Most Millennials Prefer Reading the News

Amazon bookstore books online shop
A worker gathers items for delivery from an Amazon warehouse in Phoenix, Arizona, November 22, 2013. According to the head of a mall operator, the online retail giant is planning to open up to 400 physical stores. Ralph Fresco/Reuters

Over thousands of years, humans developed an interest in the act of reading, an activity known for being fundamental. For those who remain unconvinced of reading’s popularity, the act has inspired people to write popular books and devote entire television shows to discuss it, such as Reading Rainbow, a well-regarded children’s show.

Today, reading is facing its biggest challenges since the Middle Ages, thanks to the W.O.R.S.T. (With Often Redundant Speech or Text) era of content. The WORST era rose to prominence on your Facebook news feed in recent years, fueled by an insatiable demand from content creators seeking the higher revenue offered by video ads (versus non-video options, like pop-up or banner ads).

The WORST era, as it turns out, is not ideal. A recent study by the Pew Research Center indicates that younger adults prefer reading news, not watching it. 

PewNewsByAge Younger adults prefer to get their news in text, not video, according to new data from Pew Research Pew Research Center

Within a couple of percentage points, respondents aged 18-49 generally preferred reading the news via text, though some older millennials reported preferring watching news via video. Sadly, what readers want doesn’t necessarily matter, at least not today. Here's why: As content creators chased after higher revenues, they faced a (seemingly) unexpected problem. Since video usually requires sound—and many people don’t actually like to listen to random sounds all the time—they needed to make videos one could read to win over, well, readers.

The hope of the WORST era was that people who like to read would accept the mere observation of text—this for the sole benefit of higher revenue on the creator’s end. Here are three examples of how that's supposed to work, practically: A video of a cute puppy running around? Put text about how much you love dogs on it. A video of outer space? Include random facts about stars. A video of a wall? Create a narrative and a call to action.

It’s ironic that videos, predicted by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to replace text earlier this year, represent one of the media's biggest existential problems. Most content creators don’t pick the formats preferred by audiences, they pick them based on what lines pockets. The WORST era thus continues.