How Gen Z consumes media in 5 charts

Gen Zers aren’t watching appointment TV. They’re not even the biggest cohort of connected TV users. (That distinction goes to millennials.) Instead, Gen Z is watching short digital videos and looking for new ways to interact with friends. Here are five charts on what Gen Z’s media consumption looks like.

1. Gen Z pivots away from TV

US adults ages 18 to 24 spend less time watching traditional TV than any other age group. They’re the only age group to already spend under an hour per day watching, and much of that time is spent browsing the internet at the same time.

Instead, Gen Zers’ TV time is headed to social media—which includes digital video—where they spend the bulk of their time with media.

2. Gen Z is very online

Nearly 9 in 10 US Gen Z adults spend more than an hour on social media each day, and nearly half spend more than 3 hours with the platforms, according to a Creatopy survey.

By our own estimates, people in the US will spend about 1 hour and 15 minutes with social networks each day this year, making the average Gen Z adult a far heavier user than older generations.

That time is not divided equally. Gen Z spends less time on Facebook than older generations and more time on Instagram and TikTok.

3. Gen Zers play favorites with social platforms, but they’re open to change

One-fourth (25.7%) of US Gen Z adults say they use YouTube more than any other social platform, followed closely by TikTok (25.0%) and Instagram (20.0%).

By our estimates, penetration is also high on those platforms, with 86.0% of Gen Z adults using YouTube and 73.9% using TikTok. Penetration is also high on Instagram (69.9%). The generation leans heavily toward platforms where they can both create and consume content.

BeReal’s Gen Z penetration is growing rapidly, similar to what’s happened over the past few years with TikTok.

Gen Z’s social media behaviors are evolving, according to our analyst Debra Aho Williamson, speaking on the “Behind the Numbers: The Daily” podcast. “I think they’re going to be using platforms in multiple different ways and [with] multiple different types of platforms to meet all of those needs,” she said.

4. They’re willing to buy directly from social

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of Gen Zers’ social media behaviors, especially as they age into more spending power. About half of both US Gen Z and millennial social users make purchases directly on social media, compared to 38% overall, according to our survey.

While many people shop and browse on social media, younger users are more likely to buy. “People don’t necessarily want to use a social platform’s proprietary tools,” said our analyst Jasmine Enberg, speaking on the “Behind the Numbers: Reimagining Retail” podcast. But younger users have more malleable behaviors, making them more receptive to buying directly via social media.

5. As for the metaverse …

US Gen Z adults are more likely to be very familiar with the metaverse than older generations, just barely edging out millennials, according to a Morning Consult survey. But that doesn’t mean they’re actually using it.

Gen Z’s most common interest in the metaverse is playing video games, according to a YouGov survey. Young people are looking to virtual reality (VR) for gaming and entertainment rather than as a replacement for physical and more typical social media interactions. That presents an ad opportunity, but proceed with caution, since even young people are far from all-in on a VR future.

Things to watch: Advertisers need to meet Gen Zers where they are. For media consumption, that means YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. But brands also need to watch where they’re headed. Young adults are looking to social connection pioneers like BeReal and to new gaming opportunities. While brand presences on these platforms aren’t yet vital, establishing an early existence could pay off down the road.

This was originally featured in the eMarketer Daily newsletter. For more marketing insights, statistics, and trends, subscribe here.

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