Google Search remains the go-to news discovery platform

Google Search remains the top platforms for U.S. adults to research major news events but Gen Z seems to be more inclined to head to TikTok than other generations, according to a new survey.

Why we care. For publishers, TikTok is the new Facebook. As happened with Facebook years ago, publishers flocked to Facebook, only to slowly watch Facebook squeeze the life out of referral traffic and engagement.

Regardless, TikTok right now may be a legitimate path for publishers to reach the so-called Generation Z (or those born 1997 or later). We’ll see if TikTok follows a similar path as Facebook did with publishers, and whether users end up flocking to the “next TikTok,” assuming one emerges.

Google Search and news, by the numbers. Broken down by generation, here’s how many respondents said they start researching a major news event on Google:

  • Baby boomers: 48%
  • Gen Xers: 47%
  • Millennials: 45%
  • Gen Z adults: 39%

Gen Z and TikTok. 14% of respondents said they start researching a major news event on TikTok. This was was significantly higher than all other generations – only 1%.

Does this truly mean it’s past the “wait-and-see phase” for publishers, as the survey indicates? Many large publishers (e.g., the New York Times, Wall Street Journal) have accounts but aren’t super active, while many other publishers (eg., Financial Times, Axios) simply don’t have a presence on TikTok.

Could AI chat in Google/Bing search drive more publishers to TikTok? Anything is possible. We know very little about what Google’s AI chat in search will ultimately look like (perhaps Google is intentionally sitting back a bit to let Bing be the first one through the AI wall and avoid some of the early mistakes?) and whether it will alter the way people search or impact organic traffic.

But as the survey notes:

“As search engine referrals may eventually become scarcer, publishers can’t be too conservative in restricting their most compelling coverage to their websites. This means investing more resources into repurposing portions of paywalled content into posts for social platforms, whether that be vertical videos on TikTok or even video podcasts on YouTube.”

– Kevin Tran, TikTok Really Is Becoming Gen Z’s Google, and More on How Gen Z Gets Its News

About the survey. Morning Consult conducted the survey Feb. 3-5. Results were based on responses of 2,199 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. You can read it in full here.


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