Gen Z Media Consumption: It's A Lifestyle, Not Just Entertainment | Forbes

Dr. Granados Outlines the Many Ways Gen Z Consumes Content

June 20, 2017  | 3 min read

The first small cohort of early Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2012) college graduates may be looking for a job. As they gain purchasing power, it is more important than ever for media and entertainment companies to understand how Gen Z's consume content, especially considering that they account for about a quarter of the US population.

There are plenty of studies and experts talking about the psychology of Gen Z’s and how to market to them, but research on how Gen Z consumes content is just starting to emerge. It turns out that Gen Z’s consume media in a different way compared to Millennials (born between 1980 and 1994).

Digital Natives

There is plenty of evidence that Gen Z’s consume much of their media on smart phones. Smart phone use is pretty much ubiquitous in this generation and about half of them are connected online about 10 hours a day. Therefore, media consumption for Gen Z’s is embedded in their daily lives so they are not even consciously making a decision to consume content. Among teens (13-18 years old), smartphones are used almost 3 hours a day to consume TV shows, videos, music, games, and social media. Millennials are also heavy digital media users, but they more consciously set out to consume content digitally.

Regarding video content, Gen Z’s use over-the-top (OTT) services that are not tied to a cable or satellite service, more than TV and other channels. They do watch TV, but not as much as on sites like Netflix and YouTube. According to Trifecta Research, 59% of Gen Z video consumption is done via OTT services, as opposed 29% for TV. 70% of Gen Z’s watch more than two hours of YouTube each day, as opposed to Millennials for which still TV and cable are used together with OTT services for media consumption.

Social Media Natives

The drivers for consumption by Gen Z’s are increasingly shifting as they spend more time on their cell phones engaged in social media apps. For Gen Z's, social media is a major way of engaging with his or her community, as opposed to just being a digital broadcasting platform. This is also the case for younger Millennials.

Influencers who make their name in social media platforms like Instagram, Musical.ly, and YouTube are an increasingly important driver of consumption, and content itself is adapting accordingly. Whether it’s music or video, influencer content is short-form, off-the-cuff, and highly relatable. This makes it easy for Gen Z fans to consume the content fluidly across multiple channels and devices throughout the day.

According to Kara Alter, Head of Brand at Shimmur, a Gen-Z focused media company, not only are social influencers a driving force of new media consumption, but they're beginning to take center-stage in mainstream productions as well. Companies like Netflix, YouTube Red, Fullscreen, and AwesomenessTV are investing in original series and films starring social influencers - like YouTube Red’s film Alexander IRL featuring Brent Rivera or Netflix’s reality series Chasing Cameron featuring Cameron Dallas.

Influencers have magnetic personalities and built-in distribution, but they also have a deeply personal relationship with their fans, which allows them to create storylines they already know will resonate with their audience. “The future of media is audience-first,” says Alter. “Companies that take cues from influencers and include fans in all aspects of content production - from story development, to casting, filming, marketing, and distribution - will see much higher engagement and loyalty among Gen Z.”

Gen Z’s are digital natives and social-media driven, and so are Millennials who are close to the older Gen Z's. The point is, the younger the Gen Z or Millennial, the more he or she will consume content in a more natural, seamless way. Businesses in the media and entertainment ecosystem that adapt accordingly will win.

 

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