Blog post

Entice Gen Z with your content

Gen Z has been dominating the conversation when it comes to the importance of knowing your audience, regardless of the industry you are in. Generation Z (aka Gen Z, iGen, or centennials), refers to the generation born between 1997-2012, following Millennials. A generation that has been raised using the internet and social media, they are often stereotyped as tech-addicted, ‘social warriors’ or ‘anti-social’. However,  they are also known for a number of more interesting characteristics: 

> Expect brands to be inclusive and diverse in terms of branding and employees 

> Being the most skeptical generation in the matter of brands keeping their data safe but at the same time the least concerned about brands’ data privacy practices 

> Typically more accepting and open-minded than any generation before them

However, how can you  translate these characteristics into the news and media industry? In this article, we will deep dive into the Gen Z characteristics that define their behavior in news and media, while also identifying how you can approach them to create a relevant and memorable user experience powered by personalization techniques. 

News Consumption: online and from a variety of sources

Gen Z consumers are leading the latest shift in news consumption. Mobile devices, news alerts and push notifications, along with social media feeds full of short-form videos, are the leading channels they use to keep in touch with current events. To put their online behavior into context, the average Gen Z got their first smartphone just before their twelfth birthday. They communicate primarily through social media and texts and spend as much time on their phones as older generations do watching television. 

To go one level deeper, the most recent Deloitte Insights Report explained how Gen Z can be split into two further cohorts: teens (14-19) & adults (20-25). Teens consume more news than Gen Z adults with almost 78% getting news or current events daily from at least one source, compared with 69% of Gen Z adults and 84% of consumers across all generations. Gen Z teens favor social and digital news formats, and 50% of this group say they get news daily from social media feeds or messaging services (like Whatsapp or Telegram), while 40% follow the news daily from search engines (e.g. TikTok search bar). These platforms all have one thing in common: they allow Gen Z to interact with content that is immediate, engaging and within the apps they are already using compared to the traditional news formats.

Let’s zoom in further on TikTok. Amongst the trending videos and sounds, it is also known for its search capabilities. TikTok’s rise as a discovery tool is part of a broader transformation in digital search being driven by Gen Z. While Google remains the world’s dominant search engine, TikTok is edging into its domain, along with other social platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram. As social networks continue to evolve and shape our digital landscape, the ways to find information within them are also expanding.

What is clear is that this era of news consumption is just the beginning, and newsrooms need to start adapting their content strategy if they want to reach the younger generation. 

How to approach Gen Z in newsrooms  

Understanding their behaviors is not the only element to consider when it comes to approaching Gen Z. Digital Publishers also need to know what they care the most about. Beyond the breaking news or current events, they are mainly concerned about a range of pressing societal issues, including climate change, unemployment, and health care.

Understanding that Gen Z tends to consume news from social media over traditional formats comes with its own set of challenges that need to be considered. Beyond news brands creating their own content on these channels, there is also an increasing amount of user-generated content that has influencers reporting on the news in their own way. In combination with algorithms that are trained to show content based on user interactions, this might result in creating filter bubbles. Combine this with the rise of fake news, and how quickly something can go viral, there is a recipe for misinformation to spread like wildfire, especially on these platforms.

As a digital publisher, how should you take all of these different factors into account when crafting your content strategy for Gen Z? Let’s take a look at some aspects to consider:

Understand the audience 

As we mentioned previously, Gen Z has a number of characteristics that differ from other generations, but they are leading the way in how the news will be consumed in the future. Making an exhaustive analysis of your audience to understand the specific demographics across channels will be a great starting point.

Choose the right channels 

Once you know who your audience is, you can then review the channels where you are already active and where you might want to start with. Being present in some capacity on channels like TikTok or Instagram is a great place to start in order to increase your brand awareness. Diversifying your content topics and formats will give options to your team to be able to test what works and what does not for these specific channels.

Relevant Content 

The next step is content personalization. We already know that social media platforms have their own algorithms to contend with. However, if your content is interesting and the user ends up on your website or application, then continuing a personalized journey is key. For this, we recommend implementing a recommender system in order to be able to automatically select the best articles for the right audience. This will allow your audience to read or view the articles they are the most interested in. 

Personalization also helps you boost your content library and shows a diversity of articles, which can aid in reducing the chances of a filter bubble happening across channels. The format of the content is also important to keep in mind. Knowing that user-generated content is popular, particularly because it gives a sense that real people are delivering the information, someone they can connect with. Having a mixture of people, with text or video footage can keep your content interesting. A great example of this is the TikTok account for the Washington Post, who uses the trends of the time and the same faces to deliver the news in a relevant way.

Different goals

Something to keep in mind when speaking to this audience is that Gen Z has different purchasing goals than other generations when they land in your newsroom. One of their main characteristics as a young generation is their awareness of subscriptions and a tendency to not see the value in subscribing right away. When approaching Gen Z, it is important to build strong brand awareness so that when the time comes to make a news subscription decision, your brand will come to mind.


It’s clear that Gen Z will change the current online landscape and how news and media are consumed. New social media platforms like TikTok are also part of this evolution, making their search engine very user-friendly while also forcing brands to rethink how they deliver the news to provide immediate satisfaction to the end user, in this case, the cohort of Gen Z. 

But no need to panic! Digital publishers can also join the game by rethinking their content strategy and providing similarly personalized experiences on social media platforms. By selecting the right channels to show the most relevant content in the right format, your content strategy will be trending with Gen Z in no time. 

Learn more about recommender systems and TikTok recommendations in our podcast with TorStar

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