CES: The View From Gen Z


(By Buzz Knight) To celebrate CES 2022 week I have been sharing conversations with various thought leaders regarding CES, Media and Technology. Today it’s time to tap a bright mind from a generation the radio business needs to pay attention to: GenZ.

My conversation is with a young man by the name of Erick Serrano from UNLV in Las Vegas. He has some interesting thoughts about the business, the future possibilities of AM and technology.

Buzz: I thought it would be informative to take a look at the media landscape from the eyes of a Gen Z person, a smart, engaging and thoughtful friend that I met from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His name is Erick Serrano. Erick and I met about four years ago when my old company, Beasley Media Group sponsored a Media Hackathon. Erick led the winning team with that competition. So, Erick, thanks for joining us and talking about media as it is today.

Erick: Glad to be here. Honestly, I’m really excited and honored to be invited.

Buzz: Erick, you had the winning team at the Hackathon. What was the problem that you were trying to solve?

Erick: My understanding for the competition was that we were looking for a way to use radio or to bring some sort of change using radio or media in some sense. Our team thought maybe we could use radio waves as a source of energy, as a source of power, to power communities and devices and so forth.

What we ended up doing is we created a prototype. It’s a simple circuit just to harness the energy of a radio wave to show that it was possible. It was in fact, a success in that we proved that it was possible, but there were some shortcomings that we, as freshmen could not have forced on.

Now, as a senior I feel like there is still some potential opportunity in that area, and that radio, it doesn’t necessarily have a lot of energy to begin with, but maybe in rural communities where energy is not so easily accessible, harnessing radio waves might be a really useful application or really useful way for them to sustain themselves.

That was the short of our project. We took the idea of radio and tried to look at it from a more technical perspective coming from the background of four computer scientists and a mechanical engineer.

Buzz: So how are you consuming media yourself these days, in what forms?

Erick: Definitely my phone when I commute on the radio. Then of course, if I get bored and I’m with my family, I’ll watch a lot of television, a lot of television. But more than likely, it’s usually my phone or my car radio, just because I commute so much now as a student.

Buzz: How do you feel that audiences, whether they be radio audiences or television audiences, how do they engage? How do the audiences engage with the medium and how does the medium engage with the audience? First, maybe give me your radio perspective of that, and then secondly, maybe TV. Where is the engagement level?

Erick: I find myself on a lot of social media applications. I feel that that is probably the biggest way that I engage with anyone through an online platform. Now, when it comes to radio, I feel that I sort of just tune in to whatever music is playing, whatever music I like. And when those companies then switch over to the ads, I feel like that’s how they end up grabbing my attention towards a certain product. Just a few days ago, I had heard some ads about Nintendo, and I immediately started thinking about how I wanted to purchase some video games.

Buzz: I saw recently that when analyzing these various platforms, social media platforms, TikTok year over year, as far as Gen Z is flat in terms of its consumption numbers. Obviously then, over the age of 30 and over, there’s more consumption there. What’s your perception of that fact around TikTok? Does that mirror what Facebook has gone through when it comes to how maybe, it’s not speaking to your generation?

Erick: So, you’re saying that TikTok is sort of flat in terms of Gen Z? Okay that’s definitely surprising. I do see a lot of family, friends, and many, many extended classes, like friends through classmates talking about TikTok. Frankly, I feel kind of I’m getting older for whatever reason, because it feels like that the high schoolers or people that are younger than me are usually the ones that are involved on TikTok.

I can’t say for sure where I see TikTok going in the future, but it, just by that fact that the viewership has sort of remained stagnant around my age demographic is surprising enough for me to think maybe there’s a new platform that’s ready to make its way and sort of overtake TikTok, especially for us younger people who I feel like sometimes just really like to pay attention to highlights, highlights, highlights, and they might be easy to move on and move away from TikTok.

Buzz: We’ll go back to your point on paying attention to highlights. Is that something certainly that radio can learn from?

Erick: Oh, yes, definitely. I mean, I think about it in terms of like a UFC fight. I barely watch a full fight anymore. When I did it was with family. I’m not really big into that, but I always watch highlights every now and then when you hear a big name, Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. I know he’s retired, but… the same applies for any piece of media, news. I know people love the sound bites and if radio can provide something like that in a much more streamlined fashion, then definitely there’s opportunity for growth there.

Buzz: Going back to CES and what I think is going on every year at the show, it’s further demonstration around 5G and the growth of 5G. You’re at the epicenter in Las Vegas and of the show. Do you perceive that the growth of 5G is occurring or is 5G more of a hype and a marketing right now and is far from where we expect to see it?

Erick: Yeah, I think it might be a little bit of both and I don’t claim to be an expert as well because I have some understanding of how these bandwidths work. From what I understand, 5G is all about allowing the growing population to have faster internet connections, by making sure that these signals that they send are not interfering with one another. Now, way back when 4G was a new thing, a lot of people were taking up the 3G bandwidth. So, when 4G came out, that was the new and faster, that’s sort of way to send signals. Now I think that’s sort of the road that 5G is taking. It’s sort of almost like a copy, different bandwidth, but the idea is the same, is that we’re trying to free up space for people to have faster connections.

Right now, I think that because it’s so new, 5G will inherently grow and we’re going to see it on all the devices and all products. But of course, there’s only so many ranges of frequencies that we can take up in 5G before we move on to the next step. I don’t presume to say that there’s going to be a 6G or anything like that. So, I do see some early growth coming in the near future, but over time; people will be moving on to some different bandwidth.

Buzz: As we observe innovation at CES any thoughts on other areas that companies can pay attention to, so they are future proofing their businesses?

Erick: I think one big contender for innovation is most likely the quantum computing initiative taken by big name companies, such as NVIDIA, IBM, Microsoft, and Google. Part of the quantum information field involves secure and fast transmission of information. If media companies want to stay on top of the next big step in transmitting information, my recommendation would be to keep an eye out for the quantum computing industry at CES.

Buzz: How have lifestyle changes in the last two years created new products for consumers?

Erick: There is no doubt that the media has taken a core role in our lives, especially during these times. As we transitioned to online platforms, we found a large dependence on companies like Zoom for communication, while the entertainment industry gave birth to new streaming platforms such as HBO Max. I believe many industries have recognized that a large portion of the population will rely heavily on online and radio platforms to receive and send information.

Buzz: In closing, I certainly have had the opinion that the last two years going through what the world’s gone through would be producing large amounts of innovation around solving many different problems. And I think that’s certainly been my hope and other people’s hope. But as you know, it’s been very difficult for everybody these last couple of years to get things done. Do you think we’re going to see breakthrough things that at CES or do you think it’s going to be in your opinion, more continued evolution of some of the themes that have previously been around?

Erick: I think, for the most part, I’ve seen a lot of big highlights with cars, with televisions and so on and so forth. I think what might be really exciting, especially because of COVID is to see someone tackling a new problem. I know here, I feel like in the Vegas community, education might have been one of the most harshly impacted from the COVID pandemic. I know a lot of people, especially in the K through 12 community are experiencing a lot of hardship. So, if we could see something like that at CES, I feel like that would be very inspiring and would give that sense of innovation coming to CES once again.

Buzz: Great! Erick, thank you very much for joining me here as we take a look at the media landscape on CES week.

Erick: Of course. I’m always glad to be here. Thank you.

Buzz Knight is the CEO of Buzz Knight Media and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


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