News – it’s not what it was. Back in the day people would stop to watch the 9 o’clock news on the BBC. Now there’s 24-hour rolling news, online and offline sources and far fewer viewers and far less trust. GenZ are playing a leading role.
As I write this, there are riots and peaceful protests right across the USA. What you think is happening depends on the lens you choose to use. The big UK terrestrial channels like the BBC or ITV still get plenty of viewers every day but these are mostly legacy viewers. Because GenerationZ don’t watch terrestrial news. That’s not an exaggeration.
In fact, they’re watching a television for less and less time anyway. In 2019 the British Ofcom report showed that fewer people are watching landline television but it fell faster among the 16-24 year olds, ie GenZ. For older people it was 3hrs 12mins a day of TV time on average. For the younger audience it was 2hrs 10mins.
And it’s worse if you’re scheduling news. Where Boomers watch an average of 33mins of television news a day, for GenZ that figure is just 2mins.
So where do they get their news from? As ever, it’s each other, which is to say filtered news. Nearly half get their news from social media, so confirmation bias is going to be strong with this one.
GenZ want to comment and interact with the world, they don’t want to be too passive about it, so they don’t want to just hear what the BBC thinks you should hear with the slant they think is right – given that truly objective reporting seems to be a thing of the past.
GenZers want to hear from their friends about it, ponder it, comment and maybe share. In other words, the gate-keepers have no control any more. Many would see that as a splendid thing, but the BBC won’t be one of them since GenZ clearly feel there’s no reason why you should pay for news, directly or under threat of being prosecuted.
GenZ are cautious about the news they see. They know about agendas, fake news and special pleading. By the time they’re 15 years old they will have been exposed to a mind-bending 200,000 marketing messages. Trying to fool or influence them is not easy.
So how can you get them to engage with news? As ever with GenZ, platform is key. Research shows that 82% of GenZers in a survey recognised the BBC channels, but 94% recognised YouTube. And YouTube is home to one of the biggest sources of news mixed with opinion out there – the podcast.
Which means that a podcast onYouTube can be a phenomenally influential – and profitable – endeavour. It means those you wouldn’t normally think about can influence opinion and possibly even events more than recognised channels. Take Joe Rogan.
To some he’s a creature of the dark web, yet he’s usually oscillating either No 1 or No 2 on Apple Podcasts. That translates into 8.41m million subscribers, with probably around 200m monthly listens and views. Even a mention on his show, not even being a guest, can have an effect – Bernie Sanders’ campaign reported an upsurge in support when Joe simply named him as a possible candidate to vote for.
Those are the kinds of numbers most traditional and dead-tree press could only dream of – that and the flow of revenue that brings. Where BBC viewers are generally older, podcast audiences are generally younger so podcasts – either appearing on them, advertising around them or being mentioned on them – is pure cat-nip for those trying to ‘get to’ GenZ.
But there’s a twist.
In a reminder that nothing stands still for a moment, The Joe Rogan Experience has just signed exclusively for Spotify, in a deal The Wall Street Journal reckons will be worth over $100m for Joe Rogan. Within 23 minutes of the news breaking Spotify stock valuation rose $1.7bn. The transition away from YouTube will happen this year. It’s a reminder that as soon as the mainstream work something out – it changes. Like fashion, like street slang, it’s constantly evolving.
That’s exhausting to keep up with but you can see the rewards are worth it. Much easier just to sit down, put on the television and flick the remote for the latest news. But if you do that you’re looking at the past, not the future and you won’t be looking where GenZ are looking.