Most young Koreans responding to a survey by Ewha Voice are not interested in news. 66.4% of the 145 respondents in their 20s said they were not interested in traditional media stories compared to their parents’ generation, mainly because they were too difficult, too biased or did not appeal to their interests. “My interest towards political news is low as I cannot relate to them in my everyday life,” said an anonymous respondent of the survey. “So, I’d rather care about my everyday living situations like my friends or family; and even if I do look at the news, it only makes me frown because of the negative contents and tendentious comments.”
Who are the millennials? Having grown up with constant exposure to technology, people in their 20s, often referred to as millennials, differ from previous generations in their ability to adopt new technologies and to absorb all kinds of information from various new-media platforms. Hence, they are often considered the Internet’s greatest influencers. The millennial generation is made up of those who have grown up in a time of rapid change, giving them priorities and expectations that are sharply different from previous generations, according to Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research. As one of the largest generations in history, even bigger than the Baby Boomers born in the mid-1940s to early 1960s, the millennials who are also called the “Y Generation”, have a huge influence in today’s kaleidoscopically changing world.The Wall Street Journal has reported that US millennials can rack up 18 hours of mutual consumption of media per day, mostly by browsing the Internet and using social networking sites for a total of more than six hours at a time. However, this age group reports spending just 32 minutes a day reading newspapers or magazines. These statistics seem to point to many young adults’ disinterest in societal or political news. To research this phenomenon, Ewha Voice visited two Korean journalism startups that aim to tackle this issue.
Targeting millennials as its viewers and readers, G pictures and Deepr are two companies supported by media startup accelerator Mediati. “Mediati aims to fund and support high quality startups with unique visions to reach targeted audiences through new media platforms,” said Mediati CEO Kang Jeong-su. “Since developing a service that satisfies the entire nation is impossible, I believe that the smaller the target, the better the media,” Kang said. Ewha Professor of Communication and Media Choi Ji-hyang agreed, also stressing the significance of a targeted audience. “I think the important thing for a new journalism company is to reach its target in a niche market, meeting the needs and perspective of those consuming the news,” Choi said.
G pictures: Easier news videos for millennials
G pictures is a startup funded by Mediati, which also provides office space for young creator Guk Beomgeun and his team to produce videos for young audiences, mainly on social and political issues. G pictures launched its YouTube channel in January 2014 and has over 200,000 subscribers. Despite his young age Guk, who was born in 1997, is flourishing with his distinctive journalism. Guk aims to help his millennial viewers understand and relate to topical issues through videos that interpret conventional news in a fun and accessible way. He has also appeared on various TV shows talking about current issues including politician Rhyu Si-min.
Guk started making news videos after considering how to make meaningful content that gives value to young viewers. Given his own interest in social and political issues, he has addressed such topics since 2005, when he created his first current affairs talk show for teenagers.
He now tries to upload a video once a week after searching for articles, reading academic papers or watching other YouTube videos to select his contents. Working with another producer/editor, Guk aims to make videos that deliver targeted yet truthful messages to his audience.
While accepting that millennials are often indifferent to social and political news, Guk voiced his determination to make such issues accessible to young viewers. “It is unfortunate, but it is the reality,” said Guk, giving the example of his peers’ ignorance of the history of Gwangju’s pro-democracy movement against the authoritarian Korean government 38 years ago – as portrayed in a movie released in 2017.
“I really enjoyed watching the movie ‘A Taxi Driver’, but when I tried discussing it with my friends, I was shocked because they did not know the historical facts or background of the film. At that point, I realized the fundamental needs of my generation and my viewers: a video that explains the context and background of such issues.”
He then made an explainer video, starting from the 5∙18 Democracy Movement, which started on May 18th 1980 the mass civil uprising in Gwangju but ended in the state-led massacre of 606 people.
Guk said that young adults in Korea also need more exposure to current issues. “I strongly feel that the gap between millennials’ urge to know and media companies’ supply of effective and comprehensible news is too big,” Guk said. “Because they fail to make ‘kind’ news, millennials fail to sympathize and fully understand the news - that is why I try to avoid ‘Filter Bubbles’, which is when people become too reliant on information provided on the Internet and only base their viewpoints on what they’ve accessed.” Guk also runs another YouTube channel named Jellyple, which addresses young adults’ concerns about their love life and sexual relationships. For Guk, quality news is based on concrete facts and the pursuit of truthful reporting. He commented that he will constantly strive to reflect on himself as a content producer to meet the needs of his supporters.
Deepr: Guide journalism to influence millennials
Deepr is an online media platform launched in March 2017 by Mediati. After running for about four months as part of Mediati, Deepr has stood on its own feet as an independent company since last July. Deepr provides ‘guide journalism’ in its online articles aimed at readers in their 20s and 30s. It aims to influence them deeply so that readers can make their small and big decisions well.
Deepr currently has four journalists to write articles and two interns. They source content from social media and other research or find unique stories from close friends and interviews. The startup makes a profit from branded contents in cooperation with other companies that share their philosophy. Through this method, readers receive contents that are supported by companies that they value too.
Deepr journalist Chung In-seon explained that her company targets the millennial generation because of a lack of news that young adults could easily relate to in mainstream newspapers.
“Though I had studied politics for years, even I found it difficult to understand the context of the news,” Chung said. She noticed this flaw of complex stories in conventional newspapers and created Deepr to target millennials who face similar problems. She also noticed that the traditional news media does not attract young readers because it is hard to relate such stories to daily life. Therefore, she tried to ask questions in her articles’ headlines that readers could relate to, such as: “Have you ever seen your apartment watchman go home?” to highlight the poor working conditions of security staff.
She said her most memorable article to date was an interview with the female producer of the Early Ddorai Facebook page, a group where people support each other to wake up early and finish their daily errands. “To survive as a woman in a male dominated occupation is very difficult, but she gave us so much encouragement that we have been motivated too since the interview,” Chung said. “I thought then I should also write articles that could motivate readers and encourage them to be more active, which led me to experiment with guide journalism.”
Chung added that Deepr tries not to stereotype the millennial generation. “There are certain prejudices toward students who have postponed their graduation, for example, but we try to reflect their authentic ‘brand’, describing the real struggles that they are going through as young men and women; instead of covering up their reality with empty words like ‘challenging’, ‘rashness’ or ‘lively’ just because they are young.”
Deepr aims to grow steadily by overcoming and learning from small failures. Chung defined this stage as essential and smiled, adding, “Since we started acknowledging that everything would not have been possible through old media, we hope people will keep their eyes on us to break with convention and help us to reach our dream of becoming the media outlet that gives immediate help to its readers.”
Although Ewha Voice’s survey found that millennials in Korea are not interested in traditional news, we found different opinions from young people responding in New York. This international perspective will be addressed in the next edition of Ewha Voice.