Stay woke: How Gen Z is teaching us about the future of news and information

Deborah Ko / January 2021

Generation Z — people born between the mid-90s and early 2000s — are a progressive demographic of digital natives whose cultural influence is reshaping traditional beliefs about online entertainment, travel, shopping, news, and education.

In our latest three-part series, we spill the tea on Gen Z’s relationship and attitudes toward brands, how digital technology fits into their lifestyle, and how their online influence is moving the needle for industries in India and Southeast Asia (INSEA).

Gen Zers are a curious generation. Much like their shopping habits, they get their news from multiple sources, not just one. They are keen to try new things and take it as a lesson in learning, development, and growth.

With so much time spent online, the internet naturally exposes Gen Z to more news and sources of information. At the same time, this wealth of knowledge encourages them to challenge what they understand so they can be worldly, enlightened, and woke.

Whether it’s going beyond the facts to seek commentaries and opinions for a more holistic and honest view of current, local, and global news or making education an “on-the-go experience” to chase their passions and create their own syllabus, Gen Zers are rewriting the rules on information consumption to command their own success.

Straight facts: Authenticity and authority are key

When consuming news, Gen Zers consult multiple sources and fact-checks the content they consume because they are much savvier about the way information can be manipulated. As far as Gen Zers are concerned, if a brand or publication doesn’t do its homework, then it’s part of the problem of spreading misinformation.

Make sure your sources are valid and reputable because knowingly (or unknowingly) sharing misleading information could devalue your brand’s social status.

At the same time, Gen Zers look for reputable sources when searching for educational information or when they want to push themselves further academically. Similar to the news they consume, Gen Zers crowdsource information to make sure it’s accurate and thoroughly check their sources.

But this shouldn’t stop you from creating exciting content. Authentic and emotionally relatable stories catch people’s attention. If a story has a captivating narrative, Gen Zers are more likely to watch until the end.1

“Fake news is not cool because we can get attacked by others if we got the facts wrong” — Female, aged 22-24, Manila

Masterclass: Teach Gen Zers something new

When it comes to news and information, the lines are blurring between serious and lighthearted content. There are necessities and there are desires, and Gen Z is redefining those lines.

For example, the perception of education is extending beyond the classroom. Gen Z understands that soft skills and life hacking are just as necessary in finding success. They discover digestible inspiration from TikTok and Instagram and get in-depth tutorials from YouTube videos that help them learn new things, teach them to be more resourceful, and show them how to make a difference in the world.

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This thirst for the latest information extends to news as well. Give them something current, but don’t just focus on serious news. Gen Zers want to know local and global events that can make them appear “woke,” but they also want to be able to stay current on their more lighthearted passions and interests.

Gen Z is motivated to stay up to date to voice an opinion, either to be seen as an influencer or merely to contribute meaningfully to discussions it gives them something to talk about with their friends.

They identify sites like Facebook (37%), Google (33%), and YouTube (31%) as their preferred channels to catch trending news, and they follow specific news publications like CNA, Kompas, and Mothership on Telegram to stay updated.2

Gen Z identifies online sites as their preferred channels to catch trending news:

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Down the rabbit hole: Give them a new perspective

Gen Zers want nuances in a world of bite-sized information. With so many people expressing opinions online and a pervasive cancel culture, they consult multiple sources to find out where online publications or platforms are getting their facts, and they search for multiple perspectives to form their own opinion and be able to back it up.

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When searching for new information, Gen Zers create their own syllabus. Some even see YouTube as a professor. They’re no longer confined to their immediate teaching environment and instead supplement their learning with more engaging mentors and learning modalities to suit their needs.

As Gen Z slowly begins to redefine the way we think about news and information, it’s worth taking a closer look at the way they consume this content. More than just a means of entertainment, they see news and educational content as a way to gain inspiration and new experiences, give them an informed opinion on the latest events, and help them be a positive influence for the change they want to see. And that’s just facts.

Vibe check: How is Gen Z influencing the future of retail and services?