Is the gap between youths and traditional media widening?

As the election reaches its crescendo, do young people prefer coverage from youth-oriented sites, Gurjit Degun asks.

A staggering 80 per cent of young people believe they are misrepresented by the media, according to a poll by Sky News in 2014. Coupled with the rising popularity of youth media sites such as BuzzFeed and Vice, it could be argued that there is a growing gulf between old and new media.

BuzzFeed claimed to have an estimated 20 million monthly unique browsers at the end of last year, while Vice News has expanded into seven countries this year. Both are clearly seeing strong growth.

The difference in coverage of the general election has been of particular note, as media outlets and politicians do their best to engage an audience known for not turning up to the polls. In the 2010 election, government figures show 51.8 per cent of 18-to 24-year-olds voted, compared with 74.7 per cent of those aged over 65.

But the media is doing its bit to change this. E4, for example, is shutting down on election day from 7am to get young people down to the polling stations. And Eleanor Morgan, a senior editor at Vice, said the site has "sought to look beyond the pantomime and hone in on the issues at hand".

Chante Joseph, the vice-chair for participation and development at the British Youth Council, says BuzzFeed’s coverage has been "brilliant, really effective and engaging", highlighting in particular the images of the Labour leader Ed Miliband collated by the site.

However, Joseph, who is 19, has also been impressed with the coverage aimed at young people from traditional media outlets, such as BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat, which organised election shows aimed at youths.

On the other hand, Susana Giner, the director of the Youth Media Agency, does not think mainstream media has done enough to push election coverage aimed at young people. The youth leaders debate on 28 April, for instance, was aired on the All 4 digital platform with no promotion on Channel 4.

Joseph does not think there is a gap between young people and traditional media but concedes youths are increasingly gathering news from social media sites. She singles out BuzzFeed as her go-to site.

YES Tim Hunt, marketing director, Guardian News & Media

"Young people don’t have loyalty to either political parties or news organisations. Single issues are increasingly important and they’re using a range of digital platforms to talk about them. Generally speaking, the gap has widened."

YES Alex Miller, global head of content, Vice

"The gap is widening, even if it’s just because there are more options out there than ever before. I think we should be honest that heritage media has some massive problems, so people have sodded off to look for edification elsewhere."

NO Jonathan Allan, sales director, Channel 4

"At Channel 4, we focus on deepening our connection with young people through a diverse portfolio of youth-targeted brands. Traditional and digital can coexist well to enable consumers to enjoy the strengths of both."

NO Jed Hallam, head of digital strategy, Mindshare

"Both ‘new’ and traditional media play a fundamental role in how young people engage with politics, but that role is shared – it isn’t a zero-sum game. Vice and BuzzFeed really understand the needs of new voters."

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