The decline of trust in media is well documented, “fake news!” has become the cry of our times. However this attitude has infiltrated even the youngest consumers, a third of US Gen Z (kids aged 7-15) say that newspapers rarely or never tell the truth. In the UK, this rises to half. What’s the reason for this trust vacuum? Well the information age has saturated us with information – much of it contradictory. So perhaps it feels safer to teach our kids to approach news with default cynicism, rather than blind belief. Social media has also disrupted the media landscape, giving voice to ordinary people which not only provides real time, personalised information, it also provides a more authentic down to earth voice than traditional media, and for Gen Z authenticity is crucial for trust. Foresight Factory is one of the only consumer analytics agencies to conduct kids research. We do this because we believe uncovering attitudes such as these is key to understanding and predicting how the next generation of consumers will act. Here we take a look at the trends driving the how, what and when of Gen Z media habits in the US.
The way in which kids are consuming media is very much influenced by those close to them, with 81% having used YouTube in the last month to watch content created by vloggers or their friends. This Mobile First generation watches videos on the go, usually alone and discovers new content often in short for, through personalised suggestions. They find value in sharing content too, 48% share links to funny or interesting content on social media. However, this route to content discovery suggests that Gen Z kids are growing up in a filter bubble. With sites like Facebook as one of their main sources of information (58% have visited the site in the past month), even in spite of the social network’s efforts to use algorithms to limit fake news and ‘echo chambers’, these consumers are still being pushed material based on popularity and their location. Media must be viral to be seen.
When it comes to user generated content (UGC), it’s Gen Z who is leading the way with 32% who have recently watched a video made by someone they know. Half of the kids in the US watch vloggers, with significantly more boys (57%) than girls (38%), perhaps due to the particular popularity of of gaming vloggers amongst boys, such as Pewdiepie with over 50 million subscribers – a reported 70% of whom are male (at the time of writing).
It doesn’t come as a shock that this is the age group most associated with the term ‘YouTube Generation’ and that it’s our trend Celebrity Next Door motivating American kid’s media diets. Vloggers and their perceived authenticity and authority makes them a relatable role model for many in this demographic – making them more trusted than newspapers for many, a mammoth 68% of those who watch vlogs say they always or mostly tell the truth. Furthermore, these YouTube celebrities are increasingly moving into functional spaces as providing informative advice is one key way to stay relevant – those who watch vlogs are accustomed to turning to the internet for advice, the most popular topics being ‘how to’ in gaming and tech.
On-demand is the default for Gen Z, with mobile streaming and the likes of 61% of these young consumers subscribed to Netflix. Already Gen Z has developed habits from the always on availability of media, with 63% binge viewing multiple episodes in a row and 68% using their phone or tablet in bed just before falling asleep. But the demand for immediacy is pushing this further and now we see the arrival of real time media. An innovation that successfully navigates this need hails from Norway. It comes in the form of a ‘real time’ drama called Skam, where scenes are published online at the same time they are meant to happen. Users can watch as scenes are released or wait until the end of the week to watch them all stitched together as a full-length episode. This captures a sense of ‘reality’ that appeals to Gen Z, a generally untrusting demographic. It also allows flexibility of viewership, not subscribing its audience to a fixed schedule.
Interested in knowing more about the consumer attitudes of Gen Z? Download our report on media here.