Media after Millennials: A Teen’s Research on Viewing Habits
COW Library : Business & Career Building : Kylee Peña : Media after Millennials: A Teen’s Research on Viewing Habits
As a fifteen year old high school sophomore, Helen Ludé has her priorities in order: varsity soccer, Snapchat and Instagram, and presenting research on Post-Millennial Media and Cinema Consumption Habits at SMPTE’s Future of Cinema Conference at NAB Show 2018.
In many ways, Helen is a typical Bay Area high school student. She likes studying English and math (but not science), enjoys writing, and consumes most of her media through YouTube and Netflix.
And then Helen becomes extraordinary: performing bluegrass music (including the fiddle), spending a month of her upcoming summer vacation at an entrepreneurship program at USC, and preparing survey-based research for the largest broadcast conference in the US.
Spurred on by a dinner conversation with her family (including her father, RealD’s Peter Ludé) and a deep interest in studying business and communications after college, Helen conducted a nationwide survey of her peers to uncover the viewing habits of her generation, otherwise known as Gen Z.
Some of what she found may not surprise you -- for example, Gen Z is watching less TV than any preceding generation, only 13.2 hours/week, vs. over 15 hours/week on their smartphones -- but Helen did the work to find the reality beyond the numbers for topics including moviegoing, VR, HDR, and much more.
As with all definitions of generations, the lines between them are a little blurred and prone to attracting arguments over delineations. However, a report from the Pew Research Center from earlier this year defines Gen Z as being born after 1997 because of "key political, economic and social factors.”
As someone on the old side of “millennial” who is tired of being blamed for killing every industry from diamonds to housing to avocado farming, I know it can be really frustrating to be lumped into one big, broad category with a whole bunch of people who seem to have very little in common with you. I think every generation feels this way: don’t label me, man.
And yet, every generation does it to the one coming behind them. For many reasons, broad groupings are fascinating and useful. Millennials and Gen Z ARE inherently different than Boomers and Gen Y by nature of state of the world when we were born. And at the same time, grouping broadly can lead us to making generalizations that are just plain wrong – and the solution to that is to listen to what these generations have to say about themselves.
Creative COW caught up with Helen for just that reason: to hear about her research, her view of Gen Z from her own perspective, and her take-away from being the youngest person to present at a SMPTE conference.
Helen Ludé presents her findings to SMPTE's Future of Cinema Conference at NAB Show 2018
What were some of your favorite take-aways from your presentation?
A main take-away was what gets teenagers to the movie theater: being able to see a movie before it's available at home with friends in cool locations.
I also covered VR a little in the survey and found that 60% of kids have tried it, which was interesting! And Netflix and YouTube were the main streaming platforms, just like my own experience.
According to Helen's research, teens are watching less than a movie a month on average.
Plus, only 5% had MoviePass. It was really interesting to see that MoviePass isn't that popular [among teens]. When I learned about it, I thought it was really cool – I didn't even know about it before I did my research.
Another great fact is the effect of wearing glasses for 3D on movie attendance for teenagers. With glasses 43% said they would pick 3D over 2D, and without glasses it was 56%. That's pretty significant!
Why were you interested in this topic of viewing habits?
It started with a family dinner conversation. My dad is in the field, so he was interested in all these things and was just asking me random questions. I loved answering all these questions and I wanted to see if other people had the same opinions as me. I'm really into communications, and it fascinated me. Our family also sees movies all the time and that’s really interesting too.
For example, my best friend has a different opinion than my family. Her family goes to the movie theaters for snacks and for the experience. My family goes purely for content or for the 3D. It was interesting to conduct this survey and see all these different opinions. I was curious!
What did you find most surprising from your research?
Most of the results were pretty accurate to my own experience, but that 60% [of respondents] had tried VR surprised me. I don't think 60% of my friends had tried it. That was interesting to me.
Considering the range of viewing platforms teenagers gravitate toward, do you think high dynamic range (HDR) will play into viewing habits for teenagers, or is it not even on their radar?
Personally I don't think it's a huge issue for me. For example, if Netflix is blurry when I get a poor connection, I'm like ‘okay that's kind of annoying’ but I'm not going to stop watching. I probably wouldn't pay extra for HDR. I don't think it's a huge factor for other teenagers either.
Helen's research shows that nearly all teens prefer turning off their phones during movies.
There are a lot of reports on Millennials and Gen Z, and almost all of them are from people outside those generations. Do you think the analysts working on looking at these groups from the outside are misrepresenting them? Are we underestimating teenagers and representing them as phone-obsessed kids?
Yeah, I would definitely say people think teenagers are just addicted to their phones. That's a huge part of it. And that was another interesting fact from my research: teenagers WANT to put their phones away during a movie! I'm pretty sure all adults just think every teenager is addicted to their phone and just wants to use it all the time, and I think that's inaccurate. It really depends on what they're doing. Like for a movie theater -- why would I be on my phone when I paid $15 to see a movie?
Phones have so many more benefits than negative qualities. It connects me with all of my friends. I do all my homework online, on my phone or laptop. I watch videos. I can bring it with me anywhere. It's something that's so convenient, and I see why most teenagers are "addicted.” I think my parents look at me and just think ‘why are you always on your phone’, and it's because that's not how it was when they were my age.
I think it makes sense why older people can't really understand all the benefits. Like my grandpa -- he got an iPhone and he's trying [to use it more and more], but he'll never have that same connection because this is something new and of my generation. Adults really can't understand or have that same connection.
What was your experience speaking at SMPTE's Future of Cinema Conference at NAB?
It was really exciting! My dad does this type of stuff all the time, and he'll come back from Las Vegas or LA and say ‘hey I just did a presentation!’ But I never really understood what that was like. Going there was such an amazing experience – getting to walk down to the convention center in my mom's business dress! It was such a different experience. I was treated a lot older.
Helen at NAB 2018
Obviously when I'm at school, I’m not treated like someone who is sharing information, but learning information. So it was so interesting, and I felt nervous at first because I put this presentation together and I wondered if I could pull it off. But once I got on the stage honestly I wasn't nervous at all. I do a lot of performing with bluegrass, so that probably helped. I just really like public speaking. That was something I figured out from this. It was an awesome experience. I totally want to do it again.
Do you think Gen Z's viewing habits will shift as they get older, or media will shift for them?
I think phones are going to be a huge part of [viewing habits] of the future. Obviously all the technology is going to evolve. Everything is going to keep improving, and people are going to find ways to fill in the holes that are missing in their lives with more technology. So I think what we have today is going to continue into the future, but it's also going to be very different. I can't even imagine what they're going to come up with, but it's exciting. Every single day they're finding out something new and creating something new!