NAB 2018: Distinct Traits of Gen Z, The YouTube Generation

Call them Gen Z, or Plurals or Centennials. But whatever you do, don’t call these 14- to 19-year-olds millennials. During one of NAB’s Future of Cinema sessions, ETC Immersive Media Initiative lead Phil Lelyveld described Gen Z and what makes them distinct from the much more familiar millennials. For starters, he said, they spend only 13.2 hours a week watching TV, the lowest number of any preceding generation. Lelyveld also noted that the exact definition, by age, of Gen Z is undetermined, but behaviors are clear.

What makes Gen Zers tick is quite different from the cohort they follow. “If you think Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears are the face of youth today, you’re wrong,” said Lelyveld, who enumerated the ways the two demographics differ. “Socially, millennials are multi-cultural, where Gen Z’s are poly-cultural. Technologically, millennials have the freedom to explore the Internet; Gen Z knows what they do online is part of a permanent record, so they’re very careful about what they do.”

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Millennials grew up in a relatively stable middle class world, but Gen Z has experienced the hollowing out of the middle class. Millennials are interested in socializing; Gen Z is more interested in how to succeed in an opportunity-deprived environment. Perhaps no surprise, Gen Zers are stressed — 64 percent report feeling stressed on a weekly basis — even though millennials who grew up middle class and stable are struggling with their own career problems.

Lelyveld showed a chart comparing key traits for Gen Z and millennials. Digital native Gen Zers are more realistic, think independently, are private, like face-to-face interactions, and want on demand learning. “They’ve seen millennials build up huge amounts of college debt and are saying, I won’t let that happen to me,” said Lelyveld. “They want to learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it.” They also want jobs with more variety (role hopping) as opposed to the millennial tack of job hopping.

Gen Z denizens spend a huge amount of time binge-watching, and, not only know how to code, but believe they are creating and distributing studio quality content. “They feel they can match anything that comes out of Hollywood,” said Lelyveld. Ninety-five percent of Gen Zers watch YouTube, 60 percent are on Instagram and 67 percent on Snapchat. A purported 67 percent of them are also on Facebook, but Lelyveld doubted that figure due to the Gen Z passion for privacy.

“YouTube is so dominant that when asked what platform they can’t live without, 50 percent said YouTube,” said Lelyveld.

Gen Z is not just visual, however; 26 percent of them love podcasts, specifically comedy, news and politics, and music. Snapchat is No. 1 when it comes to keeping in touch with friends, and Facebook and YouTube are tied at 21 percent for news. “Social media for this generation dominates where they get their news,” said Lelyveld. Gen Z is slightly less brand loyal than millennials, and surprisingly, Gen Z men are more brand loyal than women.