The last two years have been like no other. COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our society and will continue to have long-lasting effects. One such change – particularly of note to the marketing and PR industries, and anyone promoting their own brands and businesses – is how young audiences choose to consume broadcast news.
In recent years, the Reuters Digital News Report has documented how fewer young people are using traditional news sources such as television and radio, and how they are getting more of their news from social media. Generally, news organisations have been struggling to remain relevant to a generation that has grown up with the distractions and diversions of social media.
However, during the pandemic, the general public – young and old, male and female – found themselves tuning into the same programmes to find out the latest news updates. Such levels of united broadcast consumption have only been seen at major events like royal weddings, elections, sporting events, or following major celebrity deaths. In 2020, OFCOM reported that the BBC, ITV, STV, Channel 4, and Channel 5, achieved their highest combined monthly share of broadcast TV viewing – and that younger viewer made up a large proportion of this.
Even as the immediate threat of the pandemic fades, there is still plenty of opportunity to utilise these new levels of engagement via the medium of broadcast. This includes capitalising on an audience that stereotypically hadn’t been ‘interested’ in the news.
How did Young People Engage with Broadcast During this Time?
Whilst social media is generally assumed to be the best way to reach young people, research by OFCOM in 2020 showed that, during the pandemic, this age group actually engaged more with broadcast news outlets than with social media (an increase of 3% on Facebook, 4% on Twitter, and 3% on Instagram).
This is likely because the news became a guidebook on issues impacting real day-to-day life, rather than reporting on more remote issues. Years of research have shown us that the role of news for young people appears primarily individualistic; it’s about how they can relate to it personally, and what it is providing for them as individuals. As the pandemic had an immediate impact on their lives, it was to their benefit to tune in each day to hear the latest updates or be temporarily entertained by light-hearted relief on the TV or radio.
Prior to the pandemic, most brands assumed that the way to target young people through broadcast was to appear on the likes of Kiss and Capital FM – stations specifically designed to appeal to a younger crowd. However, the latest data interestingly shows that only 13% of 16-24s listen to Kiss FM for news, and 27% to Capital FM.
Instead, 16-24-year-olds are tuning into the likes of BBC One (TBC), ITV (51%) and Sky News (33%) instead. The BBC and Sky are now putting more time, money, and effort into attracting a younger audience, whilst CBBC and BBC2 are both running daily schedules of secondary education content – encouraging more young people than ever to consume broadcast media.
Whilst the pandemic is largely responsible for this rise in younger viewers, there is perhaps another reason for this increase – one that’s relevant even as the pandemic becomes less prominent. Over the last couple of years, there have been some incredible role models dedicated to inspiring future generations. Whether it’s 19-year-old Greta Thunberg fighting for climate change, 24-year-old Marcus Rashford pressuring the government to feed children from disadvantaged backgrounds, or 31-year-old Dr Alex George pursuing awareness around mental health, young people often find themselves leading the news agenda. These people have encouraged a whole new audience of younger viewers.
It’s clear that broadcasting is engaging more role models who are in tune with the issues young people care about, and connecting them with their content and news agendas. All of this begs the question: are brands and businesses following suit?
How to Reach a Younger Audience via Broadcast
A new report commissioned by the Reuters Institute, Oxford University’s research centre on global media, found that “overall, young people would like traditional media to be more accessible, more relevant, and more entertaining – but they are clear that they don’t want the news to be dumbed down or sensationalised”. The key to achieving this is having an awareness of what young people are doing and looking at.
You’ll most likely be aware of the huge growth of TikTok throughout the pandemic – a personalised video feed based on what users watch, like, and share. The success of this platform has demonstrated that interesting, real, short and fun video content is a key way to engage a younger audience. TikTok is an incredibly visual medium, just in the same way as television. So, what does this tell us about engaging a younger audience through TV broadcasting? Primarily, it’s that footage should feature strong visuals and concise narration that engages its audiences.
The same Reuters report tells us that a younger person’s experience of news should feel as easy and accessible as Facebook and Netflix – something that largely comes down to how the content is presented. As such, you should think about the opportunities that B-roll footage presents, and how you can creatively use your spokespeople and vox pop to produce engaging content. It’s also important to consider that many young people are likely to be consuming broadcast content on their smartphones or tablets, so the footage should be configured to these smaller devices. This means centring subjects in the frame for vertical videos and using close-ups rather than wide shots.
Video on social media has always been a solid route to reach younger audiences, but it’s also important to consider how techniques from social media can be applied to broadcast. For any campaign, consider providing the TV outlet with a longer-form version of the content that you might have used for TikTok. Particularly with TV having relaxed many of its rules around spokespeople being in the studio and many interviews being conducted over Zoom, you have more scope to consider how you might use your assets to best appeal to a younger audience.
Who is the best person within your company to talk about the issues young people are interested in? On that note, have you considered representatives, celebrities or spokespeople that would appeal to a younger generation? It’s these kinds of considerations that will diversify your broadcast content and make the most of younger people’s interest in news updates, opening you up to an entirely new audience.
There is no doubt that the way younger generations consume broadcast news has changed over recent years, with the advent of smart devices and social media. However, the pandemic has shown that there is still a massive audience within the under-30s age bracket when it comes to broadcasting, and there are many opportunities for brands and businesses to engage with them if they are willing to make the effort.
The best way to do this lies in looking at the other platforms that are succeeding – such as TikTok and Instagram Reels – and applying their principles to your broadcast coverage. Fun, engaging and snappy features, using relatable spokespeople – whether that’s across TV or radio – are sure to interest younger audiences and make them take note of your brand.
Author Bio: This post was written by Broadcast Revolution, a specialist broadcast PR agency that provides services including podcast production and video content creation for broadcast campaigns.
 Broadcast Revolution
 Broadcast Revolution