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What Gen Z is Watching Online – and What That Means for Marketers in 2020

Media headlines and marketing campaigns have given the Millennial generation (born between 1981 and 1996) attention for years, but more recently, there’s also been increased focus on the next youngest generation, Generation Z, which is made up of anyone born in 1997 and onwards.

And while both of these demographic subsets are considered the “younger generations”, there are many key differences between Gen Z and Millennials, which is particularly evident in the content that they consume. For example, Millennials are known for cutting the cord – in other words, ditching cable for online streaming services – but Gen Z was never connected to the cord to begin with. Instead, Gen Z users are attracted to social platforms, including YouTube, and newcomer TikTok, which has lead to completely different viewing behaviors and content interests, evolving media consumption trends which are important to note.

So what is Gen Z watching – and what does that mean for your marketing efforts?

Here’s a look at some of the big video content trends taking hold among younger audiences.


Since YouTube has been a thing for basically all of their life (YouTube was founded in 2005), Gen Z has widely adopted the platform into their media consumption process, and it’s their top preferred platform for consuming video content.

In fact, 85% of teens now consume content on YouTube, while the average time kids spend watching online videos has doubled in the last four years.

That shift away from traditional TV – and towards the shorter clip-style presentation of YouTube – has lead to a whole new approach to video content, while it’s also seen the rise of ‘vloggers’, an entirely new category of celebrity.

Indeed, according to a study published last year, children are now 3x as likely to want to be a YouTube star, as opposed to an astronaut, the past standard for aspiration. Here’s a basic overview of what Gen Z is watching on the video platform.


Video blogging – or ‘vlogging’ – has risen to prominence on YouTube, and continues to show signs of growth and popularity. Online personalities typically upload low-budget and highly personal videos of themselves, through which they connect with their audience. Many vloggers have now built massive careers out of their vlogging hobby – the highest-paid vlogger in 2019, Ryan Kaji, earned a whopping $26 million.

From a brand perspective, it’s important to note the role that vloggers are increasingly playing. Given their popularity, in future, traditional TV advertising may not be your best bet for outreach and brand awareness, while endorsements by influencers are now also considered to be more trustworthy and authentic than those from celebrities and sports stars. This is a key trend to note.

Informative videos

But it’s not just entertainment that makes YouTube a hit with younger users – according to research, 80% of Gen Z teens say that the platform has helped them become more knowledgeable about something, while 68% say that YouTube has helped them improve or gain skills that will better prepare them for the future.

YouTube has become a valuable, and trusted, learning resource. In fact, most students now prefer YouTube videos over textbooks, and many search for videos for DIY projects and how-tos.

The trend underlines the expanding use of the platform, which has various implications for how you can utilize videos to better connect with younger audiences.


Another key video trend of note among younger audiences is Snapchat, and particularly, the rise of its ‘Snap Originals’ programming.

Late last year, Snap reported that total daily time spent watching its Discover content had increased by 40% year-over-year, while more than 100 of its Discover channels now reach, on average, audiences “in the double-digit millions per month”.

Snap’s Discover shows underline a significant shift in video consumption habits. Snap Original shows are shot vertically, and episodes average only five minutes in length. The rise of this content format signals a major shift in video expectations among younger audiences, with content that’s aligned to how they watch, as opposed to re-purposing traditional video formats.

That’s a key trend of note – if you’re looking to connect with younger audiences, shorter, purpose-created content may perform better.

Which leads to the next platform of note:


TikTok saw a significant rise in 2019, and the majority of its growing audience is within the Gen Z age range. The popularity of its short-form video format has brands taking notice, which is now leading to new approaches designed to cater to this market – but what works on TikTok is largely the same as similar short-form predecessor Vine: quick, fun, DIY-style content that aligns with trends and memes.

TikTok’s content is much shorter than content on YouTube, with a limit of 15-second per clip. The most popular content on TikTok right now is lip syncs, viral dance crazes, and humorous skits. 

Creativity within the medium is highly encouraged by the TikTok community, who engage and follow little-known video creators and turn them into TikTok stars. As the platform evolves, we’re seeing the rise of these TikTok influencers who post original content. The company now also has a catalog of its own vetted influencers that brands can partner with.

Really, there are two types of creators on TikTok at present – those with large followings on other platforms who are trying out the latest new thing, and unknown, new creators who are finding an audience within TikTok first. Over time, these approaches are leading to a new, dedicated style that’s unique to the platform, which, given its current popularity, could lead to another significant shift in Gen Z video content consumption, again aligned around shorter, vertically shot and presented clips.

The Changing Face of Video

No matter how you look at it, video content is changing, and brands need to keep up with these relevant shifts in order to maintain connection with younger audiences.

As Forbes puts it, the key to Gen Z is video content which is “relevant, meaningful, and authentic”. Gen Zers are keenly aware when they are being sold to, so content bombarded with cold marketing and logos is going to fail with this generation. Additionally, Gen Z is turning to video content to decompress and to find a release from the increased social pressures and competition they’re facing.

So long as you recognize such trends, and take the time to consider what Gen Z viewers are growing to expect in such, you’ll be able see success with these digital natives.