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Forget the notion that Gen X is a small market: It isn’t. And Gen Xers’ digital usage, along with their TV viewing, makes them eminently reachable. Plus, being less eager than younger people to jump on the latest new trend makes them easier for digital marketers to find.
An estimated 91.3% of Gen Xers—individuals born between 1965 and 1980—used the internet regularly in 2016, with that figure expected to change only negligibly over the rest of the decade, according to eMarketer’s latest report, “Where US Gen X Stands: A Hard-Luck Cohort that Is Too Important to Neglect.” (The full report is available only to eMarketer PRO subscribers).
Whatever their method for accessing the internet, many Xers spend lots of time doing so. In September 2016 polling by Limelight Networks, four in 10 internet users ages 34 to 50 said they spend at least 11 hours per week online outside of work.
The internet’s emergence as a platform for video is boosting the time Gen Xers spend online. eMarketer estimates that 77.7% of Xers were digital video viewers last year—a number that will increase slightly, to 78.2%, in 2017.
More specifically, in a TiVo survey in Q2 2016, 72% of internet users ages 36 to 51 said they watch subscription video-on-demand (SVOD). And in Cowen and Company polling in November 2016, 62% of internet users ages 35 to 44 reported subscribing to Netflix, as did 47% of those ages 45 to 54.
Xers have also made YouTube a regular part of their media mix—partly because it feeds their appetite for how-to information, according to a September 2016 Think with Google survey.
Almost three-quarters (73%) of internet users ages 35 to 54 said they watch YouTube videos “to learn how to do something.” Meanwhile, Xers are old enough to be susceptible to nostalgia and are prone to use YouTube to connect with pop culture and events from their past, the survey found.
None of this means Xers have abandoned the screen they grew up with—the TV set. “They’re very much still in front of the television,” said Derek Smith, principal for US advisory entertainment and media at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which examined generational viewing patterns in a December 2016 report. And Xers have not been quick to adopt cord-cutting. “For the most part, they’re the core audience who are still paying for pay TV,” Smith added. “As such, traditional advertising over TV is reaching these folks.”
Survey data backs up Smith’s assertion. Kantar Millward Brown polling conducted between June and October 2016 found that 77% of internet users ages 35 to 49 watch TV for at least an hour per day. eMarketer estimates that 93.9% of all Xers viewed nondigital TV at least once a month in 2016, averaging more than 4 hours per day of viewing time.
And Xers may actually be paying attention to the TV when they watch. While millennials are apt to divide their attention between the TV and a smartphone screen, this is less true for Xers. “Gen Xers are not as much into second-screening that way,” Smith said. The caveat is that it’s a matter of degree: “Everybody is multitasking.”
eMarketer analyst Mark Dolliver discusses marketers and Gen Xers in the latest episode of “Behind the Numbers,” eMarketer’s podcast.
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