How Generation Z, Millennials (and the rest of us) consume media: 7 key trends

Trend-watchers have, for some time, paid considerable attention to the media habits and preferences of Millennials (people aged 20-33), with Generation Z (those aged 14-19) becoming an increasingly important demographic for many companies to engage with. Where these audiences go, others tend to follow, providing an additional incentive to understand the next generation of media consumers.

A flurry of new studies from Deloitte and GlobalWebIndex offer us fresh insights into these audiences, in both the US and globally.

Here are seven key findings.

1. Our love of social shows no signs of abating

“Globally,” GlobalWebIndex reported, “around 1 in every 3 minutes spent online is devoted to social networking and messaging, with digital consumers engaging for a daily average of over 2 hours (rising to 2 hrs 40 mins among 16-24s).”

These findings, based on a survey of over 50,000 internet users from around the world, also revealed the near ubiquitousness of the social experience for online users; 94% of whom have at least one social media account. “The average internet user now has about 8 social accounts,” GWI found, “up from only 3 in 2012.” 

This rise in account ownership – as well as efforts to increase the stickiness of the social experience – is clearly one reason for a growth in user hours. However, the data also reflects how our media habits are changing too.

Interestingly, “filling up spare time” was identified as the leading reason for social media usage among 16-24s, highlighting how social networks have quickly become the default media activity for this age group. 


Image 1: Time spent on social networks and social media as a share of time spent online. Source: GlobalWebIndex. 

2. Instagram continues to grow in popularity

The visual network now enjoys similar reach to Twitter, GlobalWebIndex reports, with Instagram trumping its older rival in the key 16-34 age group.

With Facebook, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp also continuing to enjoy high levels of daily usage, Mark Zuckerberg can rest relatively easy at night.

That said, Snapchat is the most popular messaging app with Gen Z in the US, a finding which no doubt continues to influence the increasingly Snap-like functionality that we are seeing across many of Facebook’s mobile products. 


Image 2: Daily usage of leading social networks and messaging apps.

Source: GlobalWebIndex. 

3. Online video is a fully established platform

Among all internet users (aged 16-64), 92% watch video clips online each month, GWI revealed, with just under half watching live TV, online TV/movies, and 53% watching sports online.

This trumps usage of online radio (46%) and podcasting (36%), although these activities lag behind online gaming (63% of internet users in the last month) and music streaming (62%).

Regular viewing of online TV leaps to nearly three-quarters of GWI’s global sample when the habits of 16-24s (71% have done this in the past month) and 25-34s (73%).


Image 3: Monthly online entertainment activities.

Source: GlobalWebIndex.

4. Gen Z has quickly become the Netflix generation 

In North America, 70% of Generation Z (those aged 14-19) watches Netflix each month, GWI observed, compared to an aggregated figure of 1 in 4 across all international markets. Worldwide, Gen Z consumption of Netflix (25%) is ahead of the adoption curve for the total audience of this popular – and leading – global OTT service (20%).

Gen Zers watch more online TV than other demographics, averaging 1 hour 11 minutes a day, but this continues to lag behind traditional TV, which notches up an additional 20 minutes more of their time on an average day.


Image 4: Media consumption habits. Gen Z vs. the Global average.

Source: GlobalWebIndex.

5. Younger audiences love to binge 

Love of OTT may also be one of the reasons why, Deloitte found, Gen Z and Millennials in the US are also more likely to be binge-watches.

In the press release for their latest Digital Democracy Survey, Deloitte noted that 40 percent of millennial and Gen Z binge watchers do so weekly; and that Gen Z and millennials spend about half their time watching television shows and movies on devices other than a TV. 

Meanwhile, the main report finds that this group averages a staggering 6 episodes – or 5 hours – of viewing in a typical binge-session.


Image 5: Audience who have ever binge-watched / binge weekly

Source: Deloitte Digital Democracy Survey, Eleventh Edition

6. US audiences lean towards free streaming services

Subscriptions for streaming video services have grown by 18% in the past four years (up from 31% in 2012 to 49% in 2016) as a near majority of households subscribe to services like Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix.

Amongst Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X (audiences aged 35-50) that rises to 60%, suggesting that it’s predominantly older audiences who have yet to fully embrace these OTT platforms. 

Across the board, however, more time (40%) is spent on free streaming services, than on paid content (35%), which suggests that these services still need to double-down on original output and programming acquisition if they’re to gain a greater share of audience time.


Image 6: US household streaming habits

Source: Deloitte Digital Democracy Survey, Eleventh Edition

7. Cord-cutting may be on the cusp of going mainstream 

Millennials and Generation Z have led the way when it comes to cord-cutting. This is not surprising, given the predominance of mobile devices in influencing their media and communications habits.

Generation Z spend longer online on their mobiles than they do on all other devices combined, GlobalWebIndex discovered. They also found that smartphone ownership amongst this demographic dwarfed their ownership of other media devices. 

Having led the charge for cord-cutting, it looks as though this habit could spill over into the wider population.

Although Deloitte found that Pay TV supscriptions are holiding steady (74% of US households) their research also noted that “two-thirds of pay TV consumers say they keep their pay TV subscriptions because it is bundled with their Internet.”

With the rise in streaming services – and investment in original content from many of these providers – growing year-on-year, Pay TV’s next threat could come from its core audience. And not just the younger generation.


Image 7: Generation Z, device ownership

Source: GlobalWebIndex. 

Damian Radcliffe is the Carolyn S. Chambers Professor in Journalism at the University of Oregon, a Fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, an Honorary Research Fellow at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Culture Studies and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

He is an experienced Digital Analyst, Consultant, Journalist and Researcher – and a former Editor of TheMediaBriefing – who has worked in editorial, research, teaching and policy positions for the past two decades in the UK, Middle East and USA. Connect with him on Twitter at: @damianradcliffe

Maddie Rubalcava, a recent University of Oregon graduate living in Portland, also helped with this article. Maddie is an intern at an ad agency and enjoys working with her food and beverage clients. On the weekends she loves exploring the city and attending local food and beer festivals. She can outrun the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

By | 2017-05-22T00:01:00+00:00 May 22nd, 2017|Analysis|Comments Off on How Generation Z, Millennials (and the rest of us) consume media: 7 key trends

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