Gen Z Media Habits: Where to Find Them and How to Engage Them

Posted on October 24, 2023 by Media Culture

Understanding Gen Z's media habits is essential for advertisers aiming for precision and impact. This generation prioritizes digital platforms like YouTube and TikTok over traditional media, creating an imperative for brands to adapt. 

The objective of this article is to delve into the media channels Gen Z frequents and to equip advertisers with strategies for effective engagement. We'll explore a range of topics, from social media preferences to streaming habits and gaming preferences, to equip advertisers with strategies for effective engagement. By the end of this comprehensive guide, you'll have actionable insights to tailor your advertising strategies to this highly digital and discerning audience.

For additional detail, and for a full list of sources, please make sure to download the full report: Gen Z Decoded: Navigating the Beliefs, Behaviors, and Aspirations of a New Generation.

/// The Digital Landscape

Gen Z is a generation that lives and breathes digital, prioritizing platforms like YouTube and TikTok over traditional media. This shift from traditional to digital media represents a fundamental lifestyle choice for this generation. Advertisers need to adapt and focus their efforts on these digital platforms to capture Gen Z's attention effectively. The digital landscape is vast, but pinpointing where Gen Z spends their time can significantly enhance your advertising ROI.

Understanding Gen Z's technology attitudes can also provide valuable insights for advertisers. Our data reveals that Gen Z considers themselves social tech product users (167 index), and they often advise friends on tech (134 index). This suggests that Gen Z is not just tech-savvy; they are tech influencers within their social circles. 

/// Social Media Preferences

When it comes to social media, Gen Z has clear favorites. YouTube and TikTok are the platforms where they spend most of their time. The key to engaging them here is through interactive and authentic content. Forget the hard sell; Gen Z values genuine connections. 

According to our research, the percentage of Gen Z active on various social media platforms is as follows: 98% on YouTube, 84% on TikTok, 61% on Snap, 58% on Instagram, and 56% on Facebook. This data highlights the platforms where advertisers should focus their efforts. The reach on YouTube and TikTok is particularly significant, indicating that these platforms are indispensable for any brand aiming to engage Gen Z effectively.

Moreover, Gen Z shows a high index of 144 for liking ads that recommend products based on their likes and follows, and an index of 115 for having purchased products on social media in the last 12 months. This suggests that personalized advertising and social commerce are highly effective strategies for this demographic. They are not just passive consumers; they actively engage with brands that resonate with their interests and values.

Related: The Key Traits That Define Gen Z Consumers


/// Streaming Services and Television

Gen Z's media consumption habits are a blend of the modern and the traditional, with a significant tilt towards the former. Gen Z watches the least television of all generations, averaging just 1:12 hours a day. This is in stark contrast to older generations like the Baby Boomers, who clock in at over 5 hours a day. The shift is not just in the medium but also in the content they consume. While linear TV still has a role, it's diminishing in the face of streaming platforms and short-form video content.

In addition, a staggering 61% of Gen Z TikTok users are more likely to watch video on TikTok (10.5 hours/week) than on TV (8.4 hours/week). YouTube follows closely, with Gen Z spending an average of 6.9 hours per week on the platform. Netflix trails in third place, capturing their attention for 3.1 hours per week. These platforms are not just entertainment sources; they are cultural touchstones for Gen Z. 

When it comes to specific streaming platforms and content, the data is revealing. 55% of our audience watch long-form streaming content on Disney+, while 36% watch Hulu, and 15% watch HBO Max. In terms of programs, 18% watch You, 10% watch Sex Education, and another 10% watch Outer Banks. A significant 83% of this audience binge-watches, with varying frequencies. 

On the traditional TV side, 17% watch Adult Swim, 13% watch Nickelodeon, and 12% watch Cartoon Network. In terms of genres, 36% watch Comedy, 28% watch Cartoon programming, and 11% watch Children’s programming. This diverse range of preferences offers multiple avenues for advertisers to engage Gen Z, both on streaming platforms and traditional TV networks.

/// Podcasts and Audio Platforms

Gen Z's audio consumption habits are as diverse as their video preferences, but with a clear inclination towards modern platforms. Gen Z predominantly listens to streaming audio (35%) and YouTube (24%), with traditional AM/FM radio accounting for just 15% of their listening time. This is in sharp contrast to adults 25 and older, who are more likely to listen to AM/FM radio (43%). In addition, Gen Z prefers Spotify and Pop genres, and they mostly listen during their commute.

Spotify dominates the audio streaming landscape for Gen Z, with 64% of our audience using the platform. Apple Music and Soundcloud follow, capturing 23% and 15% of the audience, respectively. The listening environment also varies: 42% stream audio at home, 35% while commuting, and 25% at work or school. When it comes to radio genres, 32% of our audience listen to Pop, 22% to Urban (Hip-Hop/R&B), and 14% to Alternative. The majority of radio listening happens in the car (54%), followed by at home (24%) and at work or school (14%).

Podcast consumption is on the rise among Gen Z, with 56% of adult Gen Zers listening to podcasts, compared to 53% of Millennials and significantly lower percentages for older generations. The reasons for listening are also noteworthy: 66% listen to stay up to date with current topics, and 61% to stay abreast of social issues. In terms of genres, 22% listen to Comedy/Humor podcasts, 14% to Pop Culture/Entertainment, and 12% to Advice podcasts. Spotify is the go-to platform for podcast listening for 33% of our audience, and the majority listen to podcasts at home (46%), followed by during commutes (26%), and at work or school (18%).

/// Gaming and Social Connection

Gaming is not just a pastime for Gen Z; it's a primary form of entertainment and social connection. A staggering 87% of Gen Zers play video games at least weekly, compared to 83% of Millennials and 79% of Gen Xers. Moreover, 26% of Gen Zers state that video games are their favorite entertainment activity, a sentiment that decreases with age. This is the first modern generation for whom traditional TV shows or movies at home are not the go-to form of entertainment.

The reasons Gen Z engages in gaming are also noteworthy. 70% of Gen Z teen gamers (ages 14-19) reported playing video games to stay connected to others, compared to 58% of Gen Z adult gamers (ages 20-25). This indicates that gaming is not just about the game itself but also about the social interactions it facilitates. Livestreaming is another significant aspect, with 50% of Gen Zers having watched others play video games online, and 20% having streamed their own gameplay, predominantly on platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming.

When it comes to game genres, Gen Z has specific preferences. They are 4.2x more likely to play Sandbox Construction/Gathering games like Minecraft and 3.2x more likely to play Survival games like Don't Starve. Time investment in gaming is also significant, with 27% of Gen Zers playing at least 10 hours of video games per week, and 12% exceeding 20 hours. These insights offer advertisers a wealth of opportunities to engage Gen Z within the gaming ecosystem, from in-game advertising to partnerships with popular streamers.

/// Key Takeaways

Gen Z is a digital-first generation with specific preferences in media consumption. From YouTube and TikTok to podcasts and gaming, the opportunities for advertisers are abundant and diverse. Understanding these preferences is the first step in creating a targeted advertising strategy that resonates with this audience. Brands that can successfully integrate into these platforms will find themselves well-positioned to capture Gen Z's attention and, ultimately, their loyalty.

/// Conclusion

Understanding Gen Z's media habits is crucial for targeted and effective advertising. Media Culture has the expertise to guide advertisers in crafting strategies that resonate with this elusive yet influential generation.

Contact us to leverage our deep insights and proven strategies to make your Gen Z advertising campaigns a resounding success. With the right approach and a deep understanding of this demographic, your brand can not only capture their attention but also build lasting relationships.

For deeper insights and data into marketing to Gen Z audiences, download our comprehensive Audience Insights Report below.


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