'Generation X' examined in major study: Media habits, beliefs about morality, religion, work, technology revealed

RESTON, Va. - A major wide-ranging study of the inner workings of "Generation X" reveals that the highly sought-after group regularly uses newspapers for news and information - debunking the myth they turn mainly to electronic sources.

RESTON, Va. - A major wide-ranging study of the inner workings of "Generation X" reveals that the highly sought-after group regularly uses newspapers for news and information - debunking the myth they turn mainly to electronic sources.

According to "What's Important to Generation X" - a study released April 16 by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Newspaper Association of America - 42 percent of Generation X read a newspaper every day or almost every day. The "X" group refers to the 38 million 16-to-29-year-olds in the United States.

"This study shows that newspapers have a good chance to connect with most 16-to-30-year-olds if we can only make our papers more relevant to people in their teens and 20s," said William B. Ketter, editor of the Quincy (Mass.) Patriot News and ASNE president. "This study is designed to move newspapers toward that goal, and that's why it is so important to the future of newspapers."

The 60-page report, based on research conducted by Yankelovich Partners of Norwalk, Conn., reveals a number of other positive trends about Generation X newspaper readers:

  • 44 percent said they are reading newspapers more frequently now than they were one year ago
  • 54 percent turned to newspapers because they felt newspapers provide news with depth and detail
  • 51 percent read a newspaper for the coverage of movies, concerts and plays

John F. Sturm, NAA president and CEO, said: "This study shows that the 'MTV Generation' didn't give up reading newspapers in exchange for watching television and illustrates that young people rely on newspapers for unique information other media can't provide."

Complete findings of the report were released during the 1996 ASNE Convention April 16-19 in Washington, and will be presented at NAA's Annual Convention from April 28 to May 2 in New York.

Besides focusing on newspapers, the study also measures Generation X's overall media habits; connection to community; beliefs on morality, work ethics, religion and leisure preferences; use of technology; and thoughts on consumerism and advertising. The research also gives newspapers information they can use to attract more young readers.

Generation X has a mixed set of beliefs about newspapers, the report points out. For instance, among Generation X readers, 65 percent believe that newspapers are an easy way to get the news, but only 33 percent thought newspapers could be trusted.

The study also states that Generation X readers rank news about their city, town and neighborhood, along with crime news, at the top of their interests.

"Though the numbers are encouraging, the newspaper industry should not take this market segment for granted," said Miles Groves, NAA's chief economist and vice president of market and business analysis. "This is a very media-savvy group of people. Newspapers have to remain sensitive to the needs and demands of the Generation Xers so that we remain a relevant source of information to them."

Other select findings are as follows:

Media Habits All Generation X All Baby Boomers
Percent reading a newspaper
Every day
24% 37%
Almost every day
18% 16%
2-3 times per week
21% 18%
Sundays only
11% 12%
21% 14%
4% 2%
Average total weekly viewing 24 hours 23 hours
Average total weekly radio listening 27 hours 21 hours
Number of magazines read regularly 4.1 3.8
Favorite Sports Illustrated TV Guide
Number of times gone
in past two months
3.2 1.6
Religion, Sex, Work & Fitness
Think role of religion is very important 34% 44%
Describe themselves as religious 27% 35%
Want return to traditional standards
in sexual relationships
44% 41%
Committed to success of company
they work for
80% 72%
Use exercise equipment 26% 18%
Have a computer 48% 60%
Have a computer with modem 27% 29%
Use Internet/World Wide Web 17% 21%

The project was jointly managed by the ASNE Future of Newspapers Committee, chaired by Timothy J. Gallagher, editor, Ventura (Calif.) County Star, and the NAA Research Federation, headed by Virginia Dodge Fielder, vice president/research, Knight Ridder Inc.

Most of the research was drawn from the 1994 Yankelovich Partners' MONITOR study of a sample of 4,000 people representing the universe of Americans over 16 years old. Of the sample, 1,014 interviews were conducted with those in the Generation X age group. Additional information was garnered from a proprietary re-contact of the MONITOR database with 1,000 respondents. This sample was comprised of 800 Generation Xers and 200 so-called "Baby Boomer" newspaper readers (ages 30-49).

Contributors to the study are the ASNE Foundation, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, Blade Communications, Buffalo (N.Y.) News, Capital Cities/ABC, Central Newspapers, Chronicle Publishing Co., Cowles Media Foundation, Cox Newspapers, Gannett Foundation, Hearst Corporation, Knight-Ridder Inc., McClatchy Newspapers, Morris Communications, Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, Providence (R.I.) Journal Co., Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Scripps Howard Foundation, Thomson Newspapers and Times Mirror Foundation.

Copies of the report are available for $8 each. There is a 20 percent discount on orders of 20 or more.

ASNE, with 870 members, is an organization of the main editors of daily newspapers in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1922, ASNE's principal purpose is to serve as a medium for exchange of ideas and the professional growth and development of its members. Directing editors having immediate charge of editorial or news policies of daily newspapers and four wire services are eligible to join. Some 750 persons are registered to attend the April 16-19 convention in Washington.

NAA is a nonprofit organization representing the $46 billion newspaper industry and more than 1,500 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. Most NAA members are daily newspapers that account for approximately 85 percent of U.S. daily circulation. Headquartered in Reston, Va., the Association focuses on five key strategic priorities that affect the newspaper industry collectively: marketing, public policy, diversity, industry development and newspaper operations.