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Audio Is Finding An Audience Among Gen Zs. But They’re Unlike Previous Generations.

Gen Zs – those between the ages of 12 and 24 – are heavier listeners of audio than older Americans, according to a newly-released report from Edison Research. They consume 4 hours and 29 minutes of audio per day, which is 19 minutes more than those 25 and older. Yet how they are listening is different than previous generations, demonstrating the need for broadcasters to continue embracing their digital efforts.

“The smartphone is how they find out about trends to how they learn new things. And of course, it's how they consume audio,” said Edison Senior Director of Research Gabriel Soto. “These kids prefer to tap into digital audio sources,” he said during a webinar Wednesday. Edison’s Media Habits of Gen Z found 37% of Gen Zs said they had listened to radio in the past week compared to 60% for older demos. And Gen Zs overall spend 15% of their audio time with radio compared to a 43% share for those over 25, Edison says.

“Digital is much larger among Gen Z,” Soto explained. “It gives this diverse, open-minded group access to content like music that they cannot access on radio.” Edison says Gen Zs spend more than a third (35%) of their audio time listening to streaming audio compared to those age 25 and older whose share of streaming listening is 14%.

In the interviews Edison conducted among Gen Zs, VP Megan Lazovick said they heard some complaints about radio’s ad spotloads and the ability to skip past the commercials on digital streams. “There are options out there and this is a smart generation so they don’t have the tolerance for 14-minute commercial breaks,” she said.

Podcasting has been the growth story for audio in recent years, but among Gen Z, spoken word content remains a distant second to music. Edison says 80% of Gen Z audio listening time is to music versus 74% for older demos. It is likely a reason why more Gen Zs say they listen to AM/FM radio while in the car. In that environment, four in ten said they consume broadcast radio.

“Other than the smartphone, music is another driving force behind the time Gen Z spends with audio, so music is a great way to appeal to this generation, especially if it involves hip-hop and R&B. They also over-index on top 40 and alternative rock,” Soto said.

Eight In Ten Say Radio Is ‘Cool’

Teens and young adults can be brutal critics, with media and content trends sweeping into style one day only to fall out of fashion the next. Gen Zs are not all that different, but their free-to-be-you attitude could work in media’s favor.

The number of those surveyed who reported they listen to AM/FM radio may not be as high as most broadcasters would like to see it, but eight in ten Gen Zs label radio as “cool.” That compares to 70% that said YouTube is “cool” or 60% who said the same about podcasting. Yet other than a few things – like TikTok dances or brands posting online like they are real people – Lazovick said Gen Zs label most things as cool.

“The general feedback was, it might not be my thing, but if it's yours, and it makes you happy, then cool,” Lazovick said. “This speaks to how open minded this generation is. They're not quick to dismiss something unless they sense that it's harmful or fake.”

Podcasts Listening Higher, Especially In-Car

Podcasts have been a driving force behind the audio renaissance in recent years, and that’s meant that young listeners are no longer aging into talk radio – they’re picking up the spoken word habit earlier. Seven percent of Gen Z’s audio time is already going to podcasts, per Edison.

“Friends and family are the most popular way for podcast listeners older than 25 to discover podcasts, while among 18 to 24 year olds, the most popular form of discovery is by searching YouTube,” Soto said.

Social media is still a very important tool too since Gen Z is a big user. Edison says 93% of Gen Zs report using social media. Three-quarters use Instagram, the leader among this demo, followed by TikTok (69%) and Snapchat (59%).

For creators looking to connect with Gen Z on social media, Lazovick said the best content is “all about sharing.” Topics this age group is most likely to be sharing include personal photos, memes, music, shopping, sports and video game references.

“Make sure the content that can help Gen Z understand the world is available to them in their own world,” Lazovick said. “If you produce audio content, are you also on TikTok? Is your content accessible on smart speakers and other emerging digital devices or platforms? Is it accessible in a way that makes it easy for them to share with each other?”

Download the full Media Habits of Gen Z report HERE.

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