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Tips for Working with Millennial Media Outlets

Today’s communicators have the difficult task of reaching millennial audiences. There is a huge amount of information about this population segment, but how much of that information is correct? What is real and what is a myth? What are the steps to take to reach and activate this key demographic?

Earlier this month Business Wire hosted 5 reporters from leading digital publications for a discussion about millennial media myths, trends, audiences and their top engagement platforms.   

Nearly 100 public relations, marketing and news professionals gathered to hear insights from Business Insider associate editor Tanza Loudenback, Techcrunch senior editor Jon Shieber, Vice writer Justin Caffier, Jalopnik reviews editor Andrew P. Collins, and Buzzfeed writer/editor Norberto Briceno at Business Wire’s Meet the Media: Mastering Millennial Media Breakfast in Los Angeles. 

Each panelist shared their experiences in the evolving industry of journalism as well as pitched tips for public relations professionals in a panel moderated by Stefan Pollack, President of The Pollack PR Marketing Group. You can see the discussion on Twitter via #BWChat.

What is Millennial Media anyway?

When asked to define millennial media, the panelists said it was all about meeting the readers where they are; on social media video, web and mobile. They noted that today’s millennial media is much more segmented and includes a stronger focus on cultural differences than other publications

For instance, Jalopnik’s Andrew Collins said he doesn’t think simply customizing content by age works for millennial media. Successful media outlets are becoming more specific with demographics which allows them to create content that resonates more deeply with their readers. 

Vice’s Justin Caffier also shut down the concept of millennial media as well as millennial stereotypes. He said people like to consume quality stories as they always have.

While millennial media outlets create better content by interest and segment, they are not just trying to engage with millennials. “As long as we’re producing quality stories, we’re doing our jobs. It doesn’t matter if our reader is 60 or 16,” Caffier said.

Business Insider’s Tanza Loudenback said that modern media outlets are less structured which gives reporters more flexibility for writing stories that readers want. She said they’re also more respectful of readers’ time.

“If we don’t want to write it, no one’s going to want to read it,” Loudenback said. By thinking of the audience first, they produce more content that resonates.

TechCrunch’s Jon Shieber credited his contributor and reporter network too for ideas and content. He said he has seen that generally the best content comes when writers have freedom to write about what they gravitate towards.

Thus, the current media landscape offers opportunity for broad and general publications as well as niche outlets.

When asked about the length of articles, panelists agreed that both long and short form content are important to create as different audiences consume in different ways. Millennial media consumers want both long and brief reads as long as they are quality and informative.

Set the Trends

When it came to identifying story ideas, discussion turned towards the use of analytics and research tools. While some reporters and creators use tools to monitor trends and story performance, other publications use in-house teams for these analytics. The most popular tools for identifying trends and measuring impact of published content include Google Analytics, Chartbeat, NewsWhip, Google Trends, Reddit and Twitter.

Loudenback noted that Business Insider uses Google Trends to watch a story emerge and find the best positioning statements for her to create a strong “second day story.” Analytics surface what news and consumer stories are performing the best.

Buzzfeed looks at analytics and finds what is trending on the site. They will then use that information to create new content experiences or articles to engage their readers.

However, BuzzFeed’s Norberto Briceno said there is a downside to writing about trending news. He said that by the time you start creating content about a trend, the topic is becoming less popular.

As such, Briceno said millennial media blends both the art and science of content. It is both looking at the trends but also going with your gut to try new things that you believe will be successful.

Shieber added to that point by saying ideally you want to write and report the stuff that becomes the trends.

Social Matters

Bricerno said he doesn’t like to think of himself as a traditional gatekeeper to news; he embeds himself into the conversation. This allows him to better understand the impact of a story on his friends and family, a formula that works well, creating a better dialog between his content and audience.

Social media is a way the panelists stay tuned into what’s trending with today’s readers. Loudenback said Twitter is a wealth of information.

Anytime I scroll through twitter, I find so many story ideas,” Loudenback said.

Further, Caffier said he checks both Twitter moments and his curated feed to see what the talk of the day is. 

On the other hand, Shieber advocated using Reddit for both content amplification, inbound traffic and story leads. It is a powerful tool that helps find reactions to news, which helps shape story angles. Shieber said this isn’t new or surprising since Reddit, social channels and reporting are all naturally collaborative.

So what about crowdsourcing content for millennial readers? Collins uses social media to pull questions from his social audiences. He engages with his audience and discovers what people want to know about the cars he test drives for Jalopnik.

Ultimately, the goal for millennial reporters is to get interesting news into the hands of “the cool kids,” according to Collins. He said that ideally you want people with high social following and highly targeted audiences to share your story because a reader is more likely to share a story that is relevant or interesting to them and their followers. Organic shares are really what make a story go viral. As such, Collins spends time building his social channels to increase the ROI of his reporting coverage.

Overall, social media is a powerful tool for creating content ideas, measuring a stories success and engaging with audiences.

Other Important takeaways

What’s the best time to publish? Justin Caffier said the world still works on East Coast time. He said you can see how traffic dips after East Coast hours because people are literally reading while at work.

How important is a headline? Andrew P. Collins said headline construction is massive. He and other panelists mentioned A/B testing headlines to see what works best. He suggested sticking to the usual formula that has proven to work but he urged people to try new formats too. Click here to learn more about writing headlines that resonate with your target reporters and consumers.

How can you get Millennials to take action when it comes to social justice? Caffier recommended making it easy for them by being on the platforms they use. Setup a twitch page, create a GoFundMe or use Patreon - all platforms commonly used by Millennials.

What can PR Pros do to make a pitch stand out if you don’t have a news update? The panel suggested making news by putting your brand or product in a new context or surrounding. Another panelist recommended building a relationship with the reporter by scheduling some face time over a meal or drinks.

The March eighth event was the third installment of Business Wire’s Meet the Media: Mastering Millennial Media Breakfast. In October, a similar event was successfully held at Business Wire, New York. Business Wire in San Francisco hosted the same event topic and title in November. Each Business Wire office offered different expert panelists from various modern media outlets in their respective markets. You can learn more about the content shared in these events via #BWchat.