A New Model for News: AP study

The Associated Press has released a 71-page pdf report called AP’s New Model for News: Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption that has some interesting implications on how we might approach our mass media, newswriting and newspaper courses and how we prepare tomorrow’s journalists.

The report is the result of AP’s multinational study on how young people (18-34) consume news and what implications that has for the way the AP (and ultimately the rest of the media) prepares and delivers news.

The good news in the report is that there appears to be a strong appetite for news among younger audiences and use news as “social currency;” they just consume it in a different way than the mainstream media is mostly prepared to deliver it. Young people may check into news multiple times a day, but main-stream media are not their only or even main way of doing so. And young people use a variety of methods, from radio and television and Web to e-mail (yes, that one was strange for me to see, too) to PDAs and word of mouth.

“Younger consumers are not only less reliant on the newspaper to get their news; they also consume news across a multitude of platforms and sources, all day, constantly.”

But the anthropological study approach AP took showed some interesting results about news consumption we can learn from, including the fact that news consumption can be compared to the fast food diets of a lot of people: they may be eating a lot, but their diet is out of whack…and sometimes that is partially the fault of the prevalence of “fast food restaurants.”

Regardless of the fault, it is clear that we must look at news in a different way. Because of the variety of distribution and consumption methods the traditional inverted pyramid approach to story-telling might not –indeed, probably is not– enough. Instead of looking at news in the context of a complete story, consumption habits require that we approach storytelling from a component approach: Facts, Updates, Back Story, Future Story…and then deliver it across all the channels these consumers use.

Further, young consumers are experiencing “news fatigue” as they end up gorging on the Facts and Updates components that the AP and other media tend to emphasize as the “above the fold” news. The report likened it to eating too many chips and not enough vegetables.

Instead of trying to put everything into just one story as we’ve done in the past, we need to treat the single story as multiple stories told at different times and sometimes in different ways. And there needs to be an emphasis on linking the elemental stories to its other components. Indeed, a new mantra for story-telling might be “Links.

Anyway, interesting and recommended reading. About half the report is on the methodology and results of the study, including a narrative of a DeAnza College business student who was one of the research subjects.

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