Apr 11, 2024 - Business

Youths say goodbye to Google

Illustration of the Google searching page with a big "Z" spray painted on top of it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Gen Z is turning toward social media as a search engine, seeking quick, relatable answers amid dissatisfaction with Google's results, writes Axios' April Rubin.

Why it matters: Young internet users' behavior marks a clear departure from that of millennials, many of whom take pride in their "Google-fu."

  • It's also a headache for Google, a nearly $2 trillion company that's still heavily reliant on ad revenue tied to search results.

Driving the news: 46% of those aged 18-24 start their information quests by searching on Google, per data shared exclusively with Axios from YPulse, a youth research firm.

  • That's compared to 58% of those aged 25-39.
  • 21% of 18- to 24-year-olds start with TikTok, while 5% start on YouTube.

The big picture: Social media platforms have "shifted so much from being a place to connect with friends and family to an information superhighway," MaryLeigh Bliss, chief content officer for YPulse, tells Axios.

  • Some users prefer to search on social media to get more authentic answers, especially as Google and others increasingly promote sponsored results.

State of play: Users have been increasingly dissatisfied with Google's search results, says Danny Goodwin, managing editor of digital marketing and tech site Search Engine Land.

  • Low-quality results are well optimized to show up high on Google search result pages, per a study published this year by researchers in Germany, focused on product searches.
  • Plus, an increase in AI-generated content could exacerbate those issues, the researchers warned.

Between the lines: Some users prefer to search on social media to get more authentic answers, especially as Google and others increasingly promote sponsored results.

  • "You're getting more information in smaller bites from more, different sources," says Fred Cook, director of USC's Annenberg Center for Public Relations.
  • Gen Zers are also true digital natives, having grown up in the social media era with no memory of Google's early days.

What they're saying: "People have many choices when it comes to accessing information," a Google spokesperson said.

  • "We're focused on continuing to make Search a place where you can find high-quality, reliable information as well as a variety of first-hand perspectives."

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