Most of Gen Z describe themselves as video content creators

For the first two decades of the social internet, lurkers ruled. Among Gen Z, they’re in the minority, according to survey data from YouTube.

Tech industry insiders used to cite a rule of thumb stating that only one in ten of an online community’s users generally post new content, with the masses logging on only to consume images, video or other updates. Now younger generations are flipping that divide, a survey by the video platform said.

YouTube found that 65 percent of Gen Z, which it defined as people between the ages of 14 and 24, describe themselves as video content creators — making lurkers a minority. The finding came from responses from 350 members of Gen Z in the U.S., out of a wider survey that asked thousands of people about how they spend time online, including whether they consider themselves video creators. YouTube did the survey in partnership with research firm SmithGeiger, as part of its annual report on trends on the platform.

YouTube’s report says that after watching videos online, many members of Gen Z respond with videos of their own, uploading their own commentary, reaction videos, deep dives into content posted by others and more. This kind of interaction often develops in response to videos on pop culture topics such as “RuPaul’s Drag Race” or the Fallout video game series. Fan-created content can win more watch time than the original source material, the report says.

“It’s exciting to witness how Gen Z is evolving fandom,” Kevin Allocca, YouTube’s global director of Culture & Trends, said in a statement. “They’re actively moving audience behavior from passive viewing to finding and adding their voices to a unique content ‘dialogue.’”


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TikTok’s popularization of short-form video has driven the rise of that new, more participatory era of the internet. The app gave a generation of young people access to easy-to-use mobile video editing tools, allowing amateurs to create compelling video content. TikTok’s duet and stitch features, which allow users to easily react and respond to other videos, can encourage lurkers to become content creators.

YouTube and Instagram have responded by launching their own short-form video competitors and new editing tools, for example, to quickly search for and add audio tracks to a clip. YouTube Shorts launched in 2021 and the company says that content on the service has collectively earned trillions of views. It has given birth to cultural phenomena like Skibidi Toilet, a mind-bending animated series that has billions of views on Shorts.

Pew Research Center reported late last year that YouTube and TikTok are the top social media services among U.S. teens, based on a survey of 1,453 13- to 17-year-olds. YouTube was most-used overall, but both had devoted followings. Pew found that 16 percent of teens said they use YouTube “almost constantly,” with 17 percent saying the same about TikTok.

“Video is now the language of the internet,” said Brendan Gahan, co-founder and CEO of Creator Authority, an influencer marketing agency. The format has dominated social media consumption in recent years. Now shorter formats and slick editing tools are empowering more consumers to adopt that lingua franca. “You’ve got a production studio in the palm of your hand,” Gahan said.

However, Gahan adds that as more social media users become creators not lurkers, competition for eyeballs could become more fierce. “It’s the most aspirational job for Gen Z today and the barrier to entry is so low,” he said. “It will become more and more competitive to build an audience.”

Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst for social media at Emarketer, a research and analysis firm, said that YouTube’s data fits with trends she is seeing online. Marketers have noticed too, and are increasingly trying to work commercial messages into the user-generated video commentary and conversation forming online.

Enberg said this is causing some young people to become less trusting of online content and to turn more to information, recommendations and commentary from Gen Z peers. “There is a lack of trust in some of the more traditional media sources,” she said. “They’re turning to people like them to be able to understand and analyze things that they see in the news or in society, pop culture or entertainment.”

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