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Generation, life course and news media use in Sweden 1986-2011

Journal article
Authors Oscar Westlund
Lennart Weibull
Published in Northern Lights
Volume 11
Issue 1
Pages 147-173
ISSN 1601-829X
Publication year 2013
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Pages 147-173
Language en
Keywords Digital media, Generations, Legacy media, Life cycle, Mannheim, Media generation, Media usage
Subject categories Media and Communications


It has been posited that different generations are largely influenced by the characteristics of the media landscape they inherit and grow into in their formative years. However, we also know from empirical studies that individual media use changes over the life course. At present no empirical study has analysed and compared the use of several news media among different generations in relation to both life cycle factors and media development over significant periods of time. Hence, this article explores the topic through its cross-generational comparison of transforming news media usage. As a point of departure, the generation analyses use the widely recognized classification of the dutifuls (1926-1945), the baby boomers (1946-1964), generation X (1965-1976) and the dotnets (1977-1995). Five analytically distinct media system eras, covering 1986 to 2011, are utilized for embedding the empiric analyses into distinct media system contexts. The findings evidence the generational hypothesis on formative socialization, especially with regards to the dutifuls and the baby boomers. Nevertheless, age and life cycle are also identified as critically important factors. The findings show that the elderly persist with legacy news media, while younger generations predominantly orient towards news platforms that have emerged in the digital mediascape, even though this traditional classification seems to be too broad for analysis of media development. Consequently, researchers should ideally acknowledge this double effect of age in future research on media usage, as well as work further on developing relevant classifications of generation relevant research for our understanding of transforming media use. © 2013 Intellect Ltd Article.

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