Want to engage Gen Z? Here’s how…

Passive readership leaves us alienated, warns Joel Griffiths, 20, on placement with Deep South Media during his second year at Bournemouth University. Joel, studying multimedia journalism, makes the case for better online interaction from mainstream media.


Joel Griffiths

As much as the term Generation Z makes my skin crawl, I fall into that bracket comfortably.

According to The Ripon ForumInstagram, Facebook and Twitter amounts to a staggering 66% of our primary news consumption (Jan, 2018).

While this statistic doesn’t fill me with jubilation or pride as a training journalist, I can understand why.

For me, being a passive reader doesn’t hold any remote appeal and when I find myself out of two-way interaction with a news article, the experience feels dated.

Whether this is an automatic reaction because of the social media conditioning is another debate entirely, but I think it’s a sentiment most 20-year-olds can relate to.

When I use the term ‘passive reader’ I’m referring to a piece of media theory which explores the concept active vs passive consumption.

Being passive is when the audience doesn’t engage or question the media message but just accepts it, like reading a column in The Guardian.

The active audience theory argues that media audiences do not just receive information passively but are actively involved, more like reading that same column in the Guardian online, commenting and sharing it on social channels.

Simply put, if mainstream media outlets want to appeal to my generation, two-way interaction is key.

In a western society, a young reader is no longer just a consumer.

They are a prosumer, whose role is to share, comment on, like or dislike the content that major outlets produce.

It’s a culture shift which I put down mostly to growing influence that globalisation is having on every aspect of our lives.

Almost like it’s our duty to influence others rather than be influenced by professionals. Again however, that is a wider debate about the diminishing gatekeeping powers media outlets have as technology advances.

Whilst social media has given my generation of consumers brilliant opportunities to escape passive readership, I appreciate that it is not the best place for a primary source of information.

A space which is full of clickbait, fake news and listicles is the beginning of a long line of problems with the statistic I mentioned at the start.

Yet I still see the majority of my news on Twitter before the BBC.

Even making a conscious effort to listen to Radio 1 bulletins or watching the evening news feels like a laboured process in comparison to opening your twitter app.

I appreciate that I am talking about the broad spectrum of ‘mainstream media’ and ‘social media’ as if they are mutually exclusive, which they aren’t.

The Guardian, Sky and BBC all distribute news exceptionally well, in fact a lot of the times when I do scroll through Facebook it is a link to a BBC article that I will look at.

The point I’m driving at is that every publication should follow this model.

Creating an online social space that has quality journalism and quality opportunities for interaction is the way to target people of my age.

The next issue of course is maintaining that social space with the age old problem of people.

With increased audience interactivity comes all sorts of problems.

Hateful comments, harassment and abuse come with the territory.

The challenge for mainstream media is managing, maintaining and evolving consistently so that my generation have an ideal platform to consume media and the ability to fulfil their role as an active participant.

What I’m saying here is nothing ground-breaking, perhaps common knowledge in 2018, but overlooked nevertheless.

To target Generation Z, don’t be patronising. Allow us to interact with content and maintain quality reporting.

What’s your view? @DeepSouthMedia #news #GenZ #socialmedia #interaction