TikTok’s rise as a news source for Gen Z
By Hayley Jones – Director of Social at The PHA Group
In recent years, social media platforms have become increasingly influential in shaping the way people consume news and information. More recently, TikTok has emerged as a surprising contender, capturing the attention of millions of young users worldwide. Director of Social at The PHA Group, Hayley Jones, delves into why the short-form video platform has become the main source of news for Gen Z.
How TikTok has capitalised on Gen Z behavioural trends
For Gen Z, recent research shows that TikTok has surpassed Google as the most downloaded app, becoming the preferred search engine for users between the ages of 18 and 24. Prabhakar Raghavan, a senior vice president at Google, claims that roughly 40% of young people now use TikTok and Instagram rather than Google Maps or Search to find a lunch spot or get suggestions. In contrast to typical search engines, TikTok offers an innovative method of information distribution that seems more human, authentic, and less impersonal thanks to its intuitive algorithm and personalised content. The platform’s concise, engaging, and bite-size video format, combined with its perceived lack of bias and an abundance of diverse content creators, has garnered Gen Z’s trust and preference.
As attention spans decrease on social media, users can consume news quickly and efficiently on the short-form video platform, with the algorithm ensuring that content is curated primarily based on users’ preferences and viewing history. This means young users can discover news topics that align with their interests, increasing the likelihood of them engaging with news content on the platform.
TikTok’s search capabilities, such as predictive text and AI-driven suggestions, keep users engaged within the site, decreasing the need to step outside. Additionally, TikTok’s vast interactive community engagement features, such as duets, comments, and live streaming, encourage active participation and engagement within the community. The current achievement by TikTok of overtaking Google’s supremacy of the web domain strengthens its position as an advanced search engine.
The transition of TikTok from a social networking platform to a modern search engine illustrates how the digital environment and consumer habits are evolving. Brands are exploring the platform for marketing prospects as a result of its capacity to satisfy the search preferences of Gen Z. The younger generation is drawn to TikTok because of their preference for brief, to-the-point information and their desire to stay away from searches that are overrun with advertisements. Their motto, ‘Make every second count’, encourages brands and people to grab attention, educate, and inspire, but hints at an escape from the monotony of traditional news platforms, making it more appealing and engaging for young users.
Drawbacks and safety concerns
While TikTok’s rise seems to have no element of stagnancy, there are increasing concerns about its safety among the younger cohorts of Gen Z. According to Statista, in a survey conducted in 2022 in the UK, 15% of TikTok users aged between 13 and 17 years had experienced anonymous trolling, and a further 15% had seen inappropriate images on the platform. This has led to many countries, including Australia, banning the app’s usage completely.
Food for thought
TikTok’s rise as a platform for news consumption among young people highlights the evolving landscape of media and information dissemination. Its popularity can be attributed to its engaging format, algorithmic content recommendations, and diverse community of content creators. However, it is important for young users to exercise caution and critically evaluate the information they encounter on TikTok. Its UGC content style means that anyone can create and share news-related videos, which may vary in accuracy and reliability. Consequently, it is crucial for young users to verify the information they encounter on TikTok by cross-referencing it with trusted news sources.