Does Gen Z Read Anymore in the “Post-Text” Era?
Gen Z doesn’t read like they used to, but they work with words every day.
You only need to look at the rise in popularity of hardcover books, record players, and polaroid cameras to see why Gen Z has been nicknamed the ‘throwback generation.’ Some say that this nostalgia is driven by sentimentality and an aspiration to return to their parents and grandparents’ lifestyles. This respect expands beyond objects — despite the popularity of visual media, reading is on the upswing and hasn’t been rendered obsolete by video as was feared…
They may have an affinity for the tactile, but Gen Z relies primarily on digital means to communicate. Apps like iMessage and WhatsApp keep them in touch with friends. 98% of Gen Z owns a smartphone, and 46% are connected online 10+ hours per day.
Consuming content is an integral part of their daily lives. The main difference between their relationship with content and past generations is they’re often not actively seeking it out, but passively stumbling across it. Because of this, text must be packaged properly for a monitor or mobile screen in order to stand out amongst the myriad content Gen Z scans every hour. You’ll need to rearrange and repackage your words with the intent to keep Gen Z interested.
Gen Z filters through mountains of content
When reading online, people are most likely to scan text, resulting in only 20–28 percent of words being read. However, there are many ways to draw readers into your content to get them to read more. Choosing contrasting colours, proper text size, shorter paragraphs, or punchier headings, all serve to make online reading easier. Since Gen Z has always been over saturated with content (24 hours of social video uploaded every minute in 2010), they demand this clarity and mobile formatting to stay interested.
When they find content they're interested in, they'll stick around. On Wattpad, 65 million+ Gen Z and millennials spend on average 37 minutes reading stories on the platform everyday.
Get personal and candid
Another trait that comes with growing up in the digital world is the desire to get personal. 53 percent of Gen Z says they are drawn to brands they feel understand them as an individual. Brands can achieve this by using a colloquial, friendly tone on social which 70 percent of Gen Z say they prefer. They understand the people behind the writing and respond better to a conversational voice than to a formal one when reading content.
This advice could be applied literally. For example, Gen Z is drawn to reading apps like Tap by Wattpad, which features over 350,000 stories written and presented in a conversational interface. Tap by Wattpad feeds the reader small bites of text, keeping them enticed and literally drawing them deeper into the story one line at a time. As a nod to the timeless Choose Your Own Adventure stories and games with multiple endings (like Fable), readers can also choose how stories like “The Psychiatrist” end.
This immersion makes the reader feel like a part of something, rather than being sold something. Consider the resurgence of the Harry Potter series. Although Gen Z missed the physical original releases of the books, and the world-wide craze that lead kids to line up outside bookstores, the Harry Potter fan community Pottermore publishes smaller new stories and aggregates social stories from Instagram. By providing a chance for readers to participate, Pottermore builds a desire for authentic connection between the younger readers and the content they’re consuming.
Gen Z’s sharing tendencies make word of mouth promotion stronger than ever
Gen Z constantly expresses themselves through sharing, by forming an online image that reflects them. This is an opportunity, and frankly also a prerequisite, for your work — you need to make sure that if it resonates with people, those people can easily share it. The act of sharing engages that person, but it also draws more eyes to your content.
When working with a generation faced with mountains of content and knows how to look elsewhere, make sure you can meet Gen Z’s reading habits, and their high standards for compelling stories.