Today’s youth audiences choose to engage with media platforms that provide them with useful content that adds value to their everyday lives. As a result authentic content has become an important connection between brands and the youth and is ultimately the deciding factor in terms of whether a brand remains relevant in their lives, or becomes irrelevant. 
These were some of the observations from a panel discussion, moderated by Cliff Central’s Siya Sangweni, that took place at the Sunday Times Generation Next Conference last week in Johannesburg. 
Social media has improved the relationship between consumers, brands and media as it has provided audiences with choice in terms of who they want to follow, maintained CliffCentral’s Gareth Cliff. He added that using demographics as a way to segment audiences is an “ugly hangover” from the days when people were characterised by race, gender and wealth and which still today create an unconscious bias. 
Thandi Ngwenya, Chief Marketing Officer at Alpha Media Holdings, Zimbabwe’s largest independent media house, commented “There is no doubt that digital disruption has forced our industry to adapt.” Massive shifts to digital have destabilised the traditional print business model  significantly as it grapples with how to monetise social media platforms, admitted Chief Marketing Officer at Alpha Media, Thandi Ngwenya. 
It is, said Ngwenya a form of playing catch up. With a 103% mobile penetration rate in Zimbabwe, the company, which publishes four print titles, has accepted that it needs to connect with consumers where they are, instead of pushing traditional platforms such as newspapers or billboards. Instead Alpha Media has invested in building the largest online following of any media house in Zimbabwe.
Massiv Metro’s Faith Mangope explained how, by acting as a content hub, Massiv Metro has allowed advertisers to move from the space they’re in to reach a younger audience where they’re found – on their phones and on social media platforms. 
“Content is king and we took the decision to become a content hub which would literally allow audiences to ‘watch radio’, taking a traditional medium and live streaming it to meet audiences at the level of disruption – an approach which allows brands to penetrate any market they desire,” Mangope said.  
Content utility – content that helps audiences in some way in their day to day lives – is key, said Yellowwood CEO, David Blyth. “It all feeds into the desire of the youth for influence and to be in the know – provide content that fulfils this need and you’ll keep consumers loyal.” 
He added that key trends that influence media consumption in the youth market include video, nano content with embedded devices and the Internet of Things (IoT). 
“People care about quality and authenticity,” said Cliff. Often this type of content cannot be researched or strategised as people don’t know what they like until they see it. As such, marketers should listen as much as they talk and not be afraid to experiment, especially with the costs of media coming down and the democratising of content, he said. 
Blyth agreed, saying that instead of broadcasting messages about why they’re better than their competitors, brands should rather understand, listen and then contribute to the youth market.
In much the same way, Mangope insisted that brands should stop being condescending to their audiences and using stereotypes.  
The big take-out: Digital disruption has changed media consumption. This means that brands should be providing content that adds value and listening to their youth markets instead of talking at them.