This week marks the debut of the Acumen Report, our annual study on consumers and their media habits. This year we explored 13- to-24-year-olds and their relationship with content. Not just what they’re watching (TV vs. online video vs. paid digital subscriptions) but also why they are gravitating to digital platforms to connect with content.
Many in the industry oversimplify why young consumers are flocking to digital platforms like YouTube to consume content, reasoning that it’s because they all have smartphones and no attention spans. In reality, 96% of 13- to-24-year-olds said they watched free online video vs 81% who said they watched scheduled television. More interesting to us was why; we gave our 1,350 survey respondents a list of attributes and asked does this apply to online video or scheduled television or both. While some were not surprising — like 81% of consumers saying with online video they could watch “anytime I want” vs only 28% for television — more interesting was 67% found online video “easier to relate to” vs 41% for television and 62% said online video “makes me feel good about myself” vs 40% for television.
It’s clear that while accessibility and ease of consumption are large drivers there is something beyond the on-demand nature of digital that appeals: the content speaks to them on a deeper level.
Beyond being a better content fit, our study revealed a much different and in many cases deeper relationship with the creators themselves. This changing idea of “celebrity” has received a lot of press in recent months with Variety commissioning a study last year demonstrating YouTubers are the new celebrities for 13- to-18-year-olds in the U.S. We wanted to find out more about why this bond was so strong and it came down to two buckets. The first bucket was relatability; YouTubers are more authentic and relatable to their lives and cover topics more connected to young viewers. The second bucket was that both YouTubers and celebrities have aspirational qualities but YouTubers are actually within reach; 56% of 13-year-olds said they could be a YouTube star.
So what does this relationship mean as far as true influence with this demographic? A lot. We asked if they would be more likely to try a product or a brand suggested by a YouTuber or a TV/movie celebrity and YouTubers beat out “traditional” celebrities in every age group (63% compared to 47% for 14- to-17-year-olds). For the younger segment they were far more likely to follow a YouTuber on social media (59% for 13-year-olds) than a traditional celebrity (32%).
Our biggest finding isn’t that teens are flocking to digital platforms for video content; while true, this already has been documented. More important for content creators to understand is why this is happening. The delivery mechanism for the content fits their lifestyles, they relate much more to the content that is there, and the people behind the content have much stronger and authentic relationships with them.