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Last year, Belgium-based public service broadcaster VRT set up an internal ‘Start-up’, a team tasked with engaging the “YouTube generation” – with a focus on roughly 16 to 24 year-olds – and experimenting with new platforms and different ways to tell stories. Many news outlets have established internal incubators or news labs to help drive innovative thinking, and the hope is that VRT’s version will help the broadcaster re-engage with this audience in particular.

“We didn’t reach young people any more with our classic radio and TV,” member of Start-up Lesley Demuynck told Journalism.co.uk. “In the digital world, people could go onto YouTube and Facebook and the big players in the world, and we as a regional media outlet were losing grip on that generation.”

Their work has been guided directly by the target audience via ‘Insight Sessions’ held fortnightly across the country, as well as feedback gathered via their own digital channels. The Insight Sessions, which bring together individuals from the target age-group, have served to highlight not only the prevalence of networks such as Facebook and Snapchat in that generation’s media diet, but also the specific ways in which they are being used.

Three key projects have been pursued by the team in beta following its launch, two of which are editorially-focused, and driven by social media: a mobile video project called Ninjanieuws, which exists on Instagram and Snapchat, and a Facebook-supported news platform called Sambal. The third project, called OpenVRT, is a collaboration project to bring together young people with key digital skills such as in blogging, video and photography, with VRT.

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This study explores and compares attitudes and feelings of middle-aged British and Swedish Internet non-users as well as their reasons for being offline. The rich qualitative data are conceptualized and presented according to various reasons for non-use, positive and negative feelings regarding non-use, and the positive as well as negative influence of and dependence on social networks. The comparison shows both unique and common perceptions of the British and Swedish respondents, some of which can be attributed to social, economic, or socio-economic factors. However, it also displays vast differences between middle-aged non-users in both countries. The analysis paints a complex picture of decisions for and against the use of the Internet and the need for more research to understand these highly complex phenomena, which cannot simply be attributed to socio-economic backgrounds as has been done in most previous research. The analysis shows that more complex reasons, such as lack of interest or discomfort with technologies, as well as the somewhat surprising finding that social networks can prevent non-users from learning how to use the Internet, as it is more convenient to stay a proxy-user, should be considered in future research and policies regarding digital inequalities.

Living Offline: A Qualitative Study of Internet Non-Use in Great Britain and Sweden – Bianca Christin Reisdorf, Ann-Sofie Axelsson, Hanna Maurin Söderholm

This study explores and compares attitudes and feelings of middle-aged British and Swedish Internet non-users as well as their reasons for being offline. The rich qualitative data are conceptualized and presented according to various reasons for non-use, positive and negative feelings regarding non-use, and the positive as well as negative influence of and dependence on social networks. The comparison shows both unique and common perceptions of the British and Swedish respondents, some of which can be attributed to social, economic, or socio-economic factors. However, it also displays vast differences between middle-aged non-users in both countries. The analysis paints a complex picture of decisions for and against the use of the Internet and the need for more research to understand these highly complex phenomena, which cannot simply be attributed to socio-economic backgrounds as has been done in most previous research. The analysis shows that more complex reasons, such as lack of interest or discomfort with technologies, as well as the somewhat surprising finding that social networks can prevent non-users from learning how to use the Internet, as it is more convenient to stay a proxy-user, should be considered in future research and policies regarding digital inequalities.

Living Offline: A Qualitative Study of Internet Non-Use in Great Britain and Sweden – Bianca Christin Reisdorf, Ann-Sofie Axelsson, Hanna Maurin Söderholm

The guy in the video says this is now a Facebook world, and the big pyramid with money at the top and people at the bottom has been turned on its head. Well I don’t really think it has, because this is the first major event I’ve seen our lot [his friends] involved with. And in the end they’re still lobbying the same governments to do the same things they would have 20 years ago. The only difference is people hear about it quicker because of social networks.