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Their Generation: From Location to Listening Habits a Media Divide Exists According to Age

4 minute read | May 2016

When it comes to life choices, nearly every generation has drawn at least a little ire from their longer-lived predecessors—be it their style of clothing, political views or taste in media. From music to movies, younger, often early adopters, have a penchant for blazing their own, new paths.

According to Nielsen’s Generational Snapshot study, which looked at media usage and device penetration of Millennials (18-34), Generation X (35-49) and Baby Boomers (50-67), distinct differences—as well as a few notable similarities—exist when it comes to connecting with content.

Location, Location, Location

Just where these different generations predominantly live can help provide a line of sight to content creators and marketers alike—perhaps even acting as a barometer for a future populace.

In certain Designated Market Areas (DMAs), such as Pittsburgh, Detroit and St. Louis, Baby Boomers—who can spend over 184 hours per month watching Live or time-shifted television—make up more than one-quarter of the population in their respective regions. It’s no surprise then, that, according to Nielsen’s most recent Local Watch Report, these DMAs are three of highest in terms of daily traditional and/or timeshifted television use at an average of over five hours per day!

Conversely, the markets that are tops among Millennial consumers have higher subscription-based video on demand (SVOD) penetrations. They also have higher tablet and smartphone penetration rates. For instance, while only 23% of Sacramento’s population are Millennials, the DMA has the country’s highest smartphone penetration overall (92%). It’s also the market that has experience one of the largest year-over-year gains in penetration (12%).

Mulling Their Options

While time spent on traditional television has decreased across most generations over the past several years, device fragmentation has led to more content options, and consumers are taking full advantage of them—regardless of age. For example, tablet penetration among all generations analyzed has increased 9% from 2014 to 2015. At 70%, Generation X leads the way in terms of national tablet penetration.

Multimedia devices (such as Roku, Apple TV and Google Chromecast) have also made their mark on a wide swath of consumers. These relatively inexpensive options extend viewing choices, and consumers continue to spend time with them. In fact, according to the study, monthly time spent using multimedia devices has increased across all of the generations. What’s more, while Millennials spend the most time on these devices, Baby Boomers show an increase year over year in time spent on multimedia devices by two hours and 56 minutes in fourth-quarter 2015.

The study also looked at multicultural consumers in these same generational groups and found that across all races and ethnicities—regardless of age—black and Hispanic consumers spend more time per month using an App/web on a smartphone as well as watching video on a smartphone. Black Millennials spend an average of more than 68 hours per month using an App/web on a smartphone, over 10 hours more than the average Millennial.

The Ears Actually Have It

Perhaps no other form of entertainment is as different, and in many cases as polarizing, throughout the generations as music. From big band to rock and roll to hip-hop to electronic, music preference is often generational. The study looked at the music formats and found that both Millennial and Generation X listeners prefer to tune into the modern classics of Pop Contemporary Hits, with weekly total audiences of 27.5 million and 19.3 million listeners, respectively. And regardless of the disparity with regard to the weekly cume numbers, both of these groups spend more than three hours 15 minutes tuning in to this format.

Baby Boomers, on the other hand, prefer the Adult Contemporary/Soft Adult Contemporary genre, spending more than four hours weekly listening to the smooth sounds. That group is also more disposed to listen to the News/Talk format, with about 15.7 million listeners tuning in for an average of six hours 45 minutes weekly. This compares to three hours 45 minutes for Millennials and five hours for Gen X.

In a world of seemingly endless content choices and a viewer that perpetually takes advantage of these options, knowing both adoption and use among the different generations helps provide the industry with a look at where eyes—and ears—are and how old those consumers may be.

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