Ever had some fact creep up on you and scare you to death? I have had that experience this morning. It’s particularly disheartening because we’re coming up on an election year here in the US and one would hope that people are paying a bit more attention to the news than usual as they seek out facts and the information they need to make decisions. No, I’m not going down the political road. The point I’m going to make is about business, but I find it disturbing outside of business as well. Let’s see what you think.
An organization called the Media Insight Project, which is an initiative of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, conducted some research on how Millenials get news. The headline coming out of the research is that the vast majority of Millennials, people who are ages 18 to 34, regularly use paid content for entertainment or news. 53 percent report regularly using paid news content — in print, digital, or combined formats — in the last year. That goes against the conventional wisdom that younger people won’t pay for content. While that is a significant finding, in my mind it buries the lede, which is this:
Among those Millennials who say keeping up with the news is very important to them, only half personally pay for news content. And, even among Millennials who do pay for news, free services like Facebook and search engines are their most common sources for obtaining news on many topics.
In fact, as the study looked at different types of information, Facebook was cited most often as the source for national and political news, social issues, as well as crime and public safety even among those people who pay for news content. Given that what you see on Facebook is based on an algorithm that reinforces your current attitudes and likes, and is NOT meant to provide you with an unbiased world view, this is pretty dangerous in my mind. It’s a business problem as well.
Just because some Millenials make an effort to have the broader, less tilted sources of news and information available to them by paying, there is no requirement that they listen to those sources. It’s not really enough to find the information if you’re going to choose to ignore it. That’s as true in business as it is outside of the business world. A younger adult’s willingness to pay for news is correlated with his or her broader beliefs about the value of news, the study found. Your willingness to seek out business information – even paying for it – should also imply that you’re willing to pay attention and not just pay lip-service. Are you choosing to do so, or are you choosing ignorance?