gen Z, Z generation, latest generation, x gen, genx, genz In fact, contrary to popular belief, Gen Z places a substantial value on what they share online.

This generation prefers accessing an enormous amount of information and branded content, and is against sharing or consuming fake news. Are M&E companies cued in to this consumer powerhouse?

For those who think they have finally figured millennials, we have a piece of news. It is time to start wringing your hands about the new generation that is about to enter the workforce — Generation Z. Now all of 22 or younger, Generation Z is widely recognised as the next consumer powerhouse.

Also known as the post-millennial generation, Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2012) is the generation that used internet from a very young age. While currently, a small cohort of this generation might be gaining purchasing power, it is critical for media and entertainment companies to understand how Gen Z consumes content. And if studies are something to go by, Gen Z consumes media in a very different way compared to millennials. Here are some differences:

The actual ‘mobile’ natives

Being a mobile-first generation, Gen Z consumes much of their media on smartphones. Since half of them are connected online about 10 hours a day, media consumption for Gen Z is embedded in their daily lives. Hence, they are not even consciously deciding to consume content.

Regarding video content, Gen Z prefers short videos and actually likes ads less than 10 seconds even more than previous generations, while Gen X is more tolerant of videos up to 20 seconds, as per a report by Kantar Millward Brown. Gen Z is also sceptical towards advertising and finds branded content more attractive. Formats like branded events, social media feeds and celebrity endorsements score higher for this group than older consumers.

While they do consume content on TV, they prefer content sites like Netflix and YouTube.

In fact, according to Trifecta Research, 59% of Gen Z video consumption is done via over-the-top (OTT) services as opposed to 29% for TV. They also watch more than two hours of YouTube each day, as opposed to millennials who still prefer TV, cable and OTT services for media consumption.

Limitless options, but limited time

Growing up in a world where options are limitless but time isn’t, Gen Z has adapted to quickly sorting through and accessing an enormous amount of information. With the attention span of a gnat (eight seconds to be exact), this generation is big on consuming short-form content that is highly relatable and off-the-cuff. Also, as they spend most of their time scouring the internet and engaging with their community via apps, they mostly read influencer-driven content especially on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube.

To put it simply, Gen Z likes to consume content in a more natural, seamless way and therefore anything that is fake, sale-sy or boring will not make it to the Gen Z’s list. Therefore, with more content distribution channels, it will become more of an experience than just information. Even when it comes to liking influencers, Gen Z favours Snapchat and YouTube stars more than movie stars.

Opinionative and visualisers

Where millennials were criticised for their lack of focus, Gen Z is known to plan ahead. As they spend most of their time online, they have no aversions to raise their opinion, even on a public forum. In fact, social media platforms are one of their most preferred spaces to talk about anything and everything. They have been strongly shaped by their individualistic, self-reliant Gen X parents and thus expressing a strong opinion is part of their social browsing behaviour.

Moreover, this consumer group is exceptionally design-conscious and takes note of an ad’s aesthetic qualities; it appreciates the use of new immersive formats like augmented reality and virtual reality. Innovation in formats like native ads, sponsored lenses and sponsored filters attract much stronger approval with Gen Z than other age groups.

In other words, media companies should apply the basic rules of great marketing — a captivating story and relevant humour. These remain the most influential elements for Gen Z’s decision to consume a particular type of content. One will have to focus on building easy to use and engaging products that will render more options and power to people.

Fond of their ‘personal and virtual’ space

While always online, Gen Zers are incredibly mindful of their personal and digital space. If watching ads, this generation wants it not to breach their personal space, or it can risk a backlash. This theory is well explained by the Kantar Millward Brown study that says that within the digital space, Gen Zers are more favourable than other generations towards mobile rewards video and skippable pre-rolls. Their dislike for invasive ad formats like non-skippable pre-rolls and pop-ups is evident in their browsing techniques.

In fact, contrary to popular belief, Gen Z places a substantial value on what they share online. This also suggests that this consumer group is not comfortable with consuming or sharing fake news. They understand that wrong information can trigger violence and frenzy; therefore, they filter their sources and refer to media platforms with strong past credentials. By utilising digital identities and a verifiable reputation system, new-age technologies like blockchain also have the potential to eradicate fake news for good. Therefore, it is extremely important to verify the validity of news articles before sharing and reporting the same.

In conclusion, it is critical for content producers to recognise Gen Z’s different approach and reach them with targeted content. Their expectations, consumption patterns and, of course, access to technology have created a range of attitudes and behaviours that need to be captured. So, to be successful in engaging with this critical and fast-emerging group of consumers, smart hacks need to be inculcated and filtered into the distribution process.

By Tarun Arora

The author is CMO, Inshorts