January 28, 2020

What Gen Z is Watching Online

Mikey Dunn

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

Though both are considered the younger generations, there are many key differences between Gen Z and millennials, particularly in the content they consume. 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, they are attracted to social platforms, including YouTube and newcomer TikTok. Since these platforms are completely different from traditional television, movies, and the like, what exactly is this generation watching online?


Since YouTube has been around for the majority of their adolescence, Gen Z loves it and considers it their top preferred platform for consuming video content—in fact, 85 percent of teens watch content on YouTube. In an increasingly demanding society, they are turning to things like slime videos and vloggers on YouTube in order to escape daily life and connect with their virtual “friends.” What separates the video platform from other social media platforms is its ability to reel in people to watch longer-form videos.

Gen Z is mainly heading to YouTube to be entertained. Humor and pranks, video game playthroughs, reviews, reaction videos, compilations, and even influencers just hanging out and living everyday life are forms of entertainment that appear opposite of traditional TV.

Vlogging (a form of video blogging) had its rise to prominence on YouTube and continues to show signs of growth and popularity. Online personalities, known as vloggers, typically upload low-budget and highly personal videos of themselves where they connect with their audience (their “subscribers”). Many vloggers have even built entire careers out of their vlogging hobbies—the highest-paid vlogger in 2019, Ryan Kaji, earned a whopping $26 million. Vloggers have also played a large role in Gen Z’s brand and product discovery, since this generation sees endorsements by influencers as more trustworthy and authentic than ones by celebrities and sports stars.

Informative videos also reign high on YouTube as 85 percent of Gen Z teens turn to videos to learn something new or stay in the know. Most students prefer YouTube videos over textbooks, and many search for videos for DIY projects and how-tos.


TikTok’s user base grew extremely quickly to 800 million active users by mid-2019, with a majority of those users within the Gen Z age range. It is new as a social platform and ad platform, and brands are taking notice and trying unconventional marketing campaigns.

TikTok’s content is much shorter than content on YouTube, showcasing a feed of 15-second videos featuring lip syncs, viral dance crazes, and humorous Vine-like skits. And unlike Instagram, the platform embraces spontaneous, point-and-shoot, no-budget clips.

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

There are two types of creators on TikTok: creators with large followings on other platforms that are trying the latest new thing, and unknown, new creators that are finding an audience within TikTok first.

As Forbes puts it, the key to Gen Z is video content that’s 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 find a release from the increased social pressures and competition they’re facing. As long as you put yourself in Gen Z’s shoes and give them the content they’re looking for, you will see success with these digital natives.

Tags: Consumer Insights, Content Marketing, Niche Networks, Trends, YouTube

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