3 unexpected reasons baby boomers are turning to YouTube

Brittney Ackerman / January 2019

Baby boomers, the generation born between the early to mid-1940s and the mid-1960s, came of age in an era before on-demand media. Back then, if you wanted to watch something, you had to turn on the TV and hope that one of the few available networks was broadcasting something you liked. If you missed an episode of your favorite show, you were out of luck.

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How things have changed. Thanks to platforms like YouTube, it’s easier to watch Ed Sullivan clips today than when they first aired back in 1948. No surprise, then, that contrary to what many believe, baby boomers are becoming cord-cutters and embracing these platforms.

To get a better understanding of how and why this generation is turning to YouTube, we surveyed boomers to find out more.

Baby boomers turn to YouTube to save time

It’s estimated that 10,000 baby boomers retire every day. But just because they’re giving up the day job doesn’t mean they suddenly have more time to kill. In fact, for the boomers we spoke to, the opportunity to save time was one of the big reasons they use YouTube. “With YouTube, I’m not locked into hourlong blocks like I am with most commercial programming. If I have 10 minutes, I can find something to watch,” a 63-year-old named Vera told us.

Maybe it’s this desire to save time that explains why boomers are 1.3X more likely to prefer watching a YouTube tutorial video than reading instructions.1

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Baby boomers turn to YouTube to get help and learn something new

Having the world at your fingertips opens up enormous opportunities, and the baby boomers we spoke to and surveyed are seizing them. For example, as a 58-year-old baby boomer named Barbara pointed out, whereas previous generations had to ask their adult children to teach them how to use new gadgets, baby boomers can find that same information on YouTube. “I use YouTube to get information in a usable format — especially when it comes to techy things that I don't want to ask my daughter to help with,” she said.

We again saw something similar in our survey results, with 1 in 3 boomers saying they use YouTube to learn about a product or service.2

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Baby boomers turn to YouTube to stay plugged in with entertainment and news

Similar to other generations, baby boomers are watching TV recaps, highlights, and their favorite shows on YouTube to stay in the know. “I don’t like to stay up late, so I routinely go on YouTube to watch the monologues of the late night show,” a 59-year-old boomer named Ron told us.

Ron isn’t the only boomer heading to YouTube for some amusement. In fact, 68% of boomers say they watch YouTube videos to be entertained.3 Some of their most-watched categories on the platform, according to recent Google data, were entertainment, music, and news, with channels like Star News (a celebrity news channel), Fox News, and WatchJoJo (a collection of unbelievable facts) rising to the top of their watch list.4

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Baby boomers and your brand

Many brands are focused on how to connect with younger generations, like millennials. As a result, marketers all too often either forget about baby boomers or create old-school campaigns that don’t take into account how tech savvy this generation really is.

But people over the age of 50 account for 51% of consumer spending, creating enormous opportunities for brands that are savvy enough to understand how to connect with them.

3 viewer behaviors we saw play out on YouTube in 2018