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For Gen Z-Ers, YouTube Algorithm 'Gets Me'

Although Gen Z-ers and millennials both stream large quantities of video, how Gen Z discovers content is radically different from how their predecessors do so, putting an even greater importance on leveraging analytics to understand how algorithms serve up your content.

As we know, algorithms designed by social and streaming platforms have been working hard in the background to learn user behavior and serve up new content specifically catered to each individual’s specific interests. For some older generations, algorithmic recommendations are seen as an invasion of privacy -- but for more digitally native Gen Z-ers, algorithmic recommendations are not only appreciated, but expected.

A recent study by Whistle Wise found that 77% of Gen Z-ers welcome personalized and curated video recommendations as a part of their viewing experience.

Traditionally, the primary means of finding the next content to watch was through word of mouth of family and friends or standard watercooler conversations. While that is still a major source of discovery, 55% of Gen Z-ers actually say that they prefer recommendations  to come directly from platforms like YouTube or Netflix over what’s shared by their family and friends -- a finding that's 10 percentage points higher than millennials. And one platform does stand out from the crowd: 65% of Gen Z-ers prefer recommendations from YouTube over Netflix.

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It’s no secret that young people love YouTube. 78% of Gen Z-ers surveyed say that they watch videos or shows on YouTube on a daily basis -- a percentage that's even higher among male Gen Z-ers.

Part of the appeal of the platform is the diverse universe of content covering innumerable topics. Alex L., a 21-year-old male, describes the platform in this way: I love YouTube. It has a vast community of creators and is a universal platform. You don’t go for one single specific kind of content. I can learn new things, interact with people and just have some laughs.

That said, it’s not just the variety of content that draws them onto the platform. YouTube does an exceptional job delivering the content they didn’t even know they were looking for. Gen Z-ers are confident in the ability of the YouTube algorithm to deliver content that they want to see, as evidenced by Matthew G., an 18-year-old male I like YouTube to decide what I watch most of the time cause it’s honed in on the content I like and provides great recommendations!

Gen Z-ers also desire relatable content. In fact, 72% say they only subscribe to or watch channels or personalities they can relate to. This is one of the biggest differentiators for YouTube, which nurtures a broad universe of influencers, many of which are similar in age to the Gen Z viewing base.

So what does Gen-Z's high affinity for YouTube and its recommendations mean for publishers and brands?

This behavior emphasizes the need for brands and publishers to prioritize YouTube as a platform to engage with Gen Z, while following the platform’s best practices. Closely monitoring YouTube analytics, in particular the search terms that are not only driving views, but high amounts of watch time, is a great starting point to understand what’s leading to quality views.

And according to Ypulse, 72% of those aged 13-17 prefer to binge-watch multiple videos at once, so knowing what your audience is looking for can not only inform programming decisions, but create an environment ripe for viewing sessions of multiple videos. 

Employing these tactics will help publishers and creators understand how the algorithm serves their content and accelerate channel growth. 
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