Technology’s influence on young adults-more commonly referred to as the generation that is obsessed with their smart phones-is well documented. As the media tide steadily goes digital, many fear that news has become just one of the thousands of random elements in a social media feed.
However, this could not be further from truth. Most surveys conducted recently point out that reading is most certainly not dead-or at least not the news. We live in an era where information literacy is vital, be it in workplaces, educational institutions, among friends and surprisingly, even on social media. The 18 to 30 year olds who now form a large majority of the global workforce are well aware of this fact and they habitually absorb a blend of current affairs, lifestyle news and handy news one can use.
The preferred news sources have visibly shifted from the mainstream ones like newspapers or the radio to newer sources like applications which curate different newspapers, e – newspapers, social networking sites and collate reports summarising them in a few words. In fact, they could be absorbing news at far higher rates than the older generations, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
According to a recent study conducted by Paperboy, an online newspaper and magazine aggregator, among 22 to 34 year olds in India, around 58 per cent said that they rely on their smartphones and tablets to read the news. A mere 8.9 per cent said that they read newspapers. However, 51.2 per cent of the respondents considered newspapers as the most reliable source of news and preferred reading them online.
The biggest advantage of being able to access the news on these electronic devices according to the respondents is that they can read the news at their own convenience. However, 34 per cent have also said that they prefer to skim through various news sources regularly throughout the day to stay updated. The breaking news feature which appears as a notification on most of these applications also enables users to read the entire news report within minutes of the actual event if the headline catches their eye.
For the older generations who have grown up reading newspapers, the habit of reading the paper with their morning cup of tea is a matter of routine as well as nostalgia. This does not hold the same reverence for media consumers in the 10s’, 20s’ or 30s’. Reading the newspaper is widely considered a weekend habit among this generation, essentially something to do when there is nothing pressing on their schedule.
Earlier, readers would subscribe to two or three newspapers at the most. Today, the digital revolution has made it possible to access as many or any newspapers that one wants, even some of the smallest regional publications. Thanks to the numerous sources, readers can sift through biases and propaganda to obtain an in depth and nuanced perception of world events.
App makers and media houses are capitalising on the wide reach, cheap operating costs and convenience of the Internet, to steer everyone from students to retirees toward digital media. The applications and e -newspapers available today offer exclusive benefits that the print media cannot possibly match. These digital sources have a radically different layout that integrates content, photos, audio tapes and videos.
In fact they are evolving rapidly with their integrated multimedia layout in an attempt to perfect the news consumption experience. Knowledge is power and the world wide web is its pioneering tool. It has been observed that the shift to digital media has caused a degradation of social networks and communication skills particularly among the younger generation.
However, reports contradict this by proving that these sites have actually improved lives by delivering educational outcomes with ease, aiding identity formation and improving self-esteem.
Younger professionals have developed a voice and are efficiently navigating a public social space as informed participants. Adapting to innovative technology and environment is considered an invaluable skill by employers and this is facilitated largely by the online media that offers the latest news reports in a number of technical fields.
The rise of digital media has also facilitated citizen journalism. The public is encouraged to provide an in depth and first person report of any momentous event or a civic issue. Although this concept was initially popularised by television news channels, citizen news sources on the Internet are now hailed as providing a methodical perspective from ground zero much faster than print or television can deliver.
For the digital native generation who are used to instant information as when they need it and for whom a slow Internet connection is the biggest bane of their lives, traditional sources of media could soon become a relic of the past. The Internet has suddenly gone from being a technical marvel to a staple feature of our lives. However, media houses have not conceded defeat yet and are valiantly taking on the uphill task of getting the younger generation to religiously read newspapers.