marketing–and it’s equally applicable to media companies and publishers. Know what millennials want, and work hard to appease them. They’ll notice and reward you with unbridled loyalty. This is one audience segment that’s worth the effort.

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Article first found on kcarlin@hubspot.com (Katie Carlin)

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