Women wait at a train station absorbed by content

The ways in which we choose to consume content have changed significantly in recent years. Recent data from Ofcom shows that more than 50% of UK adults enjoy being able to watch TV whenever and wherever they want via their smartphone or tablet and almost 70% prefer watching TV shows on-demand in order to avoid adverts. Additionally, ‘binge watching’ is becoming more prevalent, with 35% of adults in the UK admitting to doing so on a weekly basis.

While most everyday communications with family and friends were made via text message just five years ago, images are now a primary method of communication. The UK’s fastest-growing language is emoji and more than 180 million people use Snapchat every single day. Instagram Stories is racking up an impressive 400 million daily active users and when you throw in the fact that social media has created a whole new generation of internet celebrities, it’s clear that media consumption habits are very different to how they were just a handful of years ago.

The Changing Tides of Content Consumption

The Ofcom report analyses how UK consumers engage with content, look for information, communicate, shop and generally participate in the digital landscape. It reveals that 88% of adults have access to the internet at home, although reach is highest among younger demographics, with 53% of over-74s regularly accessing the internet.

More than 60% of 16-34s and 44% of 35-54s consider their smartphones to be their primary device for accessing the internet. Only 13% of over-54s view their smartphones in the same way, with 31% viewing their laptops as their most important device. 27% of over-54s consider their tablets to be their primary internet-access device, with just 22% naming their desktops as their most important device.

Millennials vs Baby Boomers

In an increasingly interconnected world, we have never been presented with a greater number of ways to consume a variety of media. Traditional media outlets have undergone a transformation to become “newsbrands”, ensuring that alongside their print formats they aren’t missing out on opportunities that can only be found in the digital space.

A collaborative study between Newsworks, the University of Bath and research companies Flamingo and Tapestry conducted to explore how millennials (aged 18-34 at the time) chose to consume news in comparison to baby boomers (aged 50-65 at the time). Interestingly, the findings illustrated that despite being faced with a more chaotic news landscape, millennials had still formed strong “newsbrand” consumption habits. Almost 75% turned to “newsbrands” for a balanced perspective, with almost 80% stating that “newsbrands” presented them with stories they wouldn’t otherwise have read elsewhere.

Millennials typically access news and other content in bitesize chunks periodically throughout the day and 73% admitted to visiting a “newsbrand” site to access more information on a story that piqued their interest on social media. More than a million baby boomers access “newsbrand” websites daily, noting the ease and speed at which they can consume information as a key benefit, however they tend to do so at specific times of the day.

Content Consumption According to Generation Z

The oldest members of Generation Z are now graduating from university, entering the workplace and establishing their own purchasing power. Notably, Gen Z consumes content in very different ways to other generations. Significantly, as the digital sphere is so embedded into their daily lives, many Gen Zers don’t make conscious decisions to consume content. Instead, it happens fluidly throughout the day. Although Millennials are also heavily invested in digital media, they consume digital content more consciously.

Although Gen Zers do watch TV, they prefer YouTube, Netflix and other over-the-top (OTT) services that aren’t linked to a specific satellite or cable service. 2015 research from Trifecta shows that around 70% of Gen Zers consume more than two hours of YouTube content daily, whereas Millennials are more inclined to combine their OTT consumption with TV and cable services. More recent research from Deloitte in 2018 shows that more than 55% of people across all generations in the US, from Gen Z to Matures only keep their TV subscriptions because it’s bundled together with their home internet package.

Gen Zers consumption drivers are shifting significantly as they spend more time engaging with content on social media. Social media isn’t simply a way for them to broadcast aspects of their lives, it is actually an important way for them to engage with their communities. This generation enjoys influencer content because it’s relatable, short-form and can be fluidly consumed throughout the day across a variety of channels and devices. This shift towards seamless content consumption requires brands and businesses to adapt to secure the loyalty and engagement of Gen Z.

Conclusion

Although there are differences between each demographic, Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Zers are proving themselves to be adopters of digital media on a cutting-edge scale. Notably, Gen Xers increasingly digital savviness and rising disposable income should be viewed as a key opportunity for all providers of media and entertainment.