Re-Booting TV For Youth

How does TV adapt to fit the expectations and needs of modern youth? Crowd DNA insight and innovation exec, Cathy Pearson, went in search of answers at Channel 4's Youth Audience event...

It’s no secret that 16-34s have always watched less TV than their elders. More than ever, they’re busy adapting to life’s transitions and adopting viewing habits to suit their lifestyles. This is why Leonie Hodge, head of audience research and insight at Channel 4, and speaking at the channel’s Youth Audiences event, believes reflecting young people’s influences, aspirations and experiences is a big part of getting programming right. Young people are aware of social issues, they want to discover new things and they’re willing to challenge their own preconceptions, so TV’s ability to influence is huge — but only if broadcasters get it right.

Driving the best TV experience for young people is increasingly about tapping into social and cultural trends, and employing these across new content as well as the genres they love. This means socially purposeful and authentic content with a commercial reach. Topical themes encourage wider conversation and have social cache among young people, but can also deepen their relationship with a particular show or channel in a crowded television landscape. The shows with heritage are those that allow them to resonate with a character, narrative or issue, and gain commitment from young audiences as they continue to use them as social markers.

Young people are looking to programmes first before heading to the channel with that content and if the audience are moving quickly, channel brands need to follow. Technology has been the biggest driver of growth in TV viewing among 16-24s with an increasing number of platforms and destinations for them to seek out TV content. Their digital engagement increases the TV viewing time of young people by an extra half an hour each day on both VOD and DVD, and the success of early digital initiatives that make content widely available speak largely about audience loyalty to seek out content above and beyond TV, according to Victoria Lucas, Channel 4’s series content producer on Hollyoaks.

TV’s once simpler role to entertain a passive audience has been thrown out. 16-34s are active in following their favourite shows and ditching those that don’t cut it. Channels must do more to reach them and reposition their programmes to become the content of choice. The biggest challenges are around producing and distributing content that connects — TV must not just entertain but capture the stories and issues that matter, and tell them from a young perspective. Harnessing this will require broadcasters and creative heads to remain much closer to their young audiences.


Stars Of YouTube

What's in the DNA of a YouTube superstar? What's the tipping point from speaking to your mum and mates to having roughly the population of Belgium following your every move? And who are the names lurking behind the cross-over likes of Zoella and PewDiePie?

We’ve been exploring all of this and more for a number of clients recently, pinpointing the developing trends driving the notion of the ‘niche superstar’. The strategic thinking of course stays under wraps, but here’s a vid that casts some clear light on this exciting, ever changing, very social world…

Social Media + Travel

From the benefits derived to the platforms favoured, young people are using social media in an explosive mix of new ways. But what does this mean for travel? Here's some thought starters...

Crowd DNA get youth. And we get social media, too. Our experience comes from researching millennials for the likes of Channel 4, Converse, MTV, Sony Music, Red Bull, Twitter and, most recently, conducting a huge global study for Facebook (check out our Three Phases Of Growing Up and Coming Of Age On Screens on the Facebook IQ insights blog).

Millennials are an incredibly valuable part of the travel market. The UN estimates that 20% of all international tourists are young people, and that they generate more than $180 billion in annual tourism revenue (30% up on 2007). And young people continue to spend while they travel – an average of €50 a day (The World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation). Of course, they are also a strong indicator of future trends; of how travel-related needs and expectations may shape up for broader audiences in the years ahead.

Our Facebook work saw us examining the changing way that young people around the world (we researched 13 markets) are using social media. We started to evidence how these evolving behaviours are affecting attitudes and behaviours around travel – an impact that will be ignored at a travel brand’s peril.

Here’s some thought starters on how youth’s changing social media habits might be affecting your audience:



Travelling has always been about life experiences – a rite of passage into adulthood or a bonding experience with friends. But today’s youth are increasingly swapping standard holidays for extended, meaningful experiences. And these hold major social caché.

Young people have strict social etiquettes around posting on social media: thumbs down to sharing wealth and/or purchases, thumbs up to sharing experiences. This is driving the appetite for unique, inspirational adventurous experiences.

“Experiences mean you have more to talk about. For example, I taught English in Sri Lanka during my gap year – I can say a lot more about that than a skirt I bought” – Amy, 28, UK

Expedia has already used this insight in its award-winning ‘Travel Yourself Interesting’ campaign. How can your brand leverage the social caché of travel stories in comms or help young people build their very own ‘adventure identity’?



Through social media – from Facebook & Twitter, to Instagram & Pinterest, to everything in between – young people discover the lives of far-flung people. Indeed, two thirds agree social media helps them stay up to date with what’s going on across the globe. This is broadening their world outlook with almost two in three 13-24 year olds feeling concerned about global issues and more than seven in ten harbouring a desire to learn about other countries and cultures.

“I feel like the world is getting smaller – things like Facebook and Twitter have broken down boundaries between countries and ethnicities – then, at the same time, it’s getting bigger with the more discoveries we make” – Joshua, 20, UK

But travel is about work as well as play:

a) Many young people are using travel to improve their employment prospects through gaining cultural, educational and work experience

b) Some are using travel to take a break from dispiriting job searching and re-evaluate what to do next

c) Others happily combine work and play, adding personal days to business trips – three of five travellers under 30 have extended work trips into vacations (Expedia & Egencia)

How can your brand serve young people’s desire to use travel to learn, progress and better themselves?



Being friends via social media is a vital, free and easy way to nurture loose connections and maintain friendships made on trips – be this through tagging photos of their adventures or arranging meet-ups at home. This contact with distant friends is resulting in a heightened sense of community among young people, with almost two thirds saying they feel part of a wider community as a direct result of using Facebook.

“Networks are good to keep up with social contacts in foreign countries. I took part in a student exchange and made friends who live in Israel and Denmark and we keep in contact through social networks.” – Haija, 17, Germany

This community is instrumental in helping young people plan their next trip – from finding inspiration in friends’ posts/photo albums/Pinterest boards/Instagram feeds, to checking peers’ opinions & reviews via Whatsapp, to collectively organising their trip via a Facebook group.

“The ability to share experiences seems to be what is driving them more than ever before.” – Antony S, 28, UK

Recent research by ABTA tells us that almost half (44%) of 16-24 year olds in the UK have used social media to research and plan travel, more than double the proportion of all internet users (18%). What’s more, millennials are more likely to use Facebook and Twitter for travel tips than they are an actual travel agent or guidebook. So social media often plays a crucial role in the travel purchase journeys of young people and this is likely only to increase.

Social media is often the crucial influencer of young people’s travel decisions. How can your brand harness the power of peer-to-peer recommendations?

To find out how Crowd DNA can explore this topic for your brand, please contact


Great to see the expression FOBO (fear of being offline), derived from our global youth research for Facebook, picking up such impressive industry traction via social media, blogs etc...

Conducted in multiple countries and using a range of innovative methods, more about this work (called Coming Of Age On Screens) from us in due course. But for now you can read about it at Facebook IQ