Like many people this year, I have been confined to a house with my kids for the last few months and it’s given me a fascinating insight into the mindset of Generation Z or ‘Zoomers’ as they are colloquially referred to.
This group of children and young teens were born after 2000 and have had a massive exposure to technology from a very early age. For them, mobile internet, gaming, instant messaging and augmented reality together represent their day-to-day world.
Some observations from my side as a parent and someone who works in communications:
- Boys aged between 9 and 15 spend the vast majority of their lives playing esports such as Minecraft, Fortnite, Forza, FIFA or Warzone
- Girls of a similar age spend similar amounts of time on Insta, Snapchat or TikTok – creating content, checking the engagement levels they’re getting and talking to their friends
- None of them particularly watch TV and will only listen to the radio if parents have it on
- All of them use YouTube as a primary communications source
- Increasing amounts of boys are choosing not to read, preferring instead to ingest information through video
- Many will rarely interact with traditional news sources unless they’ve been asked to download an app onto their phones
For those of us over 35 – or in my case now in my 50s – Zoomers inhabit a very different world to the rest of us. Incredibly tech-savvy but also tech-dependent, they possess a wide array of skills which may set them up perfectly for the 4th and indeed the 5th Industrial Revolution – creativity, inclusivity, openness and flexibility.
Indeed, this generation is likely to be most at home with the concept of ‘digital twins’ – not only in processes but even with human beings – particularly around healthcare.
So where on earth does this leave the BBC, an organisation set up almost 100 years ago with the aim of educating and entertaining the UK’s population? We’ve come a heck of a long way from a time when the country sat down to watch Morecambe & Wise, teenagers flocked to tape the top 40 off Radio One, kids would tune in religiously to Blue Peter or when BBC News was the standard-bearer of truth during wartorn Europe in the 1940s.
The question I would ask the inheritor to Lord Reith’s mantel as Director General would be this: ‘What relevance has the corporation to today’s under 25s who are never likely to interact with their radio stations, TV stations or their news?’
If the BBC was a normal company, serious questions would be asked of its directors about its long-term strategy. Put simply, if you can’t attract younger customers, then you have a limited life-span.
Already, people of my childrens’ age will be questioning the need to pay a TV licence for services they will never use. Which then begs the question – how will the Corporation fund itself going forward and how will it remain relevant in an age of Snap, Insta and TikTok?
Now, as an ex journalist, a regular contributor to BBC local radio and someone who has hungrily digested what the Beeb has offered me over the last five decades, I am understandably horrified by the implications of a defunded and increasingly irrelevant BBC.
This organisation still has so much to offer those of all ages but it must adapt to the changing landscape, just as all other organisations are having to in today’s predominantly digital world.