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Gen Z’s News Habits Will Upend the Media Landscape

Social media and video streaming services are the top spots for Gen Z’s (ages 13-26) news diet, and they don’t want to read about politics
A woman looks at the phone in her hands
Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Kelly Rice
By Amy He
January 22, 2024 at 5:00 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • Roughly three in five Gen Z (63%) say they turn to social media at least once a week for news, a much higher share than traditional distribution methods like broadcast news (27%) or cable news (30%).

  • Gen Z wants to read news in lifestyle and entertainment categories, such as music, movies and food.

  • Business, politics and religion rank at the bottom of Gen Z’s news interests. With political coverage sure to dominate this year, news organizations need to better farm that content out through Gen Z’s preferred social platforms.

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Gen Z is posing a two-pronged problem for news organizations this election cycle: They’re barely consuming headlines on traditional news platforms and they don’t want to hear about politics. 

Morning Consult research of the full Gen Z sample (ages 13-26) shows the young cohorts’ omnipresence on social and streaming platforms, even for the purpose of catching up on the news, and that their predominant interest lies in ‘softer’ news topics across lifestyle and entertainment. Download “What to Know About Gen Z’s Engagement with Social Media, Entertainment and Technology” for a complete look at Gen Z’s media habits.

Where Gen Z gets their news and their platform preferences

Unlike the broader population, whose news diet is relatively distributed across multiple sources, Gen Z overwhelmingly gets their news from one place: social media. Everything else trails by a fairly large margin.

Gen Z’s News Consumption is Mostly Through Social Media

Share of respondents who turned to the following sources for news at least once a week in the past month
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Surveys conducted Oct. 16-19, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,207 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points, and Oct. 16-28, 2023, among a representative sample of 1,002 Gen Zers between the ages of 13 and 26, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

Younger Gen Zers (ages 13-17) have a smaller appetite for news on any platform compared to their older counterparts (ages 18-26). Social platforms are the only exception. 

While many publishers can meet Gen Z through owned social media channels, traditional broadcast may be lost forever with this generation, young or old. There’s almost twice as many U.S. adults saying they turn to broadcast news at least once a week for news as there are Gen Z who said the same — by far the biggest gap of any channel.

Another victim? Local news. When asked about what sources, specifically, they turn to for news, 63% of U.S. adults said local news, but that figure is only 36% for Gen Z. 

Gen Z by far prefer to learn about new topics via video

When researching the news, past Morning Consult data shows that higher shares of Gen Z adults go to TikTok, YouTube and Instagram to start, and that Google Search is less popular among the younger cohort. 

Our latest data with the full Gen Z sample further supports that: By a very wide margin, Gen Zs ages 13 to 26 said they prefer to learn about new topics by watching a video than by reading an article. 

Roughly Two-Thirds of Gen Z Want to Learn Via Video

Share of respondents on how they most prefer to learn about a new topic
Morning Consult Logo
Surveys conducted Oct. 16-19, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,207 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points, and Oct. 16-28, 2023, among a representative sample of 1,002 Gen Zers between the ages of 13 and 26, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

Though “explainer” videos as a distinct type of news content are not as en vogue as they previously were, there’s reason for publishers to keep investing in a robust video strategy, even if they have to experiment with what those videos are. It’s likely why many publishers have begun pushing their podcasts on video to capture new younger audiences.

Gen Z overwhelmingly wants lifestyle coverage, and are much less interested in politics or the economy

For now, lifestyle and entertainment by and far dominate Gen Z’s list of news interests. Certain categories will grow in importance to Gen Z as they continue to age, such as the 45% of young Gen Z said they’re interested in health and wellness, which jumps to 60% for older Gen Z. But some disinterest is likely to be persistent, such as business and politics, which rank at the very bottom of a tested list of coverage areas.

News Topics Gen Z Cares About

Share of Gen Z respondents (ages 13-26) who are interested in reading news coverage of the following topics
Morning Consult Logo
Surveys conducted Oct. 16-19, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,207 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points, and Oct. 16-28, 2023, among a representative sample of 1,002 Gen Zers between the ages of 13 and 26, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

News organizations grappling with how to engage with young audiences during a major election year will need to supplement their political coverage with lifestyle and entertainment news for the Gen Zs who still refuse to warm to hard news.

Simultaneously, they need to lean even more into social to distribute their coverage on the election and the economy. For publishers still not on TikTok, what are you waiting for? It’ll be a balance, and a challenge, but one every new organization needs to take seriously.

A headshot photograph of Amy He
Amy He
Deputy Head of Industry Analysis

Amy He is deputy head of Industry Analysis. Her team identifies trends across retail, media, technology, sports and brand reputation. Prior to joining Morning Consult, Amy served as the executive editor of newsletters at Insider Intelligence (formerly known as eMarketer), and was a China reporter for many years. She graduated from New York University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and East Asian studies. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected].

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