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Sorry, journalists. Millennials would rather pay for Netflix than news

Reed Hastings shrugs on stage with Netflix logo behind
Reuters/Steve Marcus
“The kids love us”
  • Joon Ian Wong
By Joon Ian Wong

Technology Reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Good news for makers of all sorts of digital content: Millennials are willing to pay for it—but only the good stuff.

Among frequent users of digital media, half of all millennials say they would shell out for “premium entertainment content”—defined as content like Netflix, Spotify or games—followed closely by Generation X-ers and trailed by baby boomers, says a new survey by the World Economic Forum.

Top-notch digital entertainment was the most attractive type of paid content for millennials. Significantly fewer—about a third—said they would pay for educational content like online learning courses and and professional services like paid job postings. We already know that millennials will pay for things like organic food, eco-friendly products and fresh produce, so perhaps the idea of them ponying up for that Netflix or Spotify subscription isn’t so surprising.

News publishers will be disappointed: Just under a quarter of plugged-in millennials say they would open their wallets to get over a paywall to read the news. Even more worryingly, journalists were deemed the group with the least influence over respondents’ digital media habits. Respondents considered brands and search-engines bigger factors on their media consumptions.

Millennials are also least likely to click on digital ads of all kinds. Ads displayed as part of a Google search, for example, were the most clickable choice for millennials with a strong digital media appetite, at 60%, but Gen X-ers beat that number by 11 percentage points.

By contrast, older respondents appeared to treat ads most favourably. Gen X-ers showed consistently higher click rates for ads of all types, including for banner ads. Two-thirds of the high-use group of Gen X-ers said they would click on banner ads compared to about half of all millennials from the same group.

The survey polled about 5,000 digital media users in the US, Germany, South Africa, Brazil and China. It defined millennials as people aged between 15 and 34; Gen X-ers as those aged 35 to 50 and baby boomers as respondents aged between 51 and 69. Frequent users of digital media were defined as those who spent more than the 14 hours a week consuming the stuff.

Taking the results around paid content and ad-supported content together, the survey concludes that for all groups, the more digital media they consumed, the more likely they were to both pay for content and click on ads attached to free content. Companies like Netflix, which reported stellar earnings yesterday (Jan. 19), will have more reason to rejoice.

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