YouTube says Gen Z may love fan-made content more than original content

The majority of Gen Z also identify as “video content creators.”

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In its annual trends research report, YouTube says fan culture is turning Gen Z into creators.

The platform says that the increasing volume of fan-made content — recaps, reactions, parodies, and commentary that can be more popular than its source content — has made fan culture “the central driver of emerging popular culture.”

As The Washington Post reported last week, the YouTube study found that 65 percent of 350 U.S.-based Gen Z respondents describe themselves as “video content creators.” The report contextualizes that majority as the result of a larger increase in fan-made content. Fans expect their media to be malleable and to be empowered to remix it,” the report reads. Sixty-six percent of Gen Z Americans say they often spend more time watching content that discusses or unpacks something than they do watching the thing itself.

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Online fandom is a powerful tool for virtual connection, with 47 percent of Gen Z respondents reporting that they belong to a fandom that no one they know personally is a part of. Of all respondents aged 14-44 who identified as fans, 80 percent said they consume content about the thing they’re a fan of at least weekly on YouTube. Notably, eight percent of those surveyed by YouTube who identified as fans also considered themselves professional fans or “someone who earns revenue from a fanship.”

Fandom is not new, but it seems it’s being taken more seriously than ever. In May, veteran YouTube creator Jenny Nicholson’s four-hour video breakdown of the sins of Disney’s Star Wars hotel earned coverage from unlikely sources, including The New York Times, NPR, and Rolling Stone. Nicholson has been making similar analyses for more than seven years, but the detailed assessment of the hotel’s failures was her longest video yet and her third most-viewed. It has now been viewed more than eight million times, indicating the growing power of fan-made analysis.

The YouTube study was conducted by research firm SmithGeiger, with report insights from KR&I’s Fandom Institute. Respondents were adults who are active online, ages 14–44. The study defined Gen Z respondents as those between 14 and 24.

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Elizabeth is a digital culture reporter covering the internet’s influence on self-expression, fashion, and fandom. Her work explores how technology shapes our identities, communities, and emotions. Before joining Mashable, Elizabeth spent six years in tech. Her reporting can be found in Rolling Stone, The Guardian, TIME, and Teen Vogue. Follow her on Instagram here.

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