Who are Gen Z?

Definitions of Gen Z vary but they are most commonly identified as those born between the late 1990s and the early 2000s, also often referred to as “Zoomers”. Gen Z were “born connected” - these digital natives began their lives in the internet era, growing up using digital devices to connect with friends and family, the smartphone being their primary device. They have only ever known a wireless, hyperconnected, user-generated world where you are never more than a few clicks away from any piece of knowledge or content. While Gen Zers are certainly very active (and interactive) when it comes to media, it can be difficult to attract and maintain their attention.

Gen Z & radio listening

Based on 2020 figures from European markets, on average radio does reach more than half (51.3%) of Gen Zers daily. On average, they listen to 2h 10 mins of radio every day. This is comparable with US figures published by Edison Research that show that AM/FM radio reaches over half (55%) of 13 to 24-year-olds in the US every day, slightly surpassing the reach of streaming (53%).

In terms of total audio usage, Gen Zers are heavy audio users but do prefer streaming to live radio. They tend to spend less time with radio when they tune in compared to the general population. For example, in Belgium, 18 to 24-year-olds spend 5h 51mins per day listening to audio yet only 39% of that time is represented by live radio, compared to the general population that listens to less audio overall (5h 29min) but 70% of that is live radio.

Gen Z also increasingly listens to audio through connected home devices, including computers, game consoles, smart speakers and TVs. The smartphone, however, remains the preferred device.

How to attract Gen Z to radio

What can radio do to attract this hyperconnected generation? Radio’s strength lies in the human connection it provides, as well as in the curated music and sources of news and information. Radio can tap into the creativity and content creation of Gen Z but it needs to be digital, mobile and multiplatform to connect and interact with them wherever they are. Below we showcase some examples of how radio stations are engaging with Gen Z audiences and creators across platforms.


In Russia, a special TikTok contest demonstrated how much potential there is for audience exchange between traditional media and newer platforms. This competition ran throughout the summer 2021 and invited radio presenters as well as TikTok users to participate in a special TikTok challenge. Overall, 39 radio station brands and more than 90 radio hosts took part in the competition all across Russia.

Radio hosts were broadcasting live on their TikTok accounts using the hashtag #ChooseRadioTikToker completing various challenges and competing for the title of “Best Radio TikToker.” During the project more than 700,000 unique TikTok users watched the live broadcasts of the radio hosts. The hosts managed to grow their following significantly adding tens of thousands of followers. TikTok also helped them improve their accounts and presence on the platform via the TikTok Radio Meet Up webinar series.

TikTok users could also take part in the challenge in a separate category for a chance to win prizes. To participate they had to shoot a video introducing themselves to the host of their favourite radio station and post it with the hashtag #ChooseRadioTikToker. During the campaign, more than 3600 user videos were posted, and the hashtag #ChooseRadioTikToker gained more than 103 million views on TikTok.

The winners were announced on TikTok by the Russian Academy of Radio as well as live on radio. The winning radio presenter was Dmitry Lapikov, the host of Love Radio in Kaliningrad. The first-place TikToker won flight vouchers for 250,000 roubles (approx. 3000€) and the top-5 runners up received flight vouchers worth 50,000 roubles (almost 600€).

Alexander Moiseevich Polesitsky, Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Radio commented: “The partnership of radio with TikTok on this project was mutually beneficial: radio recruited listeners among those who have begun to forget that a DJ is not just an element on the air, but also a modern, charming, witty interlocutor; the platform gained new users, among those who came for their on-air heroes.”

TikTok Radio channel by SiriusXM

In August 2021 the US satellite radio company SiriusXM (a parent company of Pandora) launched a TikTok Radio channel, featuring TikTok creators as channel hosts. The station is designed to sound like a “radio version of the platform’s ‘For You’ feed.” A diverse group of TikTok creators present music and share the stories behind the trends. TikTok Radio's resident DJs play music live, simultaneously, on TikTok and TikTok Radio every week.

"Our ground breaking new channel with TikTok is a first-of-its-kind, capturing the pulse of the global music culture, vibrancy and vitality found on the entertaining social platform and recreated as a full-time music channel on live national radio and our streaming platforms," said Scott Greenstein, President and Chief Content Officer, SiriusXM.

OpenVRT – discovering the digital media makers of tomorrow

VRT, the public broadcaster of the Flemish speaking part of Belgium is behind the new project of “OpenVRT” - a community made of, and for, young digital media talents aged 18-34. It is a community for graphic designers, influencers, vloggers, bloggers, videographers, content creators and more. VRT encourages and enables them to develop their skills and come up with new ideas for online formats. VRT organises events throughout the year with inspiring speakers, workshops, brainstorming sessions and lets the creators co-create and experiment with VRT brands. If their idea is selected for an assignment by one of the VRT media brands, the young talents are assigned a coach and a budget to develop it.

Young creators are also spotlighted in a database where they showcase their skills and work. It is a springboard for new opportunities and assignments either by VRT or external companies. Thanks to this project, VRT can identify the digital talents of tomorrow and recruit them early on. VRT also gets the right of first refusal - VRT is the first to be given the opportunity to further develop the concept with the creator. If VRT decides not to go ahead, the young talents have the freedom to develop the concept themselves or offer it to another media company.