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A YouTuber Tops the List of People Gen Z & Millennials Trust for News

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketing

Who is the individual that young consumers trust to inform them about current events? In a plague of fake news, they’re turning to some new sources…

Three quarters of 18-36-year-olds and three in five 13-17-year-olds say that fake news is one of the biggest problems in society today. They also feel surrounded by it. Recently, The Atlantic reported that teens are turning to “flop accounts” on Instagram for news, over traditional outlets. Flop accounts call out foul play (fails, or flops) in Hollywood, on YouTube, and increasingly, in politics. As concern over fake news rises, one 17-year-old explains that “it’s a lot of people completing these things together, not just one person, which makes us trust it more.” A “strong distrust of news media” is fueling the trend.

When we asked young consumers, “In general, how confident are you that your news sources give you accurate information,” 45% said somewhat confident, and 34% said very/extremely confident. Though they see fake news as a huge problem, they still believe that the news sources they’re personally turning to are, for the most part, reporting accurately. But those sources could include flop accounts, online publications, people in their social circles, late night hosts, and more. At this point, news doesn’t have to come from behind a desk in a newsroom to be considered trustworthy. In our recent monthly survey on news consumption and trust, we asked young consumers all about the news sources they trust—including “Who is the individual you trust most to inform you about current events? (e.g. anchors, TV hosts, journalists, YouTube creators)”* Their top answers indicate that a shift in news consumption is well underway:

*This was an open-end response question to allow us to capture the full range of individuals that Millennials and Gen Z trust for news—without our preconceived ideas shaping their responses. As with any qualitative question, the responses include those that are top of mind and those that are most popular. The lists are ordered according to number of responses received, and alphabetically when ties occurred.

Who Is the Individual They Trust Most to Inform Them About Current Events?
  1. Philip DeFranco
  2. John Oliver
  3. Stephen Colbert
  4. Anderson Cooper
  5. CNN / CNN anchors
  6. Family
  7. Trevor Noah
  8. Rachel Maddow
  9. YouTube Creators
  10. Sean Hannity
  11. NPR journalists
  12. David Muir
  13. Ben Shapiro

First an important note: the first and second most popular responses were “journalists” and “anchors”—so many, perhaps the majority, of young consumers are still looking to traditional news personalities to give them news they can trust. We’ve also found that websites for print newspapers are one of the sources that they trust the most, followed by local television, and podcasts; supporting the idea that traditional sources are still valued.

But, when it comes to individual personalities that they could name, the top answer is decidedly non-traditional. YouTuber Philip DeFranco ranked as the number one name on the list.

So—who is Philip DeFranco? He is the host of The Philip DeFranco Show (AKA The PDS) on YouTube. According to his Patreon page (where he’s raising money to launch his own news and entertainment network), “The PDS is a longstanding Monday-Friday show that covers worldwide news, pop culture, and everything in between. It’s a show that prides itself on exposing fake news, properly investigating, and explaining every side or argument as factually and as accurately as possible…No one knows what to believe anymore and I aim to be the place people go where they can find news and a source that they can trust.” DeFranco has regularly ranked as a top favorite online celebrity among Gen Z and Millennials in Ypulse surveys, and was in our top 20 ranking of the news sources Millennials turned to most last year. In other words, he’s been around a while and has grown an audience of devoted viewers who clearly trust his word.

Looking at the other top names on the list, it’s clear that other non-traditional sources are becoming more valued in these dubious times. John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah—ostensibly comedians with late night news shows—are some of the most trusted individuals. The first traditional journalist named on the list is Anderson Cooper, coming in at number four on the list. But it’s notable that YouTube Creators are number nine in the ranking, so DeFranco is not alone, and though “journalists” and “anchors” are still the most trusted sources for news, their competition is right on young consumers’ phones.

To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.