I tire of my parents’ generation (the “Younger Boomers,” born between 1955-1964) telling my generation (the “Millennials,” born between 1977-1992) that we have a sense of entitlement about free online content, especially in regard to the New York Times paywall. It makes my generation sound cheap and stupid, and I would like to argue that we are mainly the latter. Based on how we spend time on the internet and what we are interested in, we were never going to buy the digital NYT. I care about my mom, a journalist, and about the decline of engaging content online, yet I think her generation has some misconceptions about mine. I am not enthusiastic about this argument, but regardless: We don’t buy the NYT mainly because we are moronic, not because we have a sense of internet entitlement.
1. Fancy City Newspaper Say Wha?
The NYT wants you to believe that the majority of readers are young. In 2009, they reported their readership’s largest age group as 25 to 54. But once you unclump the ages and make 25 to 35 a separate category (and therefore about 16% of readership), the largest readership is actually ages 50+ (at about 37%). The Pew Research Center found only 17% of the population reads a national newspaper like the NYT. That means my generation’s interest makes up 16% of that 17%. I’m no mathemagician, but that isn’t a lot of Millennials. The point is, the majority of us weren’t reading it anyway, and we certainly aren’t going to start with the paywall.
Scoreboard: Entitlement= 0, Stupidity= 1
2. If by “News” you mean “Weather”
The #1 news subject we are looking for online? At 81%: the weather. We literally only care about the world around us, in so much as it is made up of air at a certain temperature and humidity which allows us to continue to play video games and mouth breathe.
Scoreboard: Entitlement= 0, Stupidity= 2
3. Call of Duty: Modern Necessities
It was my generation (at least the older part of it) that created and used Napster, a free file sharing site for music. When the Law Man shut it down and told us to pay, we did. Granted, illegal file sharing is still a major problem in today’s internet, but we Millennials are buying things we care about online. We purchase music, pay for video streaming, and participate in the growing eBook industry. If we valued NYT reporting, we’d pay for it. The truth is, we spend 40% of our internet time on three activities according to Nielsen ratings: social networking, playing games and emailing. Buying stuff isn’t our #1 priority, but we pay for things we care about (and journalism doesn’t make the short list).
4. 140 Characters Killed the Journalism Star
When looking at news online, the majority of people use two to five different website and 65% aren’t loyal to any one. In this sense, my generation is cheap (but at least we are reading some news). Sure, the content on NYT might be superior, but we are faithful to nothing other than our will to barely be aware. Plus, those articles have too many words. According to The Atlantic, the majority of users on Twitter are between the ages 26-34. Our attention span has decreased while our sense of urgency to know what is going on, for free, has increased. Y’all win this one.
Scoreboard: Entitlement= 1, Stupidity= 3
5. Unsurprisingly, We Can Name Dopey
In the United States, according to Newsweek, 63% of young Americans can’t find Iraq on a map, 20% think the sun revolves around the Earth, and more than 75% could name two of the seven dwarves while less than 25% could name two members of the Supreme Court. We aren’t bright. With such beliefs, the only paper we need is the paper bag out of which we are huffing our glue.
Scoreboard: Entitlement=1, Stupidity=4
In conclusion, not paying for news content online has little to do with being cheap or having a sense of entitlement. So get it right, Baby Boomers! Based on the numbers, the majority of us just don’t care. We are an apathetic generation, embracing change but not knowledge. We were once your future and, unfortunately, we continue to lead the way. If you think these stats are frightening, you should check out the next generation. I’d like to nominate: Generation Huh?
Kristen is neither a journalist, nor a statistician. Her interest in and argument about this subject is based solely on irritation at being told by elders that she has a sense of entitlement. She will now return to playing Scrabble on Facebook. More by Kristen, please…
Pew’s Report on Generations and Technology
Pew’s Report on News Consumption
NYT article about apathetic youth (2007), if you subscribe, natch
NYT Reader Demographic Report (2009)
The Atlantic’s Breakdown of Facebook/Twitter Users