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14
Jul 09
Tue

How Teenagers Consume Media (in 2009 and 1996)

This recent Times article talks about a high school student who got a 2-week internship at Morgan Stanley and wrote a report entitled “How Teenagers Consume Media”. The Times summarises his points like this:

The world according to Matthew Robson aged 15 and a half

Radio With online sites streaming music for free they do not bother, as services such as last.fm do this advert free and users can choose the songs they want instead of listening to what the radio presenter/DJ chooses

Newspapers No teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper, as most do not have the time and cannot be bothered to read pages and pages of text while they could watch the news summarised on the internet or on TV

Internet Facebook is the most common, with nearly everyone with an internet connection registered. On the other hand, teenagers do not use Twitter

Music They are very reluctant to pay for it (most having never bought a CD) Teenagers from higher income families use iPods and those from lower income families use mobile phones

Directories Real directories contain listings for builders and florists, which are services teenagers do not require. They can get the information free on the internet

Viral/Outdoor Marketing “Most teenagers enjoy and support viral marketing… Teenagers see adverts on websites (pop-ups, banner ads) as extremely annoying and pointless…they are portrayed in such a negative light that no one follows them.”

Cinema Teenagers visit the cinema more often when they are in the lower end of teendom but as they approach 15 they go to the cinema a lot less. This is because of the pricing; at 15 they have to pay the adult price. Also it is possible to buy a pirated DVD of the film at the time of release, and these cost much less than a cinema ticket

Mobile phones The general view is that Sony Ericsson phones are superior, because of their long list of features, built-in Walkman capacity and value

Here’s the same summary, if I had written it in the mid-1990s (ouch, now I feel old).

The world according to Stuart Loh aged 15 and a half

Radio Yes, in the car or with a walkman. MP3s are downloaded of new songs, but availability is limited and bandwidth is slow. Streaming music is totally new (via Real Audio) and poor bandwidth and poor connection reliability means poor audio quality and user experience.

Newspapers Yes, of the dead-tree variety. Nothing substantial online.

Internet Email and IRC. ICQ has been in existence for about a month, so no one’s on it, just yet. Also, computer games. Via Kali. Not that many people have the internet access, but it is increasing. And it’s expensive, mostly modem-based, and charged by the hour.

Music CDs bought, but cassette tapes are rare (except when recording songs off the radio). Minidisc players for the richer kids. Also see MP3 comments above (all commercial songs are available illegally, of course – no licensing deals back then! – does anyone remember The Outer Limits?). Of course, there are no portable MP3 players, just Winamp.

Directories Dead-tree directories rule the day. Some rudimentary directory services online (Yahoo!). Google didn’t exist.

Viral/Outdoor Marketing Viral marketing? What’s that?

Cinema Teenagers visit the cinema more often when they are in the lower end of teendom but as they approach 15 they go to the cinema a lot less. This is because of the pricing; at 15 they have to pay the adult price. Also it is possible to buy a pirated VCD of the film at the time of release, and these cost much less than a cinema ticket (although you have to travel to some miscellaneous flea market in an Asian country to do it). Virtually no video available online. Hard disk space was a lot more expensive (by the megabyte) at that time!

Mobile phones At the size of a brick, and the cost of a used car, no kid has one. People that had them couldn’t SMS with them.

So the fundamental changes are: mobile technology, and increased bandwidth and lower storage costs, allowing for streaming audio and video. The technology behind it all was more or less in existence in 1996/7 (of course it’s evolved and been optimised a lot since then)… it’s just that the infrastructure has taken some time to take advantage of it. Oh, and Facebook. While checking your email, and using IM programs has been a part of daily internet life for over a decade, only two other things have been added to that since then: Google in the late 1990s, and Facebook in the mid-2000s. (Twitter is not in the same league as Facebook.)