Rethinking the way millennials do mornings


The millennial population of Charlotte, N.C., is on the rise. So is the age of the readership of its local newspaper. The Charlotte Observer is trying to bridge the generation gap.

Their solution is the Charlotte Five, a mobile-friendly website and daily email newsletter of five stories. The content is a mix of entertainment stories and harder news. Whatever the story, it’s told in a format and a voice that aims at millennial engagement.

Today, for example, the Charlotte Five released a story about Chiquita banana company’s plans to leave Charlotte. Yesterday’s Charlotte Observer story was almost 1,000 words, while the Charlotte Five story was two sentences. In addition to “the story” is a bulleted list of facts and relevant tweets. The Charlotte Five sums up their articles with “C5’s Take.”

“I guess the Queen City is Team Dole, now.”

There’s that millennial voice that they’re going for.

The Charlotte Five often touches on topics of local importance with stories resembling the format of a BuzzFeed list. Charlotte Chipotle restaurants stopped serving pork, so today the Charlotte Five ran a story of “8 local Twitter reactions” complete with a GIF.

Often the Charlotte Five includes a link to a Charlotte Observer story. Other than that, there is little obvious connection between the two publications.

“We don’t know how these brands go together — or if they even should,” said Ted Williams, the Charlotte Observer staff member who is heading up the Charlotte Five project.

I don’t see why not. I think the Charlotte Five will do well. Every morning, I wake up with an email from the theSkimm, a daily newsletter summarizing national and international news that targets female millennials. Similar to the Charlotte Five, theSkimm is concise, in a list format, has links to detailed stories, includes entertainment news and is written in an informal, sassy voice. theSkimm has surpassed 1 million subscribers and has plans to grow. A local take on this model has potential to succeed as well.

Even more potential, I would say. The Charlotte Five is designed to be shared. Each story page prominently displays the number of shares. While national and international news may have a wider reach, a larger impact, local stories can have greater personal impact. People will be more likely to share stories that are meaningful to their day-to-day lives, stories that friends in other cities may not otherwise hear and even stories that are Charlotte inside jokes. Maybe their tweets, their friends’ tweets or their organizations’ tweets will be featured in a Charlotte Five story. C5’s Takeaway could also fuel sharing and further discussion.

The Charlotte Five can catch the attention of a younger audience. I hope for long enough to get them to the Charlotte Observer article. Association with the Charlotte Observer could increase the Charlotte Five’s credibility. The Charlotte Five could spark interest in the Charlotte Observer. I see it as a symbiotic relationship, but then again, I still like newspapers.


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