Which Media Companies Are Winning the Battle for Millennials?
Last week marked the entry of still another new media entity into the Millennials market. What do the numbers tell us about the highly sought-after terrain?
Josh Topolsky’s The Outline, launching in the fall, aims squarely at the market, even if he eschews that precise label [“Newsonomics: Sketching in Josh Topolsky’s new “The Outline“].
First published at Politico Media
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“To me, millennials is an age range between one number and another. It’s not an audience,” Topolsky told me. “Within that realm there are real audiences. There are people that I know. There are people that you know. I don’t think that we’re purely millennial.”
“Let’s say there’s a stretch between 20 and 40 where we’re going to be most relevant in terms of age,” he said. “But what I’ll say is that inside the village of unpacked millennials there are millennials that are like me and unlike me. You can go after all of it. You can cast this big net, which many and most publishers do. To say this is who we need, who we want.”
Thirty-eight years old himself, Topolsky has notched editor roles at Bloomberg Media, Verge and Engadget; he will lead The Outline as both editor-in-chief and CEO.
Given the convergence of Millennials coming-of-heavy-spending-age, and smartphone omniuse and social sharing of news among this demographic, marketers love Millennials. By their very youth, they make themselves more open to new brand identification than their elders. Older groups’ brand loyalties are more entrenched, and, in certain spending sectors, they find themselves less acquisitive than career-building, family-forming, identity-still-reaffirming Millennials.
Advertisers want to reach them, so grabbing Millennials has become a top priority for almost all news publishers.
That Millennials population, in all its glorious diversity, is huge. At 82 million, it’s six million greater in number than the last big population bulge, the self-analyzingest generation, the Baby Boomers.
Think Millennials and news, and you think Vice Media, Buzzfeed, Mic, Ozy, Vox Media, Fusion and Vocativ. These are the companies, in just a few years, which have laid claim to the new turf. At the same time, almost every legacy news company is setting strategy with its use of Facebook particularly, and social and messaging media more generally, to hunt Millennials as well.
Let’s look at how they are doing.
By gross audience measure, traditional news brands can claim lots of these readers and viewers.
CNN reaches the highest percentage of the Millennials cohort, a full 70%, as we can see in Comscore’s June, 2016 U.S. Multi-Platform study.
The Yahoo-ABC Network, combined for now, reaches a little less than two-thirds of it, at 63%, with Buzzfeed, the major start-up in the top 10, placing third at 60%.
USA Today, NBC News, Mail Online, Huffington Post, CBS, the New York Times and The Weather Company all place in the top 10.
Overall, Comscore says that almost 75 million of the 82 million Millennials used the Internet; it would be fascinating to understand what the other seven million are doing in any given month, but that’s another study.
Of those 75 million, 95% hit a news or information site at least monthly. (Same question as above about the remaining 3.75 million who use the Internet but don’t access news in 30 days.)
It shouldn’t be surprising that big brands can show big Millennials numbers. More interesting is how well they do relative to each other.
Check out the last column in the Comscore chart, “Composition Index UV”. Overall, Millennials can be counted as above-average (average receiving a “100” score) consumers of news and information, with a 110 score. That’s a point worth remembering the next time a Baby Boomer blabs on about the young people these days.
Of the top 25 news sites, only one pulls in a sub-100 score: Fox News, at 98. Fox News has the oldest cable TV news audience (68) and faces new issues [“Despite Murdoch claim, data shows Fox News Channel’s brand perception is way down”] revealed in YouGov’s recent BrandIndex study, on which I reported Friday. Fox, notably, struggles the most among legacy media companies to reach the audience of the future online.
Who does the best with Millennials, “over-indexing”? Appropriately enough, it’s Vice.com and Mic. Vice (found at the bottom of the chart because Comscore classifies it as an entertainment, rather than news, site) earns a 223 score.
With that ranking, it leads the pack. That score means that the percentage of Vice.com’s audience that’s Millennial is more than twice as large as it is for the total internet.
With 17 million Millennials reached, it nabs 23% of the total age cohort monthly. Almost two in three of its readers are 18-34.
Just behind it: Mic, Buzzfeed, Vox.com, Mail Online and The Guardian.
Five-year-old Mic has laid claim to this market most vociferously [“Chris Altchek’s three magic words for Mic: videocentric millennials company”].
Fully 60% of Mic’s total visitors are Millennials; almost 10 million of them are on the site at least monthly. The other top Millennials-reachers, too, are counting Millennials as more than half their audiences.
Let’s look at those Millennials-specific sites:
• Mic can claim a purer targeting, with six in 10 of its readers and viewers in the target group. Still, the company reaches only 13% of the Millennials population. If that’s the right population – more educated, more affluent, as Mic CEO Chris Altchek aims – it may be reaching a critical threshold.
• Buzzfeed’s success is built around a magic 60% number. It reaches 60% of the Millennials audience, and 60% of its audience is Millennial. That’s scale, with 45 million unique visitors in that age group touched each month.
• Vox.com finds half of its audience in Millennials, though only 8.7 million so far. (Other Vox Media sites, which range widely in content from food to real estate to tech, also vary widely in their Millennials audience composition.)
• Fusion.net pulls in about the same number – 8 million — as Vox, but can claim a great concentration. Fully three out of four of its readers are Millennials.In fact, its “overindexing” number can be considered better than Vice’s or Mic’s, though its results are obscured by currently being included in the overall Yahoo/ABC News accounting. By fall, Fusion, I’m told by the company, will be reported as a standalone traffic number.
• Ozy, backed by lead investor Axel Springer, is having a tough time fulfilling its Millennials mandate. Forty percent of its audience is made up of Millennials; overall it reaches just four million of them.
On the other hand, big legacy news brands show substantial audiences, but look to Millennials to make up only about a third or a little more of their overall visitors.
Thirty-nine percent of the New York Times audience is made up of Millennials. For USA Today, it’s 37% and for NBC News it’s 35%. These companies look at Millennials as a kind of blood transfusion, bringing new readers into the habit.
For those selling digital subscriptions, like the Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and regional newspapers, these potentially paying readers offer a route forward, but are tougher to convert.
Big news players – print- and TV-based – can claim large numbers of Millennials. How well can they sell these audiences to advertisers? That depends on their ability to segment out the Millennials from other visitors.
The big numbers provide one level of meaning, but they are a mere entry point. It is on that segmentation of the Millennials market that media companies will rise and fall. That targeting inevitably means better use of data mining and analytics, of course.
Given the huge size of the Millennials population, there’s plenty of business to go around. Still, the Holy Grail of becoming the definitive publication of Millennials, its voice and mirror, brings in the starry-eyed.
We can see that quest as The Outline rolls out this fall.
Josh Topolsky’s passion makes that clear. I asked him why he is so fervent about serving this generation of readers.
“Because that’s the audience that I’m a part of and it’s the audience that I know and, it’s the audience that I’m interested in,” he told me last week. “It’s the audience that is now changing the world and will change the world in the future. I’m very interested in what are the publications of record for this generation that are smart, that speak to them with intelligence, that respect their appetite for changing and living in a big new world. If you were making a New Yorker, and I’m not saying we’re making something like the New Yorker, but if you were going to make a New Yorker today, what would that be? What would that look like? Who would you be trying to reach? I think that for me, and I love the New Yorker by the way, but it isn’t built for this generation. It isn’t telling a story to this generation.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this piece misstated the number of Mic’s Millennial readers; they number 10 million, or 60 percent of total visitors, not 60 percent of 10 million visitors. The article has been edited to reflect the change.