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A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

“Total time spent will show signs of shrinking — at least in countries that were early adopters of ubiquitous mobile internet.”

A recently published survey looking at smartphone usage in the Nordic countries contained an astonishing number. In the 18- to 24-year-old age group, only 87 percent said they “own or have ready access to” a smartphone. That was the lowest of all the other adult age groups surveyed — including 65- to 75-year-olds.

(The data: 87 percent for 18-24, 95 percent for 25-34, 96 percent for 35-44, 94 percent for 45-54, 90 percent for 55-64, and 89 percent for 65-75.)

87 out of 100 is a high proportion, mind you. But it’s still surprising to many of us that a significant proportion of the youngest adults turn their backs on a device most consider an extra limb.

I feel confident we’ll see more signals of a slowly emerging tech backlash among young people in 2019. The attention younger generations give to social media will, of course, continue to shift from platform to platform. Perhaps Instagram has peaked. But their total time spent will show signs of shrinking — at least in countries that were early adopters of ubiquitous mobile internet.

In addition, the news industry will continue to experience Facebook’s withdrawal from news. The company will be wary of the PR implications, so it will happen slowly — but Facebook has very little to win by promoting news stories in its algorithm and a lot to lose.

Maybe that will be for the better, another reason that news publishers will be forced to try to rebuild a direct and meaningful relationship with citizens. We’ll continue to see many organizations fail in that attempt, and more than ever will go out of business because of it, especially in local news. And we’ll continue to see a strange alliance between mid-size startups like my own and industry leaders like The Guardian that succeed in building both trust and loyalty by abolishing some of the many, many poor decisions we made as an industry in the 2000s — the ones that led to the commoditization of news and the fragmented, occasionally destructive, and needlessly loud news environment that surrounds us today.

In at least a handful of places around the world, local news will begin to flourish in small, community-grown organizations focused on the services that only serious journalism can provide to local democracy. Hopefully, word will begin to spread.

Jakob Moll is CEO for Zetland in Denmark.

A recently published survey looking at smartphone usage in the Nordic countries contained an astonishing number. In the 18- to 24-year-old age group, only 87 percent said they “own or have ready access to” a smartphone. That was the lowest of all the other adult age groups surveyed — including 65- to 75-year-olds.

(The data: 87 percent for 18-24, 95 percent for 25-34, 96 percent for 35-44, 94 percent for 45-54, 90 percent for 55-64, and 89 percent for 65-75.)

87 out of 100 is a high proportion, mind you. But it’s still surprising to many of us that a significant proportion of the youngest adults turn their backs on a device most consider an extra limb.

I feel confident we’ll see more signals of a slowly emerging tech backlash among young people in 2019. The attention younger generations give to social media will, of course, continue to shift from platform to platform. Perhaps Instagram has peaked. But their total time spent will show signs of shrinking — at least in countries that were early adopters of ubiquitous mobile internet.

In addition, the news industry will continue to experience Facebook’s withdrawal from news. The company will be wary of the PR implications, so it will happen slowly — but Facebook has very little to win by promoting news stories in its algorithm and a lot to lose.

Maybe that will be for the better, another reason that news publishers will be forced to try to rebuild a direct and meaningful relationship with citizens. We’ll continue to see many organizations fail in that attempt, and more than ever will go out of business because of it, especially in local news. And we’ll continue to see a strange alliance between mid-size startups like my own and industry leaders like The Guardian that succeed in building both trust and loyalty by abolishing some of the many, many poor decisions we made as an industry in the 2000s — the ones that led to the commoditization of news and the fragmented, occasionally destructive, and needlessly loud news environment that surrounds us today.

In at least a handful of places around the world, local news will begin to flourish in small, community-grown organizations focused on the services that only serious journalism can provide to local democracy. Hopefully, word will begin to spread.

Jakob Moll is CEO for Zetland in Denmark.

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