I’ve been following the recent web discussion over teenagers’ consumption of media over the last however many weeks with interest, and with some amusement. There’s something rather curious about middle aged media types and city analysts foaming at the mouth over scientific (or otherwise) reports on youth behavior, in anticipation of their future commercial endevours.
It started with Morgan Stanley’s overly excited research report written by 15 year old intern Matthew Robson, which was based on his own personal observations rather than any statistically relevant data. The report was lapped up by a the largely uncritical media and interest spiralled from there.
At first glance much of the report seems intuitive, for example:
- Teenagers don’t want to pay for music
- The aren’t regular listeners of radio, but prefer streaming services like Last.fm
- They eschew advertising (doesn’t everybodythese days?)
- They generally don’t read newspapers, they prefer it summarised on television.
As a case study of the habits and opnions of a teenage boy and his friends, the report is insightful and provides ample food for thought, but to take it as anything more than the subjective opinion of an individual, albeit an insider, is ridiculous.
My view is that young Matthew never intended it to be paraded as a statistically relevant research report, and neither did the Morgan Stanley executives. “No one I know reads a newspaper” he says; It’s a self consciously personal perspective.
Irrespective, it was a powerful piece of PR and that was quite possibly the motivation behind it. It gained exposure in the Telegraph, Guardian and Financial Times among others, and created some a wealth of discussion in the social media sphere.
Outside the world of investment banking and the mainstream press, the report has attracted criticism from those decrying its limited worth.
The social media community has rightly picked up on the apparently empty conviction that teenagers don’t use twitter because 1) they have to pay to text the service, money which they would rather spend on texting friends and 2) once they realsise no one is viewing their tweets, the service is rendered pointless.
The first point is pretty ignorant, as most tweets are posted on the web or third party applications, but the second point makes more sense. I suspect the picture is a more complex one however.
One of the most enjoyable posts I read was ironically by another teenage intern, Adam Bernstein, over at social media consultancy We Are Social‘s blog (find it here). He systematically picks apart the the inconsistancies in the report and provides some interesting counter arguments. Essentially though, they are the isolated views of yet another teenager.
Recently, statistical analysis by Neilson has confirmed that yes, young people generally don’t tweet, and not just teens. Only 16% of twitter users are under 25. Now that’s more suprising. But the question posed by Mashable today, is why?
I would suggest the reasons are manifold:
- Twitter is an open network and many people are attracted to it in order to widen their personal networks, promote something, share resources or at least connect with people they don’t know in the real world.
- Use is often connected to a profession, a hobby or a cause. Those that don’t have these are more suited to general chatter on other networks, which are at first glance more dynamic social environments.
- Like Adam writes in his post, young people already populate Facebook, Myspace and Bebo, which are much more suited to connecting with existing social groups.
Anyway, I’m just adding further speculation. Ill let you make your own mind up…