Digital content ‘king’ for young Millennials

According to the third annual ACUMEN Report: Constant Content from DEFY Media, a leading independent creator and distributor of digital content focused on the influential 13-34 demographic, digital content has become king and online personalities reign as the most relatable and influential, with 13-24 viewers revealing a considerable 11.3 hours weekly watching ‘free’ online video and declaring the Internet the dominant platform delivering the experience and content more suited to their lifestyle. A large driver of that consumption was that for the 62 per cent majority, digital content just makes them feel good about themselves vs. 40 per cent reported for TV.

The study, conducted in partnership with Hunter Qualitative and KnoWhy Research, included both quantitative and qualitative research methods, including a unique peek into youths’ social media feeds, to provide a comprehensive and thoughtful view of millennials media behaviours and influencers. ACUMEN also delved deeper into the real appeal of digital celebrities who show greater influence among this set compared to the biggest names in TV and film.

“We focused this year’s report on a younger viewing audience often overlooked by researchers in terms of their actual content habits and preferences, yet, such a powerful force driving the massive shifts rapidly taking place across the industry,” commented Andy Tu, EVP Marketing, DEFY Media. “While it should come as no surprise that this generation is spending more time online than any other medium, the study shows how wide the divide is – and importantly, ‘why’ these consumers are creating a deeper connection with digital content.”

Digital wins the battle

The web just gives them what they want. According to the survey, 69 per cent state digital delivers the content they want to watch and that they can relate to (67 per cent) vs. TV which garnered 56 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively. Sixty-six per cent say they turn to digital content to relax, while only 47 per cent turn to TV to chill out.

These feelings correlate to their actual viewing behaviours. The findings show Millennials watching 11.3 hours of free online video and 10.8 hours of subscription online video weekly – that’s nearly twice the time reported for free online TV offerings from broadcast and cable networks (6.4 hours) or 8.3 for regularly scheduled TV. More important – while 96 per cent of those surveyed say they watch online video, only 57 per cent watch free online TV and 56 per cent watch recorded TV with no differences across the age range.

According to DEFY Media, that may be why videos on YouTube and similar sites are rated ‘entertaining’ by 76 per cent of 13-24 year olds, compared to just 55 per cent for free online TV offerings from broadcast and cable networks.

Make me stop

Thumb-stoppers are qualities that get youth to stop scrolling through their feeds and actually click to view a piece of content. According to the study, it does matter if you LIKE it. The findings showed the top thumb-stopper is content ‘liked’ or viewed by a lot of people (59 per cent) and second at 58 per cent was content sent by “someone I respect.” For 49 per cent, content with a cause or message converts to viewing.

While YouTube has long attracted a large audience for the home-grown, as the industry becomes more sophisticated it appears so does the tastes of millennials. For 13-17 year-olds, 46 per cent stated they are more likely to open content that looks professional and polished – the figure jumps to 57 per cent for the 18-24 set.

The study also found YouTube talent exerting that ‘thumb-stopping’ influence, with the presence of a YouTuber motivating 43 per cent of 13-17 year-olds to open and view digital content.

Sixty-three per cent state that TV has too many advertisements vs. 41 per cent for the web. When you break out 13-17 year olds, this figure jumps to 66 per cent. Advertisers beware – neglect ‘thumb-stopper’ virtues in your content and today’s youth may likely skip it, warns DEFY Media.

Digital talent, “I can relate”

In August 2014, Variety released a study showing YouTube celebs’ influence on 13-17 year olds far exceeded the appeal of current top ‘Q’ score ranked celebrities. DEFY Media’s SMOSH landed on the top of that list along with other big YouTubers, and while the data substantiated the growing popularity of these digital personalities, ACUMEN dug deeper to uncover what’s driving this movement.

For the millennial set, YouTubers ARE the modern day role models. Among the younger 13-17 segment, 32 per cent responded they are more likely to look up to a YouTube personality over traditional celebrities, while the older 18-24 set reported a slightly higher affinity towards TV and movie stars (36 per cent vs. 26 per cent for YouTubers). Interestingly, 52 per cent of that same group reported they still ‘feel closer’ to their favourite YouTubers and nearly half (46 per cent) stated “they like the same things I do”, while that figure jumps to 61 per cent for 13-17 year-olds.

Not only do these millennials find YouTube talents more accessible and appealing, they represent a path that appears more achievable than becoming the next Seth Rogen. When asked if: “I Could be a YouTube Star” – across all age groups, more than half agreed. Thirteen year-olds showed the most confidence at 56 per cent with 14-17 year-olds close behind (55 per cent) and 51 per cent for 18-24 respondents. When asked if they could be a TV or movie star, the figures fell to an average of 40 per cent.

And, the gap is even more evident when it comes to purchasing influence. A whopping 63 per cent of all respondents stated they would try a product or brand recommended by a YouTube personality, while only 48 per cent reported that TV and movie star power matters, irrespective of age.

These digital talents are undoubtedly today’s new superstars to an influential generation and are paving their own way onto Hollywood’s hottest red carpets. While the internet remains core to these new-found celebs, the industry has seen a number of top YouTubers attracting film and TV opportunities. It seems the millennial audience thinks they can easily replace traditional talent. When asked whether YouTube stars could be successful TV or movie stars, 13-17 year-olds responded with an overwhelming 69 per cent – YES THEY CAN!

“Whether you’re a marketer or a content creator, the results magnify the growing influence of these millennial consumers and further affirmation that traditional media is falling short with this audience,” advised Tu.

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