Generational Trends in Media Consumption

Mary Ann


March 15, 2021

One classic method of audience targeting is based on generational attributes. I believe this remains a useful tactic, since consumers of different age ranges (on average) continue to consume media in recognizably different ways. However, I have noticed a growing convergence of behavior across several generations of consumers. Outreach campaigns and more user-friendly technology has paid off with older generations, whose behavior is beginning to mimic that of younger generations. The COVID outbreak has only accelerated this trend, driving a higher media consumption for all audiences.


Generational snapshot

Baby Boomers are projected to remain the wealthiest generation until at least 2030. They are most likely to watch broadcast TV, and generally prioritize discounts and pricing above all else. Most prefer to shop in-store, but like having online options.

Gen X has a higher smartphone ownership rate than the Boomers, and prefer to shop online. They are more likely to watch broadcast TV than the younger generations, and have the highest rate of brand loyalty than any other generation.

Millennials do about 60% of their shopping online and are dramatically influenced to tune in to TV during breaking news moments, even more so than adults 38 and older. This generation also consumes the most podcasts, an exception to their overall aversion to interruptive advertising.

Gen Z has the highest rate of smartphone ownership and are twice as likely to use an online-only store than any other generation. Currently the lowest in spending power, members of Gen Z are generally considered influencers more than decision-makers or buyers.

Convergence of younger generations.

Results from the 12th edition of Deloitte’s Digital Media Trends Survey indicate that the behaviors of Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X are converging. In 2017, 70 percent of Gen Z households had a streaming subscription, closely followed by 68 percent of Millennials and 64 percent of Gen X households. Also, half of Gen X respondents reported that they play video games frequently, almost matching Gen Z and millennial respondents.

How is COVID affecting these trends?

Global Web Index found that 80% of consumers in the U.S. and UK report consuming more content since the start of the pandemic, with broadcast TV and online video being the primary mediums across all generations and genders. Gen X reported the highest increase in media consumption during COVID, with Boomers reporting the smallest increase, already being the highest users of broadcast TV. Understandably, 68% of consumers are seeking out pandemic updates online over any other activity. Gen Z however, has other plans, as they are the only generation more likely to be listening to music than searching for news.

I continue to use these broad behavioral guidelines when marketing to different generations, but will be keeping an eye on changes in consumption trends, especially as generational lines continue to blur when behavior converges.


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