Media Consumption Habits of Students
College students spend a lot more time online than any previous generation. They engage with a variety of media sources, including news, social media, music and video. Most college students report checking the news frequently. Social media is an incredibly popular source of news among college-age students, but traditional multimedia news networks and online news sites remain very popular as well; CNN ranks as the top news site according to multiple sources. Non-traditional news sources such as Vice and The Young Turks occupy a much smaller share of total college-age users, but are still very popular. Below we discuss precise statistics and details, along with the methodology we used to compile the data.
Data on the media consumption habits of college students were not always readily available, this may be due to the effort it would take for stakeholders to first compile that information and then disseminate it to the public. The effort to compile it would be great enough to warrant the information as highly proprietary and less likely to be released to the public. When data were not available, we defined "college students" as people within the 18-34 range, or "millennials", since the majority of college students are within this range. Occasionally data was separated into sub-groups which roughly correspond to undergraduates and graduates; for example, the 18-24 range more frequently applies to high school seniors or undergraduates, while the 25-34 range more frequently corresponds to graduates.
GENERAL MEDIA CONSUMPTION HABITS
Millennials, the primary "student" demographic, are more likely to use social media than any previous age group. The most popular networks are Facebook, used by 86%, followed by Youtube at 71%. Between 40-60% of people in this age range use Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram.
Millennials typically spend about 8 hours per day online. Men use Youtube at higher rates than women do, while women use Facebook and Pinterest at higher rates than men.
Millennials watch less TV than previous generations do. According to a survey by digital insights group Toluna, only 29% of respondents in this age bracket reported watching more than 3 hours of television a day. When they do watch TV, 61% said Netflix was their preferred content provider, while 55% preferred cable providers.
As their television consumption goes down, millennials instead listen to more music than previous generations. For example, 23% of respondents to the Toluna survey reported listening to more than 3 hours of music per day, with 17% of millennials preferring Spotify and 21% preferring iTunes.
PREFERRED NEWS SOURCES
The internet is by far the most popular way for college-age students to get their news. In a survey conducted by Reuters, 64% of respondents aged 18-24 consumed their news online, while 58% of those aged 25-34 did the same. On the other hand, only 4% of those aged 18-24 obtained their news from radio, 5% obtained it from print, and 24% obtained it from television. Those aged 25-34 showed similar results, with 5% consuming radio news, 5% consuming print news and 29% consuming news from television.
An estimated 95% of the total 75 million millennial internet-users check the news at least once a month. In a study by the American Press Institute, people in the college-age demographic are more likely to integrate news-reading into their daily routines; 39% said they sought new reports out actively, whereas 60% said they encountered them naturally as part of their activities. Millennials typically follow about 10 different news topics, which they consume largely through clicking on social media links. The survey found that 88% get news through Facebook at least sometimes, while 83% find news through Youtube and 50% via Instagram. Pinterest, Twitter, Reddit and Tumblr were also popular sources for news articles and information. According to the University Network, however, despite this high level of popularity for social media news, network news still dominates. College students consume 36% of their news from multimedia networks, while almost 20% comes from national press and almost 18% comes from social media sites. The disparity between these findings could be due to the fact that there is overlap between social media news and other news networks; for example, much of the news posted on social media sites consists of linked articles and videos.
The top three news networks with the highest reach among the college-age demographic are CNN (at 70%), Yahoo-ABC(at 63%), and Buzzfeed(at 60%). USA Today, NBC, Huffington Post, The New York Times and CBS are also in the top ten. Other sites that are normally associated with millennials, such as Vice, Mic, and Vox, are also very popular; the majority of their users are in the 18-34 age range, but since they are also classified as "entertainment" or "lifestyle" sites, their rankings in "news" categories tend to be a little lower. Vice reaches almost 23% of the college-age demographic. Meanwhile, 60% of visitors to both Buzzfeed and Mic are millennials.
Other sites that are popular with college students, but consume a much smaller percentage of the total user demographic, include NPR (2%), ESPN (1%), John Oliver (almost 1%), Apple News (almost 1%), Aljazeera (almost 0.5%), The Daily Beast (almost 0.5%), and The Young Turks (almost 0.5%).
According to a number of studies, college-age millennials tend to be highly engaged with news. Some will seek it out actively but most come into contact with news articles and information naturally as part of their online routines. College-age students will follow a variety of news topics and use almost every social media platform to do so; however, multimedia news networks and online news sites continue to occupy the top places when it comes to the percentage of users they reach.