Newsbeat and journalism for younger audiences

Trends in journalism for younger audiences are constantly changing. As new technologies develop, they have an effect on what younger audiences expect from news organisations.

Trends in journalism for younger audiences are constantly changing. As new technologies develop, they have an effect on what younger audiences expect from news organisations. Newsbeat, the BBC Radio 1 programme that curates news and information, is one of them.

Its editor, Louisa Compton, who has served 8 weeks as editor since coming from the BBC’s rolling news and sport station, Radio 5 live, wants to put the programme with 9 million listeners weekly, on a digital map and wants to make it a bigger brand.

“I want our stories to reach as many young people through many platforms,” Compton said in a telephone interview. “Newsbeat needs to be the gateway to BBC News for those [younger] audiences. Newsbeat needs to reach those people and get them engaged in news stories or caring about the world around them.”

Compton says there is a vast difference in the expectations of younger audiences, especially the 16-29 year old demographic at Radio 1.

“They’re on their phones, social media, YouTube, [and it] brings in more stories,” Compton said. This is an audience that is absorbing news.”

Different approach

With the absorption of news, it has allowed some stereotypes to be broken open, including praise for more in-depth long form journalism, and the audience remains at the heart of it.

“The world has become a lot smaller for audiences – they are interested in what’s going on in India or Pakistan, as well as from London and Manchester and Newcastle,” Compton said. “We try to capitalize on the context and what’s going on the world. Some of the BBC News articles that are popular online are articles that explain these events. That’s important for our young audience. They are constantly in touch with us [through text, email and social media]. We can see if something has worked or if they are engaged in it. [They’re our] most important resource.”

Compton, with the digital first strategy she hopes to implement in the autumn, hopes to create stories intended just for radio and just for online. Radio 1 has been successful with the mixture of that approach, with it being the first radio station to get one million visitors on its YouTube page. However, not everything is worth visualising, Compton says, with questions of should I post this on my timeline coming into play.

“The cream of the crop gets on to Radio 1’s YouTube channel,” Compton said. “There is never a dull video. Newsbeat needs to operate a similar strategy. We focused on that as a way leading into our digital launch in autumn.”

Compton says the radio still has a unique role to play, noting the rarity of the figures for news programmes on a music radio station like Radio 1. And indeed, Compton notes, the attraction of younger audiences is a goal for other parts of the BBC to engage with its journalism.

News is king

The audience however still remains at the core, and their feedback is essential, Compton says.

“It’s simple things,” Compton said, whether it’s a text or an email from a listener. When topics included stories from Pakistan and India, contributions were positive, saying they were proud to have this story brought to them in that style.

“Individual replies show you are doing the right thing,” Compton said. “You are reaching the right kind of people. Individual replies do it for me.”

As the trends continue to develop and new consumption habits come with, so will the ways to change to meet audience expectations. However, for younger audiences, there is a constant, and that constant is news.

“News is interesting to everyone from every generation,” Compton said. “We should not be thinking that Newsbeat is the only place for younger people to consume news. We should all be serving that audience.”

Newsbeat airs on BBC Radio 1 Monday to Friday at 12:45 and 5:45pm as well as during output.

What do you think? Are organisations like Newsbeat doing enough to serve young audiences? Have your say in the comments section below.