Younger audiences are essential to the future growth of publishers and media companies. This is especially true as Gen Z (16-25 years old) and young Millennials (26-32 years old) increase their media consumption.
But it’s not always easy for publishers to keep pace with how these audiences engage and the types of content they’re most interested in.
To help media companies in their quest to reach younger audiences, Digiday and Arc XP surveyed 116 publishers and 114 Gen Z and young Millennial consumers to understand the tactics publishers are currently using to attract these generations and how they match up with those audiences’ preferences.
The good news: Most publishers responding to the survey gave themselves a passing grade when asked about their ability to reach younger audiences. In fact, 87% of them said they agree or strongly agree that their current strategies are effectively attracting and engaging young Millennial and Gen Z audiences.
They also reported that younger consumers already constitute a significant portion of their audiences, with 47% of publishers saying Gen Z makes up 41% or more of their digital audience, and more than half (51%) saying young Millennials consist of 41% or more of their audience.
But the rapidly evolving preferences and media consumption habits of younger audiences require publishers to constantly reevaluate and adjust their strategies. The survey uncovered several opportunities for publishers to fine tune their approach to attracting and engaging Gen Z and young Millennial audiences.
Best channels for reaching younger audiences
When asked what content channels they’re using to engage digital audiences, the publishers we surveyed rely on Facebook, with 75% using the platform. Twitter (65%) and YouTube (63%) rounded out their top three channels.
Publishers gave similar answers about the channels that are most successful in driving Gen Z and young Millennial audiences to their Web sites. Facebook was again the top choice, named by 66% of survey respondents, followed by Twitter (48%) and YouTube (47%).
But when we asked Gen Z and young Millennial respondents about their preferred content channels, Facebook came in fifth place and Twitter came in all the way down at seventh. Most Gen Z and young Millennial respondents named YouTube as a preferred channel, followed by mobile apps and e-mail.
YouTube was also the top choice of Gen Z and young Millennial respondents for discovering new publishers and content, followed by Instagram and mobile apps.
Based on these survey responses, there is an opportunity for publishers to reassess the effectiveness of some of the channels they’ve been relying on (Facebook and Twitter) and investigate the possibilities of some channels they aren’t using as much (mobile apps, e-mail, and Instagram) for reaching Gen Z and young Millennial audiences.
Best content formats for reaching younger audiences
When asked which content formats are the most effective at engaging young Millennials and Gen Z audiences, publisher respondents said they are betting on video and short-form content.
Short-form video was named as the top choice (78% of respondents), followed by a combination of text and video (62%). Short-form text (40%) and a combination of text and audio (40%) tied for third place.
And indeed, when we asked Gen Z and young Millennial respondents about their preferred content formats, they also named short-form video as their top choice. Short-form text came in second place, also supporting publishers’ focus on this format.
But a slightly surprising result rounded out the top three content formats preferred by Gen Z and young Millennial respondents: long-form text. Conventional wisdom says that young audiences have a short attention span and don’t like to read. Our survey findings show there is room for publishers to reconsider their assumptions about younger audiences and look for opportunities to engage them with high-quality, long-form content.
Challenges in attracting younger audiences
We also asked publishers about the challenges they face in attracting young Millennial and Gen Z audiences. Most (57%) said that obtaining information regarding the way these audiences consume media is a challenge. And 44% named identifying effective social media channels as a challenge.
These knowledge gaps are reflected in the disconnection the survey found between the preferences of publishers versus those of Gen Z and young Millennial audiences. But there is an opportunity for publishers to close the gaps by hiring more workers within these demographics, surveying younger audiences specifically, and leveraging third-party research.