Gen Z vs Baby Boomers: Follow the Money

Boomer ad spend

By Michael Korsunsky, CEO, MGID, North America

Following the uptick in digitization, publishers are honing in on the segment they see as the most digital-centric and valuable. Boomers have been edged out of the spotlight by Millennials and now Gen Z are taking center stage. But the truth is, undervaluing Boomers is a big mistake and an opportunity missed.

Although recent data shows Gen Z are increasing their disposable income; it’s set to reach $33 trillion by 2030, this sizable figure is still far behind Boomers’ spending power, which is an estimated $70 trillion of household wealth. As well as being a more important consumer segment than they get credit for, there is plenty of evidence to show Boomers are also in tune with the digital shift. This means that publishers aiming to enhance their monetization should start following the real money trail and appealing to Boomers.

So, what are Boomers’ media preferences and how can publishers leverage these insights to engage this valuable demographic?

Unexpectedly Digital: Meet the Real Boomers

Not all Boomer stereotypes are unjustified. The assumption that this group has a smaller appetite for social media than highly connected Gen Z is correct: only 2% cite using social platforms as a favorite entertainment activity, versus 11% for Gen Z. But this doesn’t mean they are not digitally focused or savvy.

The same study found Boomers spend just as much time online as Gen Z — with 12% in both camps listing online browsing in their top recreational mix. And that’s just the start of their growing appetite for digital content.

Research shows Boomers are keen consumers of online news — 35% use news sites and apps daily — and over half (54%) watch video online. Moreover, many Boomers engage with content across different devices: smartphone, tablet and laptop usage makes up 33% of their total media consumption time. And despite a low number citing social platforms as their favorite form of entertainment, this generation is far from being anti-social, 43% name Facebook as their main platform.

Crucially, Boomers are increasingly spending their dollars online too. This makes them an equally important focus for digital advertisers and publishers aiming to boost revenue by providing content to desirable audiences with money to spend. Amid the pandemic, consumers aged 65 and over became the fastest growing group of digital shoppers, with Boomer spend soaring by 49% in 2020 alone.

According to more recent studies, these new habits are here to stay. In 2021, 90% of Boomers shopped online (versus 89% in store), putting their online buys ahead of Gen Z levels by almost 20% and busting the myth of a preference for real-world buys.

All in all, if any stereotype comes close to the truth, it’s that of the silver surfer.

Engaging the Generations

Setting aside preconceptions about certain age groups is key to ensuring monetization approaches work for all generations. For publishers, it’s crucial to consider the different quirks of each user segment right from the start of strategic development. In particular, they must be careful to select a mix of monetization methods that enables them to effectively connect with each age group and maximize positive results in terms of bolstering traffic and ad revenue.

Although specific audience tastes and habits will vary, the Boomer trends seen so far indicate that there are several factors publishers should be considering when adapting their strategies to the segment:

Hitting the Right Note

Although the benefits of traffic diversification are well known, leveraging the power of external sites to drive up visitor numbers is especially relevant for Boomers. Increasing distribution across news aggregator apps is an obvious choice for many reasons, including the distinct Boomer preference for digital news content.

Over the last few years, publishers have enjoyed a traffic boost as high as 6000% from news aggregation platforms, presenting clear benefits for expanding their Boomer user bases and capturing greater advertising spend. But it’s important to note that not all traffic sources are equal — and size isn’t everything.

Much the same goes for harnessing social platforms to seize Boomer attention. Although well-established platforms such as Facebook and YouTube are firm Boomer favorites, social media has been shown to drive relatively low monetization gains — fueling as little as 5% of impressions for top publishers and 4% of revenue.

Because hyper-charged traffic doesn’t always equate to greater user value or yield, it’s paramount for publishers to assess the quality of each traffic source carefully. This way, they can establish a firm basis for consistently successful monetization: looking at both traffic volumes and factors, such as revenue and user engagement.

Leveraging the Power of Video

The pandemic accelerated the rise in video consumption, with the average U.S. consumer now subscribed to four different streaming services. And it’s not just the big streaming brands that are seeing increased traction. TikTok, a relatively new platform, has seen soaring growth in a short space of time, earning 700 million monthly active users (MAUs) in summer 2020 – 200 million more than it had seven months previously. It now boasts over 1 billion MAUs.

Online video consumption has increased across all age groups in the last five years but the largest increase is seen in people over 46 years old. As a result, video has become a more meaningful component of the strategic conversation for brands, with 92% of marketers saying that video is an important part of their marketing strategy.

Most brands think video is a brilliant investment for lead generation, with 81% saying video has a direct, positive impact on sales, so it’s not surprising that in 2021 brands spent $55.34 billion dollars on video advertising. This is projected to increase to $78.5 billion by the end of 2023.

Those figures translate to a significant opportunity for publishers but adding quality video inventory requires getting users to consume more minutes of video within publishers’ own platforms. To do this, publishers can place video units on each page by playing related videos or even syndicated videos. However, to protect the user experience, publishers must ensure these videos are natively designed.

Creating tailored videos for every article is one way to add quality inventory. By utilizing in-article ads, publishers can put relevant video ads between the paragraphs of their pages to offer a great reading and viewing experience for visitors.

Boomers have been neglected by advertisers and publishers for far too long. With their collective wealth and largely underestimated online presence, marketers should be finding ways of addressing this hugely valuable consumer segment. By focusing on aligning monetization models with the needs and habits of this influential age group, publishers can improve their revenue and strengthen their audience ties.

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