At the Society of Editors conference last week John Naughton savaged newspaper coverage of today's youth. What he said is just as relevant for the marketing communications industry. Here's an abridged version of what he said...
Well, they are indeed the future. And they're already here. So what do we know about them? Quite a lot, as it happens.
Today's 21-year-olds were born in 1985. The internet was two years old in January that year, and Nintendo launched 'Super Mario Brothers', the first blockbuster game. When they were going to primary school in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee was busy inventing the world wide web. The first SMS message was sent in 1992, when these kids were seven. Amazon and eBay launched in 1995. Hotmail was launched in 1996, when they were heading towards secondary school.
Around that time, pay-as-you-go mobile phone tariffs arrived, enabling teenagers to have phones, and the first instant messaging services appeared. Google launched in 1998, just as they were becoming teenagers. Napster and Blogger.com launched in 1999 when they were doing GCSEs. Wikipedia and the iPod appeared in 2001. Early social networking services appeared in 2002 when they were doing A-levels. Skype launched in 2003, as they were heading for university, and YouTube launched in 2005, as they were heading toward graduation.
These kids have been socially conditioned in a universe that runs parallel to the one inhabited by most folks in the media business. They've been playing computer games of mind-blowing complexity forever. They're resourceful, knowledgeable and natural users of computer and communications technology. They're Digital Natives - accustomed to creating content of their own - and publishing it.
They buy music from the iTunes store - but continue to download tracks illicitly as well. They use BitTorrent to get US editions of Lost. They think 'Google' is a synonym for 'research' and regard it as quite normal to maintain and read blogs (55 million as of last night), use Skype to talk to their mates and upload photos to Flickr. Some even write entries on Wikipedia. And they know how to use iMovie or Adobe Premiere to edit videos and upload them to YouTube.
Now look round the average British newsroom. How many hacks have a Flickr account or a MySpace profile? How many sub-editors have ever uploaded a video to YouTube? How many editors have used BitTorrent? (How many know what BitTorrent is?)
And while some of our teenagers' interests coincide with ours, many do not. Here, for example, are the top blog tags on Technorati last night: Bush, careers, college, comedy, Congress, death, Democrats, elections, Flickr, gay, Halloween, Iraq, Microsoft, money, Republicans, Saddam, Ted Haggard, vote, war, breaking-news, tagshare, YouTube. Some you'll recognise. But you won't see much about many of these in the papers.
These are the future, my friends. They're here and living among us. They're not very interested in us, and I'm not sure I blame them. The best we can hope for is that one day they may keep us as pets.
Full Story: Young people don't like us. Who can blame them? The Observer
Tags: consumer, web 2.0, ogilvy, John Naughton