Gen Z offers opportunities for more content diversity, increased localisation

MUMBAI: Gen Z, which represents the largest sub-segment of the youth, offers opportunities for more content diversity. At the same time, it is important for content creators to be real when targetting Gen Z as they can spot a fake from miles away. When creating content for Gen Z treat them as equals. They have been born into digital and so it is important for content creators to be present on many platforms.

These points were made at a session at FICCI Frames 2019 titled ‘Reaching Gen Z: How to Captivate Millennials’. The panellists Wattpad country head Devashish Sharma, The Viral Fever Global Head–Content & Business Rahul Sarangi, Graphic India CEO Sharad Devarajan, Vice Media India CEO Chanpreet Arora, Viacom18 Head – Youth, Music & English Entertainment Ferzad Palia, and Discovery Kids business head Uttam Pal Singh.

Viacom18 Head – Youth, Music & English Entertainment Ferzad Palia made the point about the importance of being real when addressing Gen Z. MTV’s focus this year will be on growing the amount of content made. Right now it is about 350 hours a year and the plan is to scale this up. MTV is also looking at entering new markets and entering more specialised segments.

“At MTV, we stopped being a TV channel and became content creators about 7-10 years ago. We have since then pivoted to being content creators with our content being consumed across platforms,” he explained.

He also noted that content consumption by Gen Z is happening across the board. He pointed out that MTV’s ratings have doubled in 18 months while its consumption on Voot has also seen dramatic growth to 8.5 billion minutes over the past 12 months. He noted that the previous generations of Gen X and millennials did not have the option of carrying content around.

“It is not either/or. It is and. There will be certain sets who may be extremely heavy digital consumers but there is an equally large segment which will be heavy consumers of television as well. What is important to also note from our latest Youth Survey of 25,000 people of Gen Z concluded in September 2018 is that this generation is no bullshit. They will smell any foul play from a mile away. They will see through you if you try and be fake. They will love you if you are real. When dealing with this generation please be real.”

On the music front, he expects consumption of independent local music to explode. The number of music content creators has increased. He noted that this boom will be helped by the fact that Gen Z does not care about who the content creator is. The only thing that matters is that they like the music. Music beyond Bollywood will grow.

Vice Media CEO India Chanpreet Arora noted that when creating content for Gen Z it is important not to talk down to them. It is important to have a conversation with them as equals given that there is a very high chance that they know more about the subject than whoever is creating the content whether the Gen Z viewer is a six-year-old, a 16-year-old or a 25-year-old. She noted that Gen Z is the most hopeful of all generations including baby boomers. Unlike millennials, Gen Z is not an entitled workforce.

They are not getting it easy. They are change makers which is what makes them very different from millennials. They are a more inclusive generation and accept being more than just heterosexual for example. They relate to several identities and accept the LGBT community. They have born in a multi-faceted, multi-touchpoint environment. Going forward one of Vice Media’s focus areas in the country will lie in creating more content for the LGBT community. It will also continue to focus on different subjects like climate, identity. Another focus will be on growing the number of platforms where its content is available. The aim is to have Vice video everywhere.

She said that Gen Z and Gen Y are united and are driven by passion points like travel, adventure sports. Vice Media makes it a point to talk to communities and does not split up groups. So Vice has 16 different focus areas of content dealing with 16 different communities. She said that the mobile revolution is one of the best things to have happened. There is no need to have a market share to be successful. You just need to identify a community and engage with them.

Discovery Kids business head said that the broadcaster went through a process of finding its own identity. The channel had to reinvent itself as the content was not connecting with the audience. Discovery Kids’ audience is in the 5-12 age-group and they grapple with questions of self-identity and where do they belong.

This resulted in the show ‘Little Singham’ and he said that this has grown in popularity. He takes on big adventures and big adversaries. In a hyper-competitive market, Discovery Kids, which was number 9, went up by several notches and disrupted the kids’ genre. He also spoke about another show ‘Bandbudh Aur Budbak’ which is heroes very desi and local a slice of life comedy set in school. It airs close to the prime-time as co-viewing happens. Relatable content for him is of paramount importance. The aim is to have one big, impactful show which runs for a long time and not 10 shows.

Wattpad country head Devashish Sharma said that over 70 million users around the world use Wattpad to discover stories from sci-fi to mystery to romance. He said that it is the largest story network in the world and over 500 million stories are written by young authors across 50+ languages. He also said that 90% of the user base is Gen Z and millennial. In India, there are three million monthly users and 10 languages are represented. Interactivity is important and people can highlight and start a conversation.

Insights are gleaned this way and Wattpad uses insights gained to turn the stories through partnerships with studios into web series, movies, books. As many as 1000 Wattpad stories have been turned into movies and TV shows. The aim going forward is to turn a lot more Wattpad stories will turn into movies and web series. The most popular one is ‘Kissing Booth’ which was done by Netflix.

For him, data becoming cheaper is a big driver for Wattpad. The rise of OTT has led to demand for stories that people can relate to and Wattpad is benefiting from this as it has ready made stories that have an in-built readership of young audiences. Wattpad is self publishing but it is moderated. It has just announced a partnership with Times Bridge.

‘The Viral Fever’, meanwhile, will have 35 new web series coming up this year. It will have 6-8 non-fiction pieces of content like factual entertainment and reality. It is looking at its first film production this year. It is also looking at local language content that is native to that region.

The Viral Fever Global head content, business Rahul Sarangi said that the company is experimental. He said that his company understands the pulse of the online user so to speak. In 2016, it had 250 million views annually and this has grown 10 fold in two years.

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