Understand and Embrace Generational Consumer Media Habits and Channels
Learn how Americans across generations engage with media, including social media, movies, TV shows, music, reading, and podcasts.

November 28, 2022
Giana Damianos – Senior Analyst, Syndicated Research

Media is a major aspect of consumers’ everyday lives. Americans spend a significant amount of their time and attention consuming social media, visual entertainment, and audio streaming content. For brands and advertisers across industries to succeed, they need to understand where people are going to consume media content, and why they’re going there.

Read on and fill out the form for an excerpt from our
Generational Consumer Media Habits & Channels presentation.

Collage Group’s 2022 Media Habits and Channels Study provides insights across generations on the specific platforms American media users go to, their media habits, and their preferences for media content. The data dives deep into content and platform drivers—spanning categories, passion points, and identity attributes.

Key Findings: Social Media

    • All Generations, with the exception of Boomers, use a wide variety of platforms, and they tend to be always ‘on’.
    • This high social media use comes at a cost, Gen Z worries most about the impact on their mental and emotional wellbeing and becoming addicted. All generations have concerns for their privacy and safety.
    • Social media functions as a portal to other media, especially for younger generations.
Primary concerns about use of social media

Context:

Social media is both friend and foe for consumers today. It is a powerful enabler of connection across generations – on the younger end, it provides ways to find community and make new friends, and on the older end it’s a powerful way to reconnect.

But there are downsides too – younger generations feel the pressure of constant comparison that social media forces upon them, and consumers of all generations worry about safety and security.

 Action Steps:

    • Provide ways to mediate the mental and emotional effects of being online.
    • Facilitate meaningful connection by encouraging authentic self-expression.
    • Utilize the power of social media as a discovery engine for other types of media – like new music and shows to watch.

Key Findings: TV & Movies

    • Most generations watch TV shows via online streaming platforms, but for Boomers, watching live TV is still most common.
    • Generations also vary when it comes to what they watch – younger generations show a preference for comedy, whereas older generations show a preference for tv news and action/adventure movies.

Context:

The proliferation of mobile devices has driven demand for streaming platform subscriptions among younger consumers. The accessibility of smart phones, tablets, and laptops offers younger generations the opportunity to stream content on the go.

Further, younger generations’ changing tastes align better with what streaming platforms offer, compared to Boomers who still highly favor news and sports, which are better suited to live TV.

 Action Steps:

    • Find and attract different generations of TV and movie viewers by understanding, and activating, based on where and when they are viewing:
      • Maintain advertising presence across TV formats, but understand that while Boomers may be watching TV more, their viewing is more passive.
      • Meanwhile younger generations are watching more via streaming platforms, but may have shorter attention spans for ads

Key Findings: Music

    • Music is a top passion point for younger consumers. The majority of Gen Z and Millennials would rather listen to music than watch TV.
    • Music is popular across generations for its ability to provide comfort and diversion while multitasking.
      Across Generations, consumers embrace the human element of music – and enjoy creating playlists themselves and sharing musical tastes with others.
47% of Americans would rather listen to music than watch TV

Context:

Music is a powerful comfort – and a powerful connector – across generations, but this is particularly true for Gen Z, a generation that craves human connection and relief from stress and anxiety.

Younger generations are passionate music fans overall, but while Gen Z tends to consume music more passively, their Millennial counterparts are more active in their passions – and like to go out to shows or live music venues.

 Action Steps:

    • Embrace the human element when selecting and promoting music – from showcasing artists stories to background on lyrics
    • Lean into options for music to be both passive and active, depending on consumer needs. For example, create task specific playlists to help consumers as they multitask, or interactive playlists for when music is the main focus.

Key Findings: Reading & Audiobooks

    • Most Americans enjoy reading – but we see significant variation by generation when it comes to format. Millennials are much more likely to consume audiobooks, and are also the most likely generation to embrace digital books.
    • Reasons for reading also vary significantly by generation. Gen Z reads as an escape, whereas older generations read to relax and to learn.
List of reasons why one reads for pleasure

Context:

Life stage and generational values play a big role when it comes to each generations reading style, as well as reasons for reading.

Millennials are often on the go, which is reflected in their penchant for consuming audiobooks as well as digital books that don’t require lugging around their reading material of choice.

The high stress and high pressure that Gen Z faces on a day-to-day basis are reflected in their desire to read as an escape, whereas Boomers entering retirement and looking for new passions are more likely to use reading to learn and to explore new topics.

 Action Steps:

    • Reach on-the-go Millennial readers through on-the-go media – audiobooks and e-readers.
    • Show an understanding of why readers are reading – for Gen Z and Millennials, this means giving them an escape, whereas for older readers, this might mean showing knowledge or skills gained through reading.

Key Findings: Podcasts

    • Podcasts are particularly popular with Millennials, many of whom listen while commuting or otherwise on the go.
    • Consumers across generations are drawn to podcasts for different reasons – Boomers are most likely to say they want to learn something or lean into a passion, whereas Gen Zers look for laughs and stories.

Context:

Millennials have become synonymous with “hustle culture” – and it’s this desire to always be learning, doing, or leveling up, paired with a particularly busy life stage, that contributes to their affinity for podcasting.

Boomers, on the other hand, are entering retirement and many are looking for continuous education opportunities, or simply to learn more about new passions, which we see reflected in the types of podcasts they listen to.

 Action Steps:

    • When developing podcast marketing, consider the context and outcomes your target audience hopes to gain from listening in.
    • For example, orient Millennial targeted ads around added value or information.
    • But if targeting Boomers, focus on teaching about products tied to hobbies or other interests.

Other Digital & Media Research Articles and Insights from Collage Group

Giana Damianos
Senior Analyst, Syndicated Research

Giana joined Collage in 2019 from Indiana University, where she studied economics, political science and psychology. In her spare time, Giana is getting to know Washington DC and its historic architecture.

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