Who cares if Gen Z significantly prefers user-generated content?


“Gen Z Significantly Prefers User-Generated Content, Older Millennials Lean Toward Streaming, InMobi Insights Survey Shows,” proclaims a press release I recently read.

This headline almost drove me to start a loud, angry, uncontrolled rant, but I didn’t want to look like Abe Simpson in the “Old Man Yells at Cloud” meme.

So, let me explain quietly, rationally, and unemotionally why marketers should think twice before continuing to use outdated demographic cliches and obsolete content descriptions.

Before I do, let me provide InMobi Insights with equal time.

What types of content do Gen Z, younger millennials, and older millennials prefer?

InMobi surveyed more than 1,000 US consumers about their streaming subscription behavior and found:

  • Gen Z (ages 18-24) enjoys user-generated content (UGC) more than other content types. UGC was followed by music/podcasts, gaming, and TV in that order.
  • Younger millennials (ages 25-34) consume content across all formats equally. They don’t have a clear content preference.
  • Older millennials (ages 35-44) enjoy TV the most. UGC was their second choice.

In the press release, Justin Sparks, the Director of Vertical Strategy for North America at InMobi, said: 

“The clear generational divide shows how the content vehicle of the time creates lasting habits and familiarity. To win over Gen Z as they come into purchasing power and boardroom and political influence, UGC will be the critical lever across the content ecosystem. You can see this with the NFL’s Sunday Ticket deal with YouTube that starts this year as they move away from a long-standing partnership with Dish TV to court Gen Z fans to the sport.”

OK, equal time is over.

Who is our target audience?

Now, I believe that one of the questions that brands and agencies should continue asking is: “Who is our target audience?” 

But I also think we should start asking, “Why are we still using Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers to segment the audiences we do or don’t want to target?”

There are many ways to segment audiences. This includes specific interests and intents as well as demographics. So, why should we begin asking questions about our use of generations now?

The Pew Research Center, which has been at the forefront of generational research over the years, decided to take a step back and reconsider how they approach generations going forward.

Michael Dimock, the president of Pew Research Center, published “5 things to keep in mind when you hear about Gen Z, Millennials, Boomers and other generations.”

This should be required reading for every marketer and executive at all brands and agencies in America.

Dimock said:

“At Pew Research Center, we think it can be useful to talk about generations. But there are some important considerations for readers to keep in mind whenever they come across a news story or research about generations.” These are:

  1. Generational categories are not scientifically defined.
  2. Generational labels can lead to stereotypes and oversimplification.
  3. Conversations about generations often focus on differences instead of similarities.
  4. Conventional views of generations can have an upper-class bias.
  5. People can change over time.”

If you want to get a second option, then read Mark Ritson’s column in Marketing Week, “Eight out of 10 millennials know demographics are horseshit.” 

Ritson concludes, “It’s time to leave this lazy approach to segmentation behind.”

What can I add?

What is user-generated content?

While you’re reviewing your assumptions about market segmentation, you may also want to tackle another tough question: “What is user-generated content?”

Is it the type of content created by James Donaldson, also known as MrBeast? He’s one of the most successful YouTube creators, with over 163 million subscribers. 

But MrBeast also has a TikTok account with 84 million followers, an Instagram account with 38.5 million followers, an X account (formerly known as Twitter) with 21.3 million followers, and a Facebook account with 4.2 million followers. 

MrBeast’s content features elaborate stunts, challenges, and giving away large sums of money. For example, his most-watched video is “Would You Fly To Paris For A Baguette?” 

Uploaded to YouTube on Dec. 8, 2022, it now has 853 million views and 37.9 million engagements.

It’s worth noting that this wasn’t a fluke. MrBeast has uploaded 89 videos to YouTube in the last three years, which now have 14.5 billion views and 502 million engagements. 

After watching this “user-generated content” at your next marketing meeting, you might want to ask, “Why can’t we create content like this?” 

If you work at a media and entertainment company, then you should pound the table and ask your team, “Why aren’t we creating content like this?”

It’s also worth knowing that Donaldson isn’t the only YouTube creator to transform user-generated content into a rewarding career. 

Oxford Economics estimates that YouTube’s creative ecosystem supported more than 390,000 full-time equivalent U.S. jobs and contributed over $35 billion to the U.S. GDP in 2022.

Dig deeper: Video content guide: Why you should start creating videos now (plus examples)


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What is our target audience watching on TV?

Finally, you may want to ask your marketing team, “What is our target audience watching on TV?”

Yes, I’m a baby boomer. But, no, I’m not trying to turn the clock back to the “Mad Men” era.

Remember, InMobi Insights found older millennials enjoy streaming TV the most.

You might want to re-read my article, “How to use GA4 to optimize your digital marketing strategy.” 

Near the end of the article, I reported what YouTube CEO Neal Mohan had said at Brandcast: 

“We’re seeing a seismic shift in the way people consume content. More and more, viewers are tuning into YouTube on the biggest screen in their home. According to Nielsen, YouTube is the leader in streaming watch time on TV screens in the U.S.”

Although I didn’t report this at the time, Mohan added: 

“Viewers – especially younger viewers – no longer make a distinction between the kind of content they’re watching. When they turn on the TV, they want everything they love in one place – from their favorite creators, to blockbuster movies, to football. And they can find it all on YouTube.”

At that event, YouTube Chief Business Officer Mary Ellen Coe talked about YouTube’s partnership with NFL Sunday Ticket and the unique opportunities YouTube was creating for fans to experience sports on YouTube and YouTube TV. She noted:

“No one does sports better than YouTube. We give you access to all the content fans love with live and on-demand and across league partnerships like the NFL, the NBA, and more. And we’re the number one sports destination for Gen Z fans.”

After making this point, Coe added:

“Tonight, I’m excited to announce a new way for fans to see game day from a creator’s perspective. We’re launching a new original Shorts series on the NFL’s YouTube channel after the football season kicks off this year, ‘NFL Creator of the Week.’”

Finally, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the Brandcast attendees: 

“Millions of football fans are on YouTube to catch all things NFL…. In fact, this past year, NFL content on the platform gained a 27% increase in watch time year-over-year, with 1.9 billion views.”

And after reviewing my notes, it turns out that Goodell added:

“NFL Sunday Ticket is only the beginning…. And creators from every content category – from fashion to food – are going to be a part of this, helping bring new audiences into the world of the NFL. One such creator is MrBeast, who’s YouTube’s biggest creator.”

My story in May mentioned that YouTube reached over 150 million people on connected TVs in the United States, according to Nielsen data. 

And I added, “That’s a much bigger audience than brands and agencies can reach during the Super Bowl.”

Since then, I’ve stumbled into the definition of “co-viewing” in the Google Ads glossary. It shares this news nugget: 

“Panels show that multiple people are watching YouTube together on TV screens, a consumer behavior characteristic of linear television viewership as well.” 

The glossary also explains: 

“When multiple people watch YouTube on a connected TV (CTV) device together and view an ad at the same time, it could lead to more impressions and reach for your campaign.”

Get it? Got it? Good.

So, who is your target audience? 

If it’s Gen Z, then it turns out that YouTube is the number one sports destination for Gen Z fans.

If it’s older millennials, then YouTube is the leader in streaming watch time on TV screens in the U.S.

And if your target audience is football fans, then YouTube is now the exclusive home of NFL Sunday Ticket. 

And as part of this partnership, YouTube creators are getting first-of-its-kind access to the NFL: their games, their clubs, and their athletes, and the fans who love them.

So, the media world is turning upside down – again. That means it’s time to start asking questions like, “Who cares if Gen Z significantly prefers user-generated content or older Millennials lean toward streaming?” 

Why? Because brands and agencies can reach football fans across YouTube’s entire array of NFL content, whether they’re viewing live games on YouTube TV and Primetime Channels or watching highlights, post-game commentary, and other related content across YouTube.

If you miss this opportunity, you might end up looking like Abe Simpson in the “Old Man Yells at Cloud” meme. And you wouldn’t want that.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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