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Research / Insights on current and emerging industry topics

Gen Z not only loves content, they pay for it

February 5, 2020 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Media is embedded into the lives of Generation Z. This group, ages 14 to 22, are digital natives and socially driven. According to a new report from VICE Media in partnership with Ontario Creates, Gen Z: The culture of content consumption, media and pop culture have a significant impact on their identity. This study focuses on how Gen Z discovers, consumes and shares cultural content. This is defined as film and TV, art, lifestyle, gaming, music, and literature. (It excludes politics and hard news).

Three quarters of the Gen Z respondents (75%) report that original content is important to them. They like to hear about different topics and are open to storytelling in new and creative ways. Gen Z also likes to explore and engage in a variety of different voices and viewpoints. Their number one content preference is music followed by humor, memes/internet culture, gaming and food, dining and drinks.

Content discovery

Gen Z discovers content most often from personal recommendations from family and friends, music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora and from publisher websites.

There were born to social platforms and it plays an important part in their content discovery. YouTube is their number one content source with Instagram as a close second followed by Facebook and Snapchat. TikTok is also gaining popularity. Gen Z tends to like content on social platforms, that is transparent, with few barriers between the creator and the audience. In order to successfully engage with Gen Z, publishers should experiment with different storytelling techniques on social platforms.


True multitaskers, Gen Z often has a second device in hand (60%) while watching shows and movies for entertainment. The second device is used to socialize, engage in another entertainment mode (e.g. gaming), or find complementary information on the content being viewed.  


Nearly all of Gen Z consumers (90%) pay for their content with, on average, four different content subscriptions. Music and video streaming are the top paid services followed by console games, PC games and mobile games. Gen Z reports that they are willing to pay for content if it offers better quality (61%), better experience (56%), and is more convenience (50%). Only four in 10 noted the need for an ad-free environment. Gen Z is looking for a frictionless and personalized experience with their subscriptions. They like the idea of platforms curating high quality content for them.

Pop culture and media play an important role for Gen Z. To attract this generation, publisher’s content should strive to:

  • Embody diversity
  • Entertain as well as inform
  • Attract global representation
  • Empower and support unique voices
  • Ensure quality (advertising platforms are fine)
  • Promote discovery and engagement across platforms

Importantly, the content needs to connect with Gen Z on an emotional level and showcase authenticity. Gen Z is conscious of content brands and publishers should think about ways to establish their credentials with this generation.

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