The Paradox of Popularity. How Young People Experience the News

The Paradox of Popularity. How Young People Experience the News

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The Paradox of Popularity. How Young People Experience the News Irene Costera Meijer Irene Costera Meijer • Senior associate professor Mediastudies • Department of Media and Culture • University of Amsterdam • Turfdraagsterpad 9 • 1012XT Amsterdam • The Netherlands • Tel: +31 (0)20 525 3994/2980 • Fax:+31 (0)20 5254599 • Email:i.costerameijer@uva.nl Paper RIPE Conference: November 16 – 18, 2006 News is like a whole-wheat sandwich: you eat it because it is healthy, not because it is tasty. (Iris, college student, age 25) There are clear signs that today’s young people pay less attention to conventional media- based news, be it from television or newspapers. Only one out of five 15-year-olds has a broad interest in media information (Beekhoven & Van Well, 1998), while as much as 14 percent of those between age 16 and 24 feel that there is too much news on television (Hargreaves & Thomas, 2002). Although it was always assumed that young people more or less automatically develop a need for news and information once they move into adulthood, this no longer proves to be the case. This particular age effect has been replaced by a so- called “cohort-effect” (Buckingham, 2000a), which implies that young people’s lack of interest in news is likely to persist when they grow older (Barnhurst & Wartella, 1998; Buckingham, 2000b; Hargreaves & Thomas, 2002; Raeymakers, 2003). The declining appetite for news among young people has to do with fundamental technological changes in our culture. Since the late 1980s, when there were only three television channels in the Netherlands and four in the United Kingdom, Europe has been moving inexorably towards a multi-channel broadcasting environment.Today an array of media services is available anytime, anyplace. With the emergence of the internet, the introduction of various mobile phone technologies and the expansion of commercial broadcasting, the amount of information and entertainment has grown inordinately. This in turn has influenced where young people find their information, how they interact with each other and which entertainment they value (Huysmans et al., 2004). In a world of information excess the nature and experience of information is bound to change, of course, and this has become evident first among members of the new generation (Johnson, 2006). It turns out that to many of them conventional news is hardly appealing. They are not so much looking 1
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for “news” and information, but rather for inspiration, a sense of belonging and meaning to their life (Nijs & Peters, 2002). Some critics have argued that we are moving towards an “experience economy” (de Haan et al, 2001; Pine & Gilmore, 2000). If this is the case indeed, the media have to learn to create appealing worlds of experience (cf. Piët, 2003), not just as a way to attract young people but as part of a general service-oriented approach that will ensure the media’s success in the future as well. How can or should today’s news organizations, which have long relied on a straightforward
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The Paradox of Popularity. How Young People Experience the News

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