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How publishers can grow with the youth: takeaways from the Valuable Young Audiences report

"This report starts from a genuine belief that publishers can turn youngsters into loyal and paying users. It was prepared out of respect for, and true fascination about, new generations."
Written by two brilliant brains of the industry, Danuta Bregula and Liesbeth Nizet, this report is a breath of fresh air, approaching the question of "young audiences" as an exciting opportunity with so much to learn from brands in other industries. This summary covers the key takeaways from these brands, but you can download the full report for free here.        

The context: what are publishers dealing with?

Willingness to pay: 52% of GenZ consumers say they look elsewhere for news content when encountering a . So, while younger adults may believe it's fair for news organizations to charge fees, they also appear to think it's fair game to try to evade those fees by seeking similar content elsewhere.

Time and attention: About half of young audiences (47%) say they pay attention to the way certain products try to keep them engaged, 27% try to set limits on the time they spend online, and 23% use apps or settings to track their time

fatigue and money: Nearly two-thirds of millennial and Gen-Z consumers have canceled a streaming subscription in the prior six months. And their loyalty is conditional, they have adopted subscription-hoping – they would pay for a subscription only when they want to use it and then they would cancel it until next time. News subs are first to cancel when a crisis comes.

While 36% of Gen Z adults and millennials said they pay for at least one online news subscription, that figure was just 16% for Gen Xers and baby boomers.

valuable young readers report

Ok, but in practice, how can we make young audiences trust, consume and pay for what we do, again and again and again?

Looking at what other brands are doing to attract young audiences, and how the publishing industry can achieve the same

– Klarna and the buy-now, pay-later revolution

This emanation of paying in installments will have a nuclear impact on ecommerce,

including on how the media monetize their content. 

Aside from making products and services feel more affordable, BNPL (buy now, pay later) options appear on different points in the purchase flow – they're risk-free, clear, and fun. What's more, Klarna in particular, with its impressive take on marketing and a creative appropriation of one of the most sought after traits for digital products (being “smooth to use”), is literally making BNPL not only easy and obvious, but also cool.

by now pay later publishers


  • Review your payment methods and the order of presenting the options in respective channels. Is credit card the best one to present for users coming from social? 
  • Are your trials stress and risk-free according to the youth? Adopt innovative, stress-free and widely recognized means of payment popular among your target group as fast as possible – even their logo may reduce friction. Don't assume your audience wouldn't need it.

> You'll also enjoy: How The Wall Street Journal develops relationships with young readers

– Dating apps

Modern dating is getting more nuanced and people can choose from various options that suit their lifestyle, personality, privacy needs and interests. From apps considered to be for hookups to those designed to “be your last” dating , most of them have perfected search and recommendation engines, making them playful, rewarding and thus a new ritual. But the real shift is coming from Gen Z's higher expectations in terms of safety and authenticity. Decision fatigue and endless matching is also a source of frustration. 

dating apps learnings for publishers


  • Content Discovery: dating apps simplify the process of finding potential matches. Media publishers can enhance content discovery by implementing effective search and recommendation systems.
  • Playfulness in : swiping, advanced liking (in Hinge, users can like specific parts of the profile which engages actions beyond just swiping), sense of urgency in reacting.
  • Gamification elements e.g. rewarding and publishing best comments.

– Spotify's flywheel

Don't give up on podcasts! Many stereotypes have grown around the attention span of today's youth. However, according to Insider, despite the trend of multitasking while consuming content, a surprising 82% of Gen Z listeners have reported listening to podcasts without doing anything else.


  • As for acquisition, strategies vary. A quality podcast may work great both as a attention-grabber or a part of paid experience, however since media brands are less exciting for the youth, we would suggest putting them at the top of the funnel and publishing them for free, making sure that, for example, the benefits of your membership or subscription are presented there in a engaging way (we love promotional audio spots in Vox Media's podcasts).
  • As for , Spotify Wrapped is a top example of mastering the flywheel effect, while at the same making the whole communication personal, participatory and fun.
spotify wrapped for publishers

– Zalando

At the heart of Zalando's strategy is a Digital Native Approach. Born in the digital era, Zalando is naturally attuned to cater to Gen Z, a generation that thrives online. This goes hand in hand with their First strategy.


  • Innovative Monetization Models: Move beyond the standard subscription. Think of tiered access, content bundles, or even partnerships with brands Gen Z loves. Get inspired by how Zalando partners with brands for exclusive collections
  • Foster a Community: Encourage Gen Z to not just consume news but participate in its making. Host open meetings, seek story suggestions, or run collaborative projects

“In a nutshell, it's about embracing the holistic digital experience, weaving narratives that resonate, and building trust through transparency and . The essence is not to chase Gen Z but to evolve with them, much like Zalando's approach to fashion.”

– TikTok

The fact that, for increasingly more people, TikTok makes up the majority of readers' information diet is putting media outlets in a problematic place. In 2023, 21% of internet users worldwide use TikTok. What stands out is how the bite-size content formats combined with TikTok's hyper-personalized feed, prompt people to repeat the same action to keep getting constant gratification. Thus making users consume much more than on any other platform during one visit. It works as any other addiction.

TikTok is what you want it to be. The platform functions as an umbrella for an uncountable number of micro-communities.


Out of tons of insights and inspirations to get from TikTok, let's highlight two: #Booktok and #lifehacks (beyond the need for producing TikTok-friendly content by your brand).

  • Few things bond better than gratitude and sharing. Another wave that media can successfully jump on are lifehacks in virtually every category, from cooking, health, cleaning to investing and job interviews.

– Roblox

Roblox is an immersive online platform where users can create, play, and share and experiences. It offers a vast array of user-generated content, fosters social interaction, and provides a creative outlet for users, particularly Generation Z. With its accessibility, community-driven nature, and continuous updates, Roblox has become a popular hub for virtual adventures and social connections.

Roblox lessons for publishers

Roblox has an impressive user base (with 66 million daily active users in the US, surpassing TikTok's 50 million), but their engagement is also remarkable. Users spend a substantial amount of time on the platform, averaging 2.6 hours per day.

average daily time spent on roblox vs social media


  • Gamified content distribution: Gamify the distribution of your content by turning it into interactive games or quests. Users can unlock exclusive content or rewards by engaging with your content in a fun and interactive way.
  • Interactive content curation: Instead of simply curating content, create interactive experiences where users can explore curated content in a gamified or interactive format. This could involve quizzes, challenges, or interactive elements that allow users to engage with the curated content in a more immersive way.

Also to keep an eye on…

brands to keep an eye on for young readers

There are no shortcuts in the gen Z journey, but you can take an effective path from awareness to purchase:

gen Z journey for publishers

The checklist to create a top-notch product for your unique content:

  1. Personalization: Assess the level of personalization in content recommendations and user experiences.
  2. Accessibility: Evaluate if the product follows accessibility guidelines, making the content accessible to users with disabilities.
  3. Mobile-Friendly Design: Ensure that the platform is optimized for mobile devices.
  4. Content Curation: Curate and personalize content recommendations based on user preferences and behavior.
  5. User-Generated Content: Determine if the platform encourages and showcases user-generated content.
  6. Social Media Integration: Verify if the product integrates with popular social media platforms.
  7. Diverse Content: Ensure that the medium offers a variety of content formats, including articles, videos, podcasts, and interactive elements.
  8. Social Issues: Evaluate if the content addresses social issues and promotes causes that resonate with Generation Z's values and interests.
  9. Easy Navigation: Check the product navigation structure to ensure intuitive and user-friendly navigation.
  10. Feedback: Allow Generation Z to provide feedback, engage in discussions, and interact with content creators and community.
  11. Privacy and Security: Verify that the product prioritizes user privacy and implements robust security measures.
  12. Analytics: Use tools to gather and insights on user behavior and preferences, enabling continuous improvement and better targeting.
  13. Subscription Model: Offer a subscription model that includes both freemium content and exclusive premium content

> Download the full report for free here

The authors of the report: 

Danuta Bregula, Brand & Subscription Strategist – “Totally hyped about branding with experience in both news and lifestyle media landscapes, steering subscription enterprises and spearheading digital marketing initiatives. Plus, a trained service designer.”

Liesbeth Nizet, Business Transformation Strategist – “The go-to for long term monetization of (news) subscriptions driven by a profound passion for trustworthy media. Empowering (female) leaders to (re)create sustainable, diverse and profitable news and subscription organizations.”