Understanding your Gen Z audience

Gen Z media consumption trends stray from their predecessors, Millennials. What can news publishers learn to help them adapt to the younger audience?

By Sahar Amer | Apr 16, 2019

Research from Atlantic Re:think, together with Comscore, and Harvard College Consulting Group, studied the behaviours of Gen Z in comparison to Millennials, and found that interests between the two groups differ. As this year’s most populous generation will no longer be Millennials, with Gen Z surging ahead making up roughly 32% of global population, organizations and companies need to understand what this younger audience likes and how to grasp their attention.

Top findings:

  1. 48% prefer older media brands
  2. 82% think social responsibility is an important characteristic  
  3. 61% more likely to engage from a diverse range of spokespeople
  4. 67% use video to interact with news media brands

In-depth, meaningful content

Some of the more Gen Z oriented news sources are pretty patronizing… in a way that presumes that people who are young are also stupid.”

— Atlantic Re:think, Gen Z Doesn’t Love You…Yet

The Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post are a bigger hit with the Gen Z audience over newer ones like Cheddar, Buzzfeed and The Outline that Millennials favour. It is suggested that this is due to Gen Z preferring more ‘sophisticated’ news reporting, which older publicists offer, rather than newer media groups which tend to sound ‘patronizing to their younger audience’. The news Gen Z likes to read tends to be more in-depth and less along the lines of clickbait content – which may be a symptom of newer media publishers.

Brands with more social responsibility

Gen Z are looking for brands with social responsibility at the heart of its conscience. Even though environmental and societal issues are a priority for Millennials, Gen Z hold these responsibilities much higher. After quality and price, the top characteristics of favourite brands are:

  • Experience
  • Responsibility
  • Personalization
  • Personality
  • Eco-conscious
  • Innovation

They feel connected to important causes and have a strong sense of identity, inclusivity and value. Take the student-led climate strikes around the world that took place on March 15th 2019, or the teenagers that organized the political campaign for the victims of the Parkland shooting, for example.

A report by Newswhip, Gen Z content trends for 2019, saw that Teen Vogue’s top articles for engagement on Facebook were topics that included ASL (American Sign Language), gun reform, race and gender politics. Teen Vogue have seriously overhauled their editorial in recent years considering they’re a fashion and celebrity magazine, which says a lot about what younger audiences care about and want to read.

Data from NewsWhip Analytics from Jan 1 – Nov 12, 2018

Diversity and inclusivity matter

Advertising should be a reflection of the world, not a mirror image of your target.”

— Atlantic Re:think, Gen Z Doesn’t Love You…Yet

Unlike Millennials, Gen Z are less likely to be brand-loyal and are more likely to buy brands that include diverse spokespeople. They want to see a variety of age, racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds rather than people who look like them, compared to 66% of Millennials of who prefer spokespeople to be their age.

Gen Z are the most ethnically diverse and socially tolerant group compared to other generations, which means they are more willing to pay money to companies and organizations that reflect that. HuffPost demonstrate and are open about actively pursuing diversity and inclusivity in their newsroom and content. Their Communities section covers news for and by queer voices, women, black, Asian, and Latino voices with over 1 million followers on Facebook.

Social video content

According to the Wibbitz report, How to Reach Audiences with Social Video: From Millennials to Generation Z, Gen Z mostly watch video on Youtube and Instagram, compared to Millennials preference for Facebook. They also spend more time watching video online averaging 3.4 hours per day, rather than reading articles amounting to only 2 hours per day.

Data from Wibbitz report How to Reach Audiences with Social Video: From Millennials to Generation Z, Nov 2018

News media publishers have already been experimenting with video for social media, but also making their content engaging for younger audiences. Al Jazeera’s AJ+ is a good example, the channel produces current affairs video content adapted to all of the main social media platforms. Alongside creating relevant, in-depth content, AJ+ applies user-centred designs like bold text and subtle graphics to engage their audiences (over 680,000 subscribers on Youtube and over 257,000 on Instagram).

Many news channels are simply trying to reversion their TV footage for the Internet, or using social networks as a means to drive audience off of social networks and on to their websites, but we see the value in meeting our audiences where they already are and keeping them there.”

— Alan Saura, Audience Development Strategist AJ+