A new study from Northwestern University’s Media Management Center (conducted for the Newspaper Association of America) reports that teenagers not only prefer news aggregation sites over traditional, branded news sites, but they also believe that news online should be available for free. 

Truth be told, the findings are not surprising when you consider the fact that this demographic has grown up with access to the Internet since the day they were born.  It’s a demographic that finds little value from printed newspapers.  Why should they pay for a cumbersome newspaper when checking out the front page of Yahoo! on their laptops or mobile phones takes just a few seconds and gives them a snapshot of local, regional, national and world news in one place?  Why sift through the pages of a newspaper to find headlines of interest when they can set up their computers or phones to show them the specific types of news and information they want to read? 

It’s about speed and convenience for this demographic, and it’s about using the medium they prefer (the Web).  Remember, this is the Internet generation we’re talking about.

Some people might call it laziness, but I think it’s just a different mind set than previous generations are used to.  Teenagers are used to obtaining snippets of information quickly and in rapid succession.  They grew up in a world where they were constantly surrounded by an influx of messages.  It seems like a natural transition that they actually want to receive information in that way as they grow older.  This is an audience that is used to immediate gratification more than any generation before it.  And they are used to getting information for free online.  It’s really not surprising that they prefer news aggregators and refuse to pay for access to news stories.

As newspapers struggle to find ways to remain relevant (with some considering introducing paid content initiatives), the younger generation moves further and further away.  The world is changing (as it does with each new generation).  It will be interesting to watch the news industry evolve through this next chapter of its lifespan.