Shifting media consumption habits by Gen Z are changing how we think of “earned media” with influencers playing an increasingly important role—even traditional media taking their cues from these new “news sources.”

Time to Relearn Earned MEDIA

In this ever-shifting media landscape, it’s a relief to know that one thing, at least, remains solid: the importance of earned media. That said, what constitutes earned media continues to change dramatically, with print newspapers and television giving way to online media and social apps. And the definition of earned media is about to change once again as Gen Z puts YouTube influencers front and center as their main source of news.

Breaking News…And Then Rebuilding It

Gen Z isn’t just turning to YouTube for entertainment. They spend 3.4 hours a day on the platform and 49 percent rank YouTube as their most or second-most important news source. [Broduer/Wibbitz] If trusting a YouTube influencer to give you the news sounds crazy, then this might seem downright shocking: this behaviour is nothing new. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers formed their trust in news networks because they grew to know specific newscasters, just as Gen Zers are getting to know influencers on YouTube. And Millennials helped bring about the rise of info-tainment by tuning into John Oliver and Trevor Noah; to this day 76 percent of Millennials say the news they consume is a form of entertainment [Brodeur Partners 2019]. Add in the fact that we’re living in the era of fake news, and you realize it’s no wonder that Gen Zers are turning to a platform that gives them the ability to curate who, exactly, they get their news from.

The Teen-Whisperers

If you want to reach Gen Z, you need to watch what they watch. Here, three influencers—and one playlist—whose content will give you real insight into what Gen Z cares about.

Phillip De Franco  [6.4 million subscribers]

Five days a week, De Franco talks about news and pop culture “that matters to me and should matter to you.” He has built a loyal audience of 6.4 million subscribers (and growing daily) by breaking down complex news stories in rapid fire segments.

The Young Turks [4.4 million subscribers] 

Once you understand the name—a play on the phrase young Turk, a youth rebelling against society and its expectations—the channel’s appeal to Gen Z becomes clear. The self proclaimed largest online news show in the world has smashed its way into the mainstream with its daily hot takes on all things politics.

Lilly Singh [14.9 million subscribers] 

Singh puts a unique spin on pop culture happenings whether she’s personifying fan accounts, turning everyday issues into comedy skits, or making an Indian version of Game of Thrones. Her channel focuses on comedy, inspiration, and good vibes, and has been so successful that she now has her own late night show.

Learn Something New (YT Playlist)  [7.6 million views]

If you’re looking for insight into how Gen Z navigates the news from one channel to the next, check out the Learn Something New playlist. It curates some of the most popular news, cultural, and educational content trending on YouTube. 

These channels present the news through a lens of humor, seamlessly integrate it into social feeds, and package it up for on-the-go consumption. As Gen Z grows older, you can expect YouTube to increasingly be viewed as a mainstream source of news. And if you want to reach Gen Z now? Put YouTube sensations on your earned media target list.

Interested in more Gen Z trends? Take a look here.

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