Login is restricted to DCN Publisher Members. If you are a DCN Member and don't have an account, register here.

Digital Content Next


InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Get to know Gen Z’s media habits

September 14, 2021 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

Understanding Gen Z’s media experiences and entertainment preferences is a priority for publishers because they provide a proxy for the future of digital media. Already, according to a McKinsey analysis, Gen Z accounts for 40% of global consumers while a Barkley US report estimated that they hold $143 billion in spending power.

To gain insight into this generation, Digital Content Next (DCN) commissioned Seidmon Associates to research Gen Z’s attitudes, values, and behavior regarding digital content. Through a 20-minute online survey, they queried 1,556 respondents aged 16-40 between May 14 and June 5, 2021. Approximately half (792) of respondents fell into the Gen Z demographic, ages 16-24, and the remainder (764) into Gen Y, ages 25-40. DCN’s goal in conducting this research is to help their members better understand the way that Gen Z experiences content to build audience reach and engagement. Note that the research included a Gen Y sample to offer a contrasting perspective and a better understanding of Gen Z.

Attributes and access

High quality is the most important attribute that influences digital media brand loyalty among both generations. Trust is the next most significant attribute among Gen Z and Gen Y. And privacy and authenticity also matter a great deal to both generations.

For both Gen Z and Gen Y, mobile rules – with nearly half of both generations saying their phone is valued above all else. DCN’s research  found that Gen Z values video more than any other media platform – by a margin of roughly 2-to-1 over social, gaming, music, or Google search. Both generations have more paid subscriptions for video than any other content type (a little over three each).

In terms of devices and hardware, the mobile phone is clearly most valued, followed by gaming consoles and devices. However, videogame consoles are second in importance among Gen Z, while laptops are second among Gen Y.

Video and attention

There’s a significant intersection here, as video is highly accessible at all times, given these consumers’ tendency to view it on mobile. Both generations see video as part of their social fabric and say that it is part of their daily conversation. According to DCN’s Vice President of Research, Rande Price, “That means that major marketing campaigns aren’t lost on them. Big announcements like of Marvel series drops on Disney+, the reintroduction of chess due to Queens Gambit on Netflix, etc. – these are all part of their social conversation.”

The research finds that, in general, both generations prefer shorter-form content. Gen Z attributes this to their “short attention span” while Gen Y value short form as a time filler. YouTube, Instagram and TikTok are most popular with Gen Z, while Gen Y prefers YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram (in that order). Both Gen Z and Gen Y prefer user-generated over company-produced digital media content by a 2-to-1 margin. In particular, Gen Z respondents felt that user-generated content was “more authentic, honest, and relatable” than professionally produced content.

As the report concludes, Gen Z are digital natives, born into a world with it all – social media, instant messaging, video games, live streaming, traditional TV and movies. Therefore, “understanding Gen Z’s media experiences and entertainment preferences is a priority for publishers because they are the future.”

The full report also covers a wide range of topics including Gen Z’s rational around paying for subscriptions, attitudes and preferences on news, ethical and social considerations, and more. DCN members can access the full report here.

Liked this article?

Subscribe to the InContext newsletter to get insights like this delivered to your inbox every week.