A long year of entertainment and information overload

Thursday 8 April 2021, UCAS advice

by Nicola McClymont

A long year of entertainment and information overload

Nicola McClymont

On January 2 2020, Netflix’s share price was hovering at £237.

Just 377 days later, it peaked at £421.

That 77% increase, and record high, is one part of the entertainment industry’s total transformation, brought about by monumental and global changes in consumer behaviour. The COVID-19 pandemic has, at one point or another, confined most of the world to home and, stripped of our ability to pursue hobbies and interests, we have turned almost exclusively to our TVs for virtual comfort.

Or social media, for virtual companionship.

Podcasts, for virtual conversation.

Amazon, for virtual retail therapy.

Students were not exempt from this. As a demographic which, generally, is social, active, adventurous, and curious – orders to stay at home may have been most challenging for them, of all.

A subscription a day keeps the boredom away

Netflix wasn’t the only success of the streaming world in 2020, but it is the stalwart chieftain of student preference. More than 8 in 10 of students use it regularly, a number which has doubled in the past 5 years.

Part of its success might be attributed to the business model itself. You don’t need to look far to see consumer behaviours favouring subscription models over one-time purchases. How many people still buy CDs or DVDs, as opposed to signing up for Spotify or Netflix? How many people are dodging supermarkets and flocking to Gousto, Hello Fresh, and Graze? Or to Birchbox and Dollar Shave Club? Why does Amazon discount thousands of products with its ‘Subscribe and Save’ feature? 

Ask the 79% of students who told us they indulged in at least one of these services.

Podcasts have learned to swim

The US is the real stomping ground of the podcast, where more than half of the population are avid listeners. But the platform has been slowly making its way across the Atlantic for a number of years and, particularly among Gen Z, we are catching up fast.

Actually, it’s more true to say particularly among students. Around a fifth of all Gen Z in the UK are listening to podcasts, but when we asked students it rose to almost 25%.

This explosion of growth comes at the same time as the newest kid on the social media block, Clubhouse, which has been compared to a live version of podcasting.

Might we be seeing the real impact of Zoom fatigue, where a quaint return to audio engagement becomes preferable over visual?

Information in the age of entertainment

Another key battleground for today’s undergraduates is how they find, receive, and engage with the news. For a pinnacle year in newsroom history (Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, and Brexit all occurred within 12 months) it has never been more important to receive timely and trustworthy updates.

But so much has changed with how the younger generations want to consume their information. And the ability of large traditional organisations (like news providers) to pivot, is being tested on this new front.

Like many other modern revolutions, social media is the vehicle. It has become the primary provider of news for Gen Z. Almost two-thirds use it every day, to that end, and in some parts of the world, channels like Instagram are the only place they get their news.

And the difference of a few years is partic
ularly incisive here, where a news campaign on Facebook would reach 71% of millennials but only 29% of Gen Z.

But despite the fact reaching people is easier than ever before, or perhaps because of it, faith is harder to come by. Only 6% of students completely trust the news, and almost half of them can only go so far as saying that they ‘somewhat’ do.

Easier, and harder, to reach your market

For all the opportunities that new (or revived) technologies bring to the table, they also bring increased competition. Do you currently advertise via podcasts or on Clubhouse? Have you explored a subscription model to your products or services? Are you confident that your audience believes and trusts in the messages you’re sending?

At the sharp end of demographic growth, change happens quickly. We speak to students every single day, and hold terabytes of frequently-updated data comprising habits, behaviours, thoughts, opinions, and decision-making.

Let us help you reach your Gen Z market with authenticity and effectiveness.

Discover more of our findings from Chapter 4 of our 2021 Lifestyle Report: Entertainment