local media insider

Here come the Millennials: Nine things you need to know

Alisa Cromer
Get ready for new ideas and a lot of sharing.

Millennials, or people born roughly between the years of 1980 and 2001, represent a new market for local media. As employees, readers and advertisers, they are  now about 11 to 31 years old and entering the work force and consumer base on masse. Here's a summary of actionable takeaways followed by an full analysis; 

•Millennials will expect and appreciate greater geo- targeting, email segmentation, and opt-in choices. Amazon's behavioral targeting is now the best example of this new expectation.

•Build platforms that not only allow sharing of snippets,  but also use direct Facebook API's to deliver information from friends, and twitter feeds. 

•Pay attention to the  design of interfaces (they expect quality) and customer service.

•As employees they has less respect for hierarchy but will offer a variety of good ideas to improve how things are done. That is they will "see" and suggest improvements intuitively, let them! 

•Find your social media advocates and get them on your digital strategy teams, even if they are not managers.

Here's a full discussion that includes information from the  2010 Association of Alternative Newsweeklies' online conference.  Alt weeklies have good reason to address this group as both an audience and employee pool:  Their market is supposed to be youth-oriented but is in reality composed primatrily of 40ish genx'rs.  What's happening in the next few years is  a "tsnunami of Millenials" making their entry into the workforce, according to Scott Cotes, of YPulse.   A combination of Xers having kids early, boomers having kids late and immigration, has created a boomer-sized spike in the population.

This group is now staffing not only the majority of entry level positions in local media companies, but also seats at the table of digital strategy teams. 

So who are they and how to tap into their energy and talent? Here is some analysis from Cotes, and what this may mean for local media:

1. Millenials, like other new generational groups, seek to correct the excesses of past. In the case of the "lost generation" of x'ers, they raised their own, Millenial, children with special attention and care. 

That also means, that  when Millenials "balance out" the excesses of their GenX and boomer parents, they criticize them (us!) as too individualistic, selfish and even provencial given the multi-racial, sexual and ethnic nature of this emerging generation.  Coming full circle,  Millenials may actually be most like the GI generation in values:  They seek to reinforce community, bond with parents and grandparents, and make postive change. 

2. In terms of local media employees - and consumers - Millenials  are also the first generation to be more technologically advanced than their parents. Often as teenagers they are multi-media and multi-taskers, already CTO of the house.  Though one  high-school teacher pointed out that passively consuming via multi-media is not nearly the same as creating it, high schools today rely heavily on group projects rather than individual study sessions to get the job of education done, reinforcing this tendency.

So, while the PC is a GenX phenomenon, ("we are going to sit alone and make stuff happen"), millenials are more Facebook and  social networking oriented ("together we are going to do this.")  Their currency is "likes' and "friends." They like to do things "en masse" and as a herd. 

3. Specialness. Since GenX - and late-blooming boomers - coddled their kids, these young people have been treated as precious commodities their entire lives. And they expect institutions, marketers and brands to take notice of them. They also expect products to be finely crafted and hand woven for their personal consumption.

This means that personalized options and the ease of the user interface are going to be hyper-important to this audience.  The "Good is enough" mantra of the Newspaper Next project will no longer be enough as this audience gains dominance. Expect to be required to solve  poor design issues and get into behaviorial and other kinds of targeting to win competitive situations. Facebook "likes" may win out over Yelp's anonymous recommendations. More programers will need to be on staff to tweak and personalize communications. 

As employees Millennials are "can do" players who will want to propose a lot of  ideas. It can be challenging at first for employers because they also expect their ideas to be heard and acknowledged, and they need to see where their career is going.  If not, as the most connected generation in history, the top people will "network right out of their current workplace."

4. Sheltered. "This is the generation of Amber Alerts and Baby-in-back" -  and to some degree, failure to launch.  As employees they idealistic, but need direction and coaching especially on issues of group process that are rapidly replaying hieraarchal structures.

As an audience they will gravitate towards  idealistic,  value-oriented issues, charitable causes that promise  positive change.  

As employees, encouraging a sense of mission and give them interesting tasks with a lot of step-by-step feedback. If you don't supply the instruction they will think the company - not their own performance - is lame. 

5.Confident.  These are extremely self-assured people, even if inexperienced. College graduates  have often accomplished more than their parents did in terms of juggling work and school, while participating in rich social networks. So they will advance ideas in groups with confidence. The upside is an influx of new and better ideas, the downside is the need to groom how ideas are fed and processed through the company. Meetings with agendas, jobs that have mission, task and goals will get the most out of Millennial employees. They will also be interested in your company's "brand" and want to know that it, too, is up-and-coming and will make a positive change. 

6. Team-oriented. As audiences Millennials want to share with friends and often will consume information in sharable snippets that are the currency of their social networks. So include  share buttons top and bottom of articles, and pull in Twitter feeds and Facebook API's. As employees, these are world class team players put them on your interdepartmental teams, and let them take on social media projects that they intuitively  understand.  Expect to find them accessing large networks on their own to get better ideas into the group, and to find ways to broadcast to use networks to broadcast your company's initiatives.

7.Conventional.  "Motorcycle companies are struggling with sales  Millenials; they are not the Beat-era individualists interested in expressing personal freedom and sticking it to the man. Instead, they will buy into your company's values and respect authority." Capitalize by listening to and utilizing their ideas, but creating structure and achievable goals.

8.Pressured. There’s scarcity out there for jobs and careers. So, unlike other generations they are entering the workforce at a time when there are multiple pressures on their parents who have been their chief advocates but are often now struggling, and economic pressures from the state of the employment market. As employers you have an ideal opportunity to bring in Millennials with diverse skills, ideas and a natural feel for audience. 

9.  Achieving.  Millennials expect a lot from each other, from themselves and from the products. Deliver on the promise of what you are saying - whether as an audience or as an employer.  Watch the  BS meter - if they get the slightest inkling that you are faking them out they will head for the hills. But the home court advantage is with the trusted brand.  So fill your company with millenials to make sure your media products and servieces will connect and resonate with this group. 

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.

millenials, young audience,


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