Media Dynamics: What Gen Z can and can’t consume

With the disruption caused by the internet and technology in current era, Gen Z are becoming choosy and sensitive on the kind of content they consume. PHOTO/Freepik.
With the disruption caused by the internet and technology in current era, Gen Z are becoming choosy and sensitive on the kind of content they consume. PHOTO/Freepik.
  • Over time, technology has caused unimaginable disruption for media.
  • Just a small portion of Gen Z relies on texts and blogs.
  • Simplicity of payment options key for ease of content buying and subscriptions.

Technology has changed how businesses and consumers function, and the media sector is not exempted. 

A few of the paradigm shifts in media that have been observed include competition for audience share, surplus content, and audience fragmentation, with conventional media suffering the most.

Hesbon Owilla, Clare Mogere, and Nancy Booker focused their research work on Media Consumption in an Evolving Digital World: Millennials and digital natives’ consumption habits and implications for legacy media in East Africa.

The research was led by the Media Innovation Center in partnership with Agha Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications, Media Futures East Africa and Infotrak.

The inauguration of the study on May 29, 2023, was attended by the Cabinet Secretary for Ministry of Information, Communication and the Digital Economy, Eliud Owalo.

“I laud Agha Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications for conducting research on the media consumption habits of these critical demographics. 

I want to believe that the findings should help legacy media to plan their products with more focus on these decision-makers of tomorrow,” CS Owalo remarked.

Eliud Owalo, Cabinet Secretary for Ministry of Information, Communication and the Digital Economy, giving his remarks. PHOTO/AKU.

“Over the years we have seen a great rift in legendary media with technology causing unimaginable disruption for media. It therefore needed a consolidation of efforts to understand how to go about this disruption, take advantage of it and grow our media industry rather than lose it,” explained Prof Nancy Booker, Interim Dean at AKU’s Graduate School of Media and Communications.

Gen Z

The generation born between the late 1990s and the early 2010s is referred to by researchers as Gen Z. 

They essentially came into the world when social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others started to take off. 

Being born into a culture that is well-versed in technology and using technology to develop and learn about their surroundings, they learn differently from other age groups.

They use social media extensively, which influences their lifestyle and the influencers they choose to follow. 

Being digital natives, they have a harder time relating to people in person than they do online.


Born between 1980 and 1997, despite being more of a digital immigrant generation, millennials still heavily use and consume technology. 

They contribute significantly to economic growth, particularly in developing nations, and are generally more educated than previous generations.

They have historically had the greatest unemployment rates and were hardest struck by the covid–19 pandemic as the world advanced technologically. 

They are quite familiar with traditional media like newspapers and radio as well as modern technology like the internet, mobile devices, and social media.

What Gen Z can and can’t consume

The study found that Gen Z is increasingly dependent on social apps on their mobile devices due to their portability, low cost, and strong user interaction. 

They browse the internet for four to nine hours on average a day, with the majority of that time being spent at home.

Stakeholders celebrate during the launch of the media consumption report recently. PHOTO/AKU.

“I think social media platforms are easy access, and every youth has a mobile phone which makes it easy for them to use social media because it is not expensive…” the study’s focused group discussion respondent from Nairobi gave an insight.

Politics and current affairs were the two types of information Gen Z consumed most frequently, followed by celebrity gossip and profiles. 

However, they also keep a close eye on societal issues like climate change, unemployment, and even healthcare, all of which are growing news items and are not immediately relevant but have a significant political impact.

This age group is shown to be least interested in e-books, blogs, articles, and non-dramatic content like narratives, despite their interest in this trendy knowledge. 

They are more drawn to visuals and the above types of content are accompanied by little to no pictures and pictorials, making them less appealing to this new generation. 

This is evident, even from the type of gadgets they use to consume their content.

Top media content for Gen Z 

Regarding credibility and trust, Gen Z provides it to the traditional media and will go out of their way to verify articles and news they find on their social media platforms. 

They like movies and images because they bring a tale to life, but they still find it difficult to watch television for lengthy periods of time since they have little control over what is shown.

Even though just a small portion was discovered to rely on texts and blogs, a significant portion prefers audio and podcasts because they are a little bit cheaper and allow for multitasking.

In addition to the Agha Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications’ recent study, Spotify, a popular global music streaming service, completed a study on the Sub-Saharan African generation Z’s musical preferences. 

Even more alarming than the study’s finding that a sizable portion of this age group doesn’t listen to local music is the fact that they are drawn to sluggish, depressing music.

“Mellow music is a respite from the constant connectivity and information overload of the modern world, offering a space where listeners can find solace, connect with their emotions, and navigate the complexities of life at their own pace,” said Phiona Okumu, Spotify’s Head of Music for Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The ensemble, when it comes to music and entertainment, was discovered to favor reflective lyrics, delicate orchestration, and soul-stirring vocal performances, with their favored topics being love, heartbreak, vulnerability, and self-reflection.

Gen Z content behavioral habits, implications on legacy media

They value inclusion, hence they choose nonlinear information dissemination platforms over linear ones because they desire to participate in the process.

“Phones allow us to go to different platforms and give a comment about something. Like for now, people are boycotting high living standards, so the voice of the people can be heard through the apps…,” the focused group discussion respondent from Nakuru revealed.

A brand is very important to Generation Z, especially when it comes to legacy media. They will accept any information from a reputable brand without question.

Gen Z’s view on legacy media

In contrast to other age groups, a sizable portion of them have defined watch times and even specific watch seasons based on what is popular and trending.

“I think mobile phones have taken over because they are easily accessible and easy to carry and if I want to get news and I am traveling, it is hard to wait and watch the TV. The information is also current, and for the TV and radio, I have to wait for a certain time to get the information; once I have my bundles, I just switch on,” another focused group discussion Nairobi respondent of the study revealed.

Many members of Gen Z believe that the news in legacy media is current, reliable, and trustworthy. 

Still, because the majority of them were raised in the fast-paced, digital world, they believe that legacy media is out of date and serves only as a confirmation source. 

In conclusion, Gen Z prefers engaging content, whether it be news or current affairs. 

They mostly seek out material because they wish to avoid society’s constraints and preconceptions and preserve their own identity. 

Accessibility, affordability, relevance, attractiveness, and availability are important elements in their content subscriptions and payments, and they also take into account how simple the payment options are.

Although Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok have seen remarkable development among Kenyan Gen Z, Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube continue to be the top content sites for this age group. 

YOU CAN ALSO READ: Decoding Africa’s future of remote work and gig economy

The most popular gadget among this generation is the mobile phone, despite the fact that radio, television, and newspapers still work best together as news providers.

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Ms. Loise is a Communication Specialist with a bachelor's degree in Publishing and Media Science from Moi University, Kenya. She is a dedicated web developer and a climate change and environment writer. She also owns diverse skills in social media marketing. Her contact:


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