Do you know what your grandma watches online? A report on viewing behavior across age and gender on YouTube

Have you ever wondered what other generations like to watch on YouTube? You’ve probably always assumed that there are some differences. Kids are just interested in other things than grown-ups are. Furthermore, the digital submergence of today’s youth makes them more capable to live out these interests on the web. Older viewers are much more discerning, and still keep many of their hobbies offline. For this month’s edition, we went through the data and pinpointed the specific interests for each of our target groups. In doing so, we also noticed a fundamental disparity between “old” and “young” that helps to tell the story of their online behavior.

Kids and young adults spend large amounts of their waking lives on the internet. Thus, as expected, they use it for practically everything. Older viewers, on the other hand, have not yet tapped into the leisure capabilities of the web. They have, however, started to uncover the practical advantages it has. Many of the older generations enjoy watching cooking, crafts and other how-to channels, looking for practical tips and step-by-step tutorials in order to solve daily issues. Since we believe that that this generation’s presence on YouTube will continue to grow, it makes sense to understand what they like watch.

As mentioned before, we will be taking a closer look at demographics this month. More specifically, the question of who is watching what. We went against the classic approach to demographics on YouTube: Usually, one takes a certain content and is interested in who watches it the most. We, on the other hand, took a certain demographic and attempted to figure out what they are most interested in. These two approaches are fundamentally different because of the large demographic bias on the internet. A disproportionate amount of young people and males are on the web, making this group a dominate audience for most channels.
The age distribution looks as follows for our sample. It is pretty similar for the rest of YouTube, which itself claims to reach more adults between the ages 18–34 than any cable network in the U.S. According to our data around 77% of all viewers on YouTube are younger than 35. Under 35, however, entails many different age groups with varying interests. In order to target one of these groups properly, they have to be defined a little more precisely. Viewers over the age of 35 should not be discredited either since they are also starting to tune in too, having grown rapidly in the past years. Since these older age groups will probably become larger in the near future, it is also important to understand which content drives them to YouTube.

What’s Cooking?

Women

Girls and young women under the age of 25 are most fond of Beauty and Fashion channels, with Entertainment channels occupying a strong second place. A large portion of teenage girls watches Minecraft (albeit far less than their male counterparts) and switch to watching Music content later on. For viewers over 25, the differences become smaller, with Music being the main reason to visit YouTube. Two categories that emerge among those in their late thirties are Crafts and, unexpectedly, Minecraft. It is highly probable that many young mothers use their own YouTube accounts for their underage children, which could, in turn, explain the Minecraft viewership for this demographic group. Once women pass the age of 45, Cooking becomes the main reason to visit YouTube. Instead of buying cookbooks or looking up written recipes, middle-aged women prefer to receive a more complete approach by watching YouTube personalities, who can more easily offer step by step approaches and visual support when cooking — much like regular TV. The main advantage is that they can choose any recipe and dish they feel like at that moment. Since older age groups have been slower to make the switch to online content, the cooking genre looks like an exciting genre indeed, with a lot of great potential.

Men

Gaming is by far the most popular YouTube platform among young male viewers. This is no secret for those who are very familiar with the site — the biggest YouTuber is a gamer, after all. The favorite subcategories are Minecraft, VLOG’s and other kinds of Gameplays. After 18 their preferences gravitate more towards general entertainment channels (e.g. comedy, news and current events as well as vlog’s), but gaming still remains a strong content vertical. All of this changes after the age of 25, though. Just like our women, they make the complete switch to Music channels. Cars & Motors and Sports occupy the second and third place as the stereotypical “male” topics. Middle-aged men over 35 turn to Craft channels and Cooking, not unlike their female counterparts. Surprising, however, is the emergence Beauty & Fashion at number 2. It may be fathers lending their accounts to their daughters, or perhaps even be willing to learn make-up tips just to help them out. It’s hard to tell. Again striking, though, is the dominance of Cooking for ages over 45. Cooking is clearly not just a female hobby and proves again to be a very popular format for the oldest generations on YouTube.

Work old, play young?

Work Old, Play Young? The purpose of visiting YouTube is seemingly very different for each generation. Our younger generations grew up with the video site and use it for a large variety of activities. These activities range from pure leisure and entertainment to make-up tips and gaming tutorials. Older generations still seem to seek their leisure elsewhere for the moment, but they do turn to this platform for practical help.
This is an enormous strength of video. It allows you to make visual step-by-step tutorials. Instead of messing around with user manuals or cookbooks, viewers can watch what happens and listen to extra advice the speaker provides. Older generations seem to be quickly discovering this advantage of online video, a niche that was previously unknown to many of them. Of course, there is still an obvious split between the behavior of kids and their parents online, but for the parents these practical howto tutorials may prove to be a stepping stone for their exploration of the world of online video.

Author: Kyle Smith

Data Scientist: Enea Koci