The Rich Media Generation

Studying generations under 30 provides a unique challenge. One of the demographic patterns we observe around technology in particular is how habits change with specific life stages. From a purely anthropological standpoint, this seems obvious. Your habits during your youth/formative years are different than those in the middle of your life and both of those stages are different than the end of your life. What we have to dig into are the things that become ingrained at a young age and remain constant throughout all life stages.

When I first joined Creative Strategies, one of my key focus areas in consumer research was millennials. I was tasked with this mainly because I’m only a few years removed from being a millennial but also because our thesis was learning from them would give us signals to where the market will go in the future. We looked deeply at what technologies they were growing up with that would influence their demands on technology products going forward. This generation grew up with PCs, which is why we see such heavy demand for PCs in upper graduate education, the workforce, and even the broader consumer market as well. While millennials grew up with a notebook/desktop as a constant presence in their life, they also had smartphones by the high school/college level and a world of computing in their hands shaped their formative years.

The demographic behind them, Gen Z (18 or younger), grew up with a very different set of technologies. Not just notebooks/desktops being pervasive in their homes but also smartphones and tablets with all three being highly used for rich media (games, movies, TV, YouTube, etc). I’d argue this generation has grown up exposed to more rich media available to them at all times than any other generation prior. I believe this reality is the inertia behind more and more “consumer” tech companies driving a rich media agenda. Snapchat, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, etc., all seem to be stepping up their initiatives around rich media in some way or another.

As I was looking at research we have, I noticed Gen Z over-indexes above all other demographics in their interest in music, movies, and TV. An example of data showing why so many are moving into rich media and, in particular, the social media networks which consumes the vast majority of attention from this demographic. A world of rich media is at the fingertips of this demographic at any moment. How they consume this media and the vast amount of it available to them, no doubt impacts and influences their expectations.

What is fascinating to see is how companies are starting to innovate around the unique expectations and ways this generation consumes media. One of the most interesting to me is short story “books” built around an instant messaging medium.

The one I’ve been keeping an eye on is called Yarn by Mammoth Media. This simple app presents short stories and some add interactive participation as well to determine story outcome, all in a chat app-like interface.

Even for myself, I found this interface quite compelling because you aren’t sure what is going to happen next. However, for teenagers, this story format is one they are entirely comfortable consuming long forms of text-based media, given how central text messaging is to their daily life. Yarn, ChatBook, Tap, and a range of other chat stories continue to rise in the ranks in app stores and also are spreading like wildfire among high-school and Jr. Highers according to metrics shared with me by some of their investors. These new ways to consume media are the kinds of innovations necessary to gain and keep the attention of the media rich generation.

While Gen Z currently over-indexes on music, movies, and TV, they will undoubtedly begin to embrace other interests as their lives progress. Things like news, politics, family, career, health, etc., will become increasingly more attractive to them as they age since that is the pattern with other demographics as well. As Gen Z adapts and acquires more interests, their demands and expectations to consume and engage in these interests will remain. Shopping, politics, healthcare/doctors, banking, and more will all likely be fundamentally disrupted by this generation who will want to engage in these practices in dramatically different ways than we do today. I used to think millennials were going to be a disruptive generation and they have been compared when to Gen X, and Baby Boomers. But the more we look at Gen Z, the more I think this demographic will be the most disruptive by far as they move from life stage to life stage.

Published by

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

2 thoughts on “The Rich Media Generation”

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