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Change-makers, leaders, and influencers: Zeit Online’s festival champions the young

Z2X festival has proved a hit for community and engagement 

REUTERS/Susana Vera

By Sahar Amer | Oct 21, 2019

Experiential events have proven to be both lucrative and successful in attracting younger audiences. But how can publishers also engage with young people in a meaningful way that in turn creates a trustworthy brand? 

A study from Atlantic Re:think, Comscore, and Harvard College Consulting Group found that Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to support brands that promote social responsibility and innovation. 

Reuters spoke with Z2X project managers Natalie Wübbolt and Ruth Fend to find out about their success with younger audiences and how this has strengthened the Zeit Online brand

Harnessing positive impact

“This is not a generation of egos. These young people are rediscovering the value of cooperation, solidarity and mass movements. That’s fascinating.”

Natalie Wübbolt

Celebrating its 20th anniversary in September 2016, Zeit Online launched a festival event Z2X in Berlin to mark the occasion. The festival is aimed at bringing young people between the ages of 20-29 together in order to share and discuss ideas about how to make the world a better place

Natalie and Ruth explain, “out of thousands of applications, a jury invited 600 young people with ideas to improve the world to participate in the first Z2X festival in Berlin. Three years later, Z2X has grown into a community of 6,000 young visionaries, all of whom can be considered contributors within their generation.”

The event was intended to be a one-off gathering but due its popularity and at the request of participants, Z2X hosted two more events in 2017 and 2018. Natalie and Ruth say, “the ongoing demand for more Z2X festivals shows us that young people trust Zeit Online as one of Germany’s major and established news organizations to be a platform to connect them with each other, to take their ideas seriously, and to care about their future.”

Weighing up value in trust and social cohesion

Z2X has been able to sustain as part of its operations such as the venue and catering are funded by the Robert Bosch Foundation and other selected commercial partners. 

Natalie and Ruth say, “together we are able to support young people in their respective missions – it pays back in trust and great ideas for our journalism.” 

They also see value in word-of-mouth as this reflects a genuine liking and interest from the participants, “this year, one third of the attendees of Z2X 2019 said it was recommended to them by friends which we take as a measure of value.”

“By providing a free of charge platform for ambitious young people to set their own agendas while also presenting their ideas to a broader audience, Zeit Online supports them in further developing projects that have a positive impact on their immediate environment or society as a whole. And so the Zeit Online brand itself is being closely associated with this positive kind of social impact.” 

Natalie Wübbolt

Z2X

Keeping young people connected

In addition to the annual flagship festival with up to 1000 participants, Z2X are planning to present a series of smaller events in 2020. These will include a one-day “empowerment event” entirely dedicated to skills that young entrepreneurs and opinion leaders need in order to make their voices heard. 

“In addition, Z2X will host a series of evening events with the aim to connect the Z2X community with important decision makers from politics, business, media, culture and science. We also want to strengthen our reporting around new visionaries and their projects, on the Zeit Online website, but also via newsletters and on social media.”

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