Editor’s note: In The Fix’s new Friday column, tech and media journalist David Tvrdon reflects on how the forces of business, technology and journalism intersect and what that means for the media industry
This week the BBC and other media outlets published seemingly mundane information: Baby Shark, the infuriatingly catchy children’s rhyme recorded by South Korean company Pinkfong (the BBC’s words), has become the most-watched video ever on YouTube dethroning the music video for smash hit single Despacito.
Such news items are, in and of themselves, increasingly popular. According to CrowdTangle data, when comparing the overall engagement for two articles by The Guardian three years apart – the first informing about Despacito becoming the most watched video on YouTube, the second about Baby Shark – the latter raked in so far more than three times more engagement.
Yet few news executives are paying close enough attention to see it as a sign of strong demand for youth-focused content. I mean, it’s a children’s song, we are doing journalism.
So, what’s the issue?
Honestly, I would miss the connection, too, if it wasn’t for an article in Axios by Sarah Fisher explaining (with underlying hard data) that one of the trends the pandemic accelerated is news for the next generation, or as she put it “youth-focused news products”.
Many newsrooms I know and follow have some kind of content for kids but it is nowhere near the top of mind for the management. When thinking of the next generation, debates usually turn to reaching Gen Z (born from 1997 onward, according to Pew Research) and ramping up the social media strategy, as this first truly digitally native generation has grown up on social platforms.
That’s fine and good – you should have a solid social media strategy with clear goals in place.
But the Baby Shark news concerns Generation Alpha (born from about 2011 until 2025, according to The Guardian). It wasn’t newborns who told Alexa to play Baby Shark on Spotify endlessly. No, it was their parents.
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To successfully reach Gen Alpha you need to go through their parents – and that is exactly what Fisher describes in her article:
“New companies are latching onto youth-focused news products for this year’s election news and beyond. Some of these efforts can be lucrative. Parents juggling work-from-home schedules with at-home learning are willing to pay for news products for their kids, executives tell Axios. The Week Junior, a weekly current affairs magazine targeted to kids from the same publisher as The Week, now has 75,000 paid subscribers.”
And it’s not only print magazines that see acceleration of this trend, digital products and subscriptions are seeing the same kind of results. For instance, TIME for Kids offers a digital subscription ($19.99/year) “to help families, kids and teachers navigate the ongoing uncertainty around kids going back to school amid the coronavirus pandemic.”
To sum up, your newsroom probably won’t come up with something as successful as Baby Shark (I guess that’s impossible for any newsroom) but you should start thinking about the next generations.
Gen Z you can reach directly, though they are a diverse group with ever-changing moods and preferences. Nonetheless, there is no intermediary needed to get your journalism through to them.
Generation Alpha is another story. They won’t be able to afford any of your journalism for a couple of years (maybe even decades).
Though, as the pandemic is showing, with all of us staying at home, parents seem to be eager to entertain their kids with information and quality content. Youth-focused news products fit that category perfectly. It’s up to media managers to seize the opportunity, and start building relations with the next generations of consumers as early as possible!
Hi! I'm David Tvrdon, a tech & media journalist and podcaster with a marketing background (and degree). Every week I send out the FWIW by David Tvrdon newsletter on tech, media, audio and journalism.