How college students produce, consume content

April 27, 2016 01:30

By Lydia Timmins, RTDNA Contributor

In my life on a college campus, I have the chance to interact daily with those very valuable demos: adults 18-25. As hard as it is to generalize to a whole population from a small sample size, I want to share with you how one Mid-Atlantic population uses video, audio and the Internet.
 
Our school doesn’t focus heavily on media skills. We have a TV station, a radio station and a newspaper that does post some video and audio. In addition to these outlets, many students are involved in producing their own stuff and posting it. Of those I surveyed in my classes, many use Snapchat several times a week. Vine is also big, although a surprising number of students said they’d heard of it, but never used it. Students say they use Periscope “for special events.” One student involved in athletics multimedia said a power outage forced them to Periscope their coverage of a baseball game. They thought it went well, and it seemed to get good reviews and good feedback. But their opinion was that it wasn’t something for everyday use.
 
The favorite on-the-go app for editing is Splice, but most prefer to use Final Cut or iMovie on a laptop and upload to YouTube, Vimeo or Facebook from there. Students are concerned about quality, and feel that while phone video is OK, it needs to be edited on a more robust program. Many students teach themselves iMovie. We use Final Cut X in our TV classes, so they get exposed to both programs. Our campus multimedia center also has Premiere, and some students mentioned using that as well.
 
One of the sillier uses for video is Faceswap--you shoot two people side by side and you can switch their faces. Obviously not a tool for aspiring journalists, but I’m told it’s SO funny!
 
What I found surprising is that students weren’t posting their entire lives online. Yes, they all used Instagram, but they really felt that too many people just use it to get likes. There was a lot of disparaging among my students for those who constantly post every single thing they do. Plus they discuss of validation, so apparently they’re learning theories too!
 
So what are they looking at, if not every second of their friends’ lives? Sadly, not news. Or not news they way we have traditionally thought of it. They’re using Facebook and Twitter to find out the news. Then, yes, they will go to news organizations to get details. But only a handful of them start on news homepages. News apps are useful. Several students say they subscribe to national and local newspaper and/or broadcast stations to get push notifications on big stories.
 
The elusive audience is getting harder and harder to pin down, no matter what the age. Staying on top of new apps is one way to connect--but no matter what, it’s always going to be about the content. Young adults are hungry to know what’s going on in the world (more so as they get older), but they don’t want their parents or their grandparents newscasts. They want news now, on their terms, in a way they can understand. But no matter what--get it right, make it clear and they will come. It just may not be the direct path that it was long ago.


Lydia R. Timmins is an assistant professor of communication at the University of Delaware.