How we consume media and who we trust is integral to the actions we take. But just like our decisions, it’s always changing – especially in 2024. As news and streaming continuously evolve, it’s more imperative than ever to understand how people view and interact with media, and what it means for the future.

1. The Conundrum of Credibility

It’s the age of misinformation and alternative facts – and although social media often takes the heat for being the main culprit in spreading misinformation, traditional media outlets haven’t gone unscathed. In the past five years, the only constant in public opinion and trust towards media is its inconsistency.

2024 Rebound: During the 2016 election, media trust hit an all-time low according to Gallup – a low only revisited in October 2023. 32% of American citizens had a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the media. Entering another tumultuous election year, we expected those numbers to continue to drop. However, Morning Consult reports that 55% of U.S. adults found nine leading news outlets very or somewhat credible – up 4% from the same poll in 2020.

But in the Gulf South… Our feelings are a little different on leading cable news. In the upcoming 2024 Gulf South Index report from The Ehrhardt Group and Causeway Solutions, only 13% of Gulf South residents have a great deal of trust in cable news networks – compared to 18% nationally (notably, both of these numbers are slightly down from 2023). Furthermore, 71% of the Gulf South cares deeply or somewhat about news happening outside their immediate area while 80% care nationally – and we trust local news a bit more at 17%. Even as the rest of the nation becomes more trusting, the Gulf South leans local.


    2. A New Generation of Media Consumption

    Big Media’s Big Problem: No surprise, it’s Generation Z. The age group ranging 13 to 26 has long been uninterested in legacy media sources. Morning Consult reports Gen Z found traditional outlets less credible than U.S. adults did. Only 30% look to cable for their news at least once a week – compared to 45% of all adults. And while broadcast draws in 50% of all adult viewers weekly, Gen Z comes in at just 25%. They strongly favor social media and video content for their news – around 65% use it for this purpose once a week.

    Gulf South Gen Z’ers also exhibit these media habits. 44% of Gen Z’ers 18 to 24 trust social media a great deal or quite a lot. The numbers drop drastically in other generations: those 35-44 stand at 28%, 45-54 at 25%, and for 55+, only 6% have a great deal or quite a lot of trust in social media. A similar drop occurred across ages nationally. Between their distrust for traditional media and their social media loyalty, Gen Z is making their mark on the landscape.

    Who is Gen Z helping? Most recently, it seems Super Bowl LVIII. The February 11 broadcast drew in 132.7 million viewers, the largest TV audience in Nielsen’s records and a 7% increase from last year’s game which was viewed by 115.1 million. Why the increase? The Associated Press attributes Taylor Swift’s attendance to the boost in viewers. We might not know for sure, but her super-celebrity status among Gen Z’ers may have led to the higher viewership. Generation Alpha may have also contributed; the first kid-centric network broadcast of the Super Bowl on Nickelodeon drew in about 1.2 million viewers.


        3. The Future of Streaming

        Streaming has seen its own fluctuations in usage and popularity – but the implications differ from those traditional media face.

        Here to Stay: Early last year, the team at the Gulf South Index reported on so-called streaming fatigue – with too many options and increasing prices, it seemed viewers were considering a step back. While prices are rising and options are still endless, viewers aren’t tuning out just yet – Forbes reports 99% of U.S. households are subscribed to one or more streaming services. In February, Nielsen found streaming made up for 37.7% of all TV usage (surprisingly, YouTube beat out Netflix with their platform record of 9.3% of all streaming).

        But change is still coming in 2024 (sort of), Deloitte predicts. To combat a crowded industry, streamers will continue increasing pricing and introduce tiers for more exclusive content. This signals a circle back to the early days of cable – exclusive content being similar to mostly shuttered pay-per-view options of traditional television. Deloitte notes, “2024 will likely see a return of some of the mechanisms and business models that helped media and entertainment companies become highly profitable before the streaming revolution.”

        Generation Alpha has logged in: 51% of the youngest generation stream content at least once a day, according to a parent survey on Morning Consult. This triumphs over all other activities for the 0–11-year-olds – reading at 40%, video games and live TV at 37% and board games down at 14%. If we thought older generations were retreating, our youngest are certainly keeping streaming alive.


            It’s no secret: things are changing. New generations are coming into focus, some platforms are fading as others gain more prominence, and the November election looms. We don’t know what will happen, but we do know it will look different for everyone – from generation to generation and from the Gulf Coast to across the nation. Amidst the change, staying up-to-date on the latest media trends can help us to make the best decisions for ourselves.

            Marc Ehrhardt
            The Ehrhardt Group