What comes after Y? Generation Z* explained

The Younger Generation Influencing and Being Influenced Online

The field of media has experienced turbulent times in the last 20 years.

When Millenials, who were born 1981-1996, grew up, they changed the playing field of communication, marketing, and consuming. The next, generation Z, is the first generation of diginatives, who have merged everyday life with digital services and an online presence.

Phenomena emerging outside of traditional media can often surprise non-diginatives. Even the many middle-aged professionals of communication might have been surprised by world-renowned pop-star Ed Sheeran, who, as if from thin air, appeared in Helsinki in July of 2019, gathering a crowd of over 100 000 listeners to the Malmi Airport.

The Importance of Self-Expression and Creator-Led Content

The heart of social media is all about participation, interaction and sharing in online communities. Social media can also be used to mean media content which is produced or shared within a community. The generation born right before and after the year 2000 live and breathe social media.

Generation Z has involved digitality and multi-modal presence in their everyday lives, whether at school, home, or outside. 

According to Statistics Finland (the Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Usage of information and communication technology in 2018) young people aged 15-24 spend practically all their free time on social media. These young people can no longer be reached by traditional media or social media channels used by older generations but by new mediums that operate in new ways. Naturally this interests us, as communicators within a university of applied sciences, because the majority of future applicants and students are among this age group.

Values Come First for Generation Z

This group involves future business executives, leaders, and activists. And perhaps current ones as well? One of Finland’s most famous Youtubers Roni Bäck was chosen as Helsinki’s most positive inhabitant of 2019 by the people of Helsinki.

On his channels, Bäck creates content around testing, sponsored and not, but also discusses current topics such as rain forest deforestation and climate change. 13-19-year-olds are more likely to follow his opinions rather than for example the ones of the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

The first generation of diginatives are value-centric and open-minded global citizens, who were brought up in an era of internet and social media. According to a survey by Swedish-Finnish Studentwork (Youth as Professionals in Working Life, n=2976) almost 90% of young people ranked employer’s ethical values corresponding to theirs and their work input being a part of bigger objectives higher than a big paycheck. (Roth 2017)

Relationship With Media and the Change in Content

The baby boomers had only a few TV-channels to choose from. The question was: What’s on? Generation X could choose from varied content on multiple channels.

Generation X were already able to choose from multiple channels on TV. With the invention of the Walkman, music was easily portable outside of one’s home and the computer revolutionized how we see and communicate with the world.

Generation Y was the first generation able to produce content online but only the diginatives have been able to freely interact with and comment on the content they’re consuming. Do they expect other services to provide them with the same possibilities?


“We ask whether the definition of content has changed?”

Comments provided by the followers a Youtuber has acquired have become a crucial part of the format itself. The Youtuber, content, and the followers create a close-knit community, differing from previous consumption of media, in which communication actually goes both ways.

The highlight for many fans within these communities is Tubecon, an event where all your favorite Youtubers gather in one place to meet their followers and take part in general discussions on varied topics. Vlogging and creating content on Youtube are highly interesting topics, which we will discuss deeper in an upcoming blog post.

Many organizations are actively following Finnish media consumption. One of the most well-known is aforementioned research conducted by Statistics Finland, which looks into the usage of information and communication technology. Social media’s grip on the population only starts to loosen after the age of 35, which is surprising, even for professionals of communication.

But one mustn’t forget the commercial interest of media consumption in different age groups. Professionals of communication and marketing follow these statistics but they can also provide useful information for people working among the youth.

WhatsApp as the Most Popular Social Media of Generation Z

One of the commercial entities Meltwater lists the most popular social media channels and services (Meltwater 2019). The most popular one in 2019 was WhatsApp, which is used by 2,8 million Finns. Nearly 90% of 15-24-year-olds use it.

As Generation X aims to communicate from the individual to the community, Generation Z returns to a more private one-on-one communication with WhatsApp, where the personal is valued. On the other hand, this is drastically different from the influencer culture of Instagram and Youtube, where an individual can gain thousands and thousands of followers. We will go into detail on this in our next blog post.

Youtube is also a very popular medium when it comes to young people. In 2016, Marketing and Advertising Magazine wrote that practically everyone (99%) of 15-25-year-olds watched Youtube and 97% of 15-21-year-olds followed content produced by Youtubers. This is a significant difference to the rest of the population. Out of everyone who answered the survey, 67% watched content produced by Youtubers.

Social Media Affects How Traditional Media is Portrayed

Consumption of media has never been this high. Change in our media behavior is perhaps even bigger here in the Nordic Countries than for example in the United States where television has always had a strong cultural value.

New social media services and mobile friendly content is in the heart of increased consumption. Your favorite medium is always at your fingertips, whether through videos in a waiting room, music while jogging, or audio books while vacuuming.

The increase in mobile usage and easy access to information can also be seen on Humak’s website. In 5.9.-11.9.2014 only 24% of new users used a smartphone or a tablet for browsing. This number had increased to 57% in the same time frame in 2019. Going mobile has also increased the amount of new visitors on the website (3360 in 2014, 7177 in 2019, users from internal IP-addresses have been removed from these numbers).

Generation Z is an expert of multichannel usage. Media can be accessed regardless of time or space. Traditional TV channels have responded to the competition created by streaming services and Youtubers by creating new kinds of popular content by borrowing elements from the new media and applying it to reach a younger audience. (Mehtonen 2016).

An example of this could be YleX’s live streamed radio shows which are interactive. Listeners can send messages, whether through text or audio, in real time on WhatsApp. Another example is from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation NRK which launched an internationally acclaimed series Skam, which focuses on following the protagonists of each season as episodes in “real time”. Newspaper Helsingin Sanomat named this Norwegian series as the most outstanding show targeted for young people in the 2010’s (Kanerva 2018).

New media has also created a new kind of series, where all the episodes are uploaded online at once. This can also lead to episodes being much shorter. This is done to attract those viewers from Generation Z, who are accustomed to watching Youtuber-based content on mobile. This trend has started to catch on also in the older generations: You can now comment on Radio Finland’s programs on WhatsApp.


“Media and the device, where media is being consumed, affect the way media is being portayed.”**


Content is shorter, interactive and easy to share while also being the building block for a fan-based online community. The title speaks of the younger generation as influencers, but also the audience influenced online. As professionals of communication, the media consumption of the younger generation shapes our work and highly influences how and where the relevant channels for our future are. New channels, formats and interactivity “force” us as communicators to follow the big trends in media and to renew our strategies to fit the interests of the younger generation.

And when that is achieved, we start to wonder, what comes after Z?



Tuula Johansson, KTM, editor-content producer, Humak University of Applied Sciences 10.9.2019
Jarmo Röksä, YTM, head of communications, Humak University of Applied Sciences 10.9.2019

Translator: Petra Karjalainen, Humak University of Applied Sciences 2.9.2021

Pictures: Jarmo Röksä


*Generations X, Y, and Z:

Generation X, born between 1965 – 1980, is also called the MTV generation. They were highly influenced by the rising popularity of music videos, popular series aimed specifically for young people and the arrival of the computer.

Millenials aka Generation Y (also called the Peter Pan Generation) consists of people born between 1981-1996*. They grew up in an environment, where smartphones revolutionized the way we use technology and the rise of social media.

Generation Z, consisting of people born after 1996, is the first diginative generation who has grown up with technology and thus it has integrated into a part of their everyday lives.

*the years vary on different sources.

** “The medium is the message”, media researcher Marshall McLuhan coined this phrase in 1964 in his book Understanding Media: The Extension of Man, is more relevant than ever before.


Kanerva, Arla 2018. Norjalainen Skam on 2010-luvun ehkä merkittävin nuortensarja. Helsingin Sanomat 18.12.2018. Accessed 13.9.2019 https://www.hs.fi/kulttuuri/art-2000005929997.html

Markkinointi ja mainonta 2016. Selvitys: YouTube-videot tavoittavat nuoret TV:tä paremmin. Accessed 13.9.2019 https://www.marmai.fi/uutiset/selvitys-youtube-videot-tavoittavat-nuoret-tvta-paremmin/9e7a5c26-30e8-30e2-b4fa-66cccc29f238).

Mehtonen, Jenni 2016. Television käyttö muuttuu etenkin nuorilla – sisältöjä seurataan useilta eri laitteilta samanaikaisesti. Yle 5.3.2016, updated 7.3.2016. Accessed 13.9.2019. https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-8720580

Meltwater 2019. Somekatsaus 2019. Accessed 14.9.2019. https://www.meltwater.com/fi/blog/suomalaisten-somen-kaytto/

Roth, Raili 2017. Iso palkka ei ole enää tärkeintä nuorille työssä. Aamulehti 17.5.2017. Accessed 13.9.2019. https://www.aamulehti.fi/a/200132408

Suomen virallinen tilasto (SVT): Väestön tieto- ja viestintätekniikan käyttö [verkkojulkaisu].
ISSN=2341-8699. 2018, Liitetaulukko 20. Yhteisöpalvelujen seuraamisen yleisyys ja useus 2018, %-osuus väestöstä. Helsinki: Tilastokeskus https://www.stat.fi/til/sutivi/2018/sutivi_2018_2018-12-04_tau_020_fi.html.