Below is a complimentary Demography Unplugged research note written by Hedgeye Demography analyst Neil Howe. Click here to learn more and subscribe.

Is TikTok The Next Great Search App? - AdobeStock 325686917 Editorial Use Only

Around 40% of young adults prefer to use TikTok and Instagram to find information instead of Google. The reason: They want visual instead of text-based results. (Bloomberg)

    NH: Let’s say you want to try a new restaurant. Odds are you would probably use Google (GOOGL) to find one. But according to a new survey, 40% of 18- to 24-year-olds would first turn to TikTok or Instagram instead.

    The results of this survey were recently shared by a Google executive who, at an industry event, was discussing the increased competition facing the company. While visual-based apps like TikTok are most obviously direct competition for services like YouTube, he pointed out that they’re also cutting into the market share for its other core services, including Search and Maps.

    Why do young people prefer to search on other platforms? It might simply be a matter of convenience. Instagram (META) and TikTok are the two most used social media apps among teens and young adults. If they’re spending most of their time on these apps, they’ll continue to use them to find information.

    But young people also say that they prefer getting visual results. When searching for places to eat, product recommendations, recipes, or how-to instructions, they find images and videos more helpful and easier and faster to digest than text.

    In an interview with NBC News, one 21-year-old from Florida who says she no longer uses Google explained, "It’s one thing to read about what to do in this area or how this product works, but it’s another thing to see it.”

    To be sure, Google is in no danger of going defunct. I’m betting that it’s still young people's first choice when it comes to more serious research, whether it's Homelanders completing school papers or Millennials completing work tasks.

    But there's no doubt that Google has begun shifting in a more visual direction.

    You may have noticed that Instagram and TikTok videos are often now displayed before any standard webpage results. This comes as TikTok itself is testing improved search capabilities in hopes of cementing itself as a one-stop shop that users never have to leave.

    This is a new dilemma for Google to be facing. The vast majority of its revenue comes through online advertising, and for most of its existence, the company has never had to worry about losing users to comparable sites or services.

    Reorganizing search results to prioritize visual content isn't going to make Google any money directly; it's just meant to keep people from leaving Google. For the first time, the world's most dominant search engine for the past two decades is being forced to figure out how to make people stick around.

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    Neil Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation's leading thinker on today's generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America's future.

    A historian, economist, and demographer, Howe is also a recognized authority on global aging, long-term fiscal policy, and migration. He is a senior associate to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., where he helps direct the CSIS Global Aging Initiative.

    Howe has written over a dozen books on generations, demographic change, and fiscal policy, many of them with William Strauss. Howe and Strauss' first book, Generations is a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. Vice President Al Gore called it "the most stimulating book on American history that I have ever read" and sent a copy to every member of Congress. Newt Gingrich called it "an intellectual tour de force." Of their book, The Fourth Turning, The Boston Globe wrote, "If Howe and Strauss are right, they will take their place among the great American prophets."

    Howe and Strauss originally coined the term "Millennial Generation" in 1991, and wrote the pioneering book on this generation, Millennials Rising. His work has been featured frequently in the media, including USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and CBS' 60 Minutes.

    Previously, with Peter G. Peterson, Howe co-authored On Borrowed Time, a pioneering call for budgetary reform and The Graying of the Great Powers with Richard Jackson.

    Howe received his B.A. at U.C. Berkeley and later earned graduate degrees in economics and history from Yale University.