"The Fad With MySpace Right Now Is To Reject (It)"

That's what Samantha Skey, senior vice president of youth marketing at Alloy Media + Marketing says about the prime college age users of the popular social networking site.

I share this with you in case you haven't heard it, but it does not surprise me. My students at USC -- very much a part of the next generation -- take great pride in being fickle. They almost resent being counted on as consumers.

Skey describes their evolving MySpace mindset as "I'm deleting my page; I'm over it; it's too big; it's owned by Rupert Murdoch" who, you remember shelled out $580 million to buy it a few years back.

In my view, MySpace will be just fine for the near future, but there is definitely a desire to see smaller, niche social networking sites. Big isn't big. Small is big. College students use Facebook, Craig's List for localized searches, LiveJournal, Bolt and others. They use social networking sites like we use Yahoo -- as a portal.

This is an early warning sign.

Some media companies have barely dragged themselves into the Internet era and they find things changing rapidly. This is worth watching and being expert at because whatever you plan for the next generation, they have plans of their own. Just when you think you've nailed them down, you risk losing them again.

It also amazes me how they know who owns what. They know a lot about Clear Channel. They obviously know who Rupert Murdoch is. I can never remember knowing the owners of media outlets I liked at the same age let alone what they paid to buy things.

I sense a lot of uneasiness with News Corp's desire to monetize their $580 million acquisition price. Young people seem wary of their efforts. They expect MySpace to get too commercial and they won't like it. The same is true of YouTube. Google has to get a return on its $1.6 billion investment and it isn't a foregone conclusion that they'll be able to pull it off with pre-roll commercials.

Traditional media seems to know so little about this next generation.

Some examples:

At least once in my day someone from the radio industry dismisses the next generation as not relevant to radio's current woes.

TV execs know a lot about suing but a lot less about viewing. The big ones are suing Google over YouTube and challenging the Millennium Copyright Act interpretation that allows content on Google without permission (until it is requested to be removed). If they win, they really lose. Think about it.

TV networks are also big into selling viewer on demand video -- it's almost an obsession. Cox has a deal with ESPN to allow free viewing of NFL games but the games can't be fast forwarded so commercials must be watched.

Radio execs think too many commercials is a big problem, but it is only part of their problem. Too many bad commercials that don't rouse the next generation will not be tolerated now as it was in past generations when listeners had little choice.

Satellite radio programs some excellent music channels aimed at the audience of which it has the fewest subscribers -- young people. But there is only one Sinatra-type channel on each network and those older folks are paying their satellite dues each month.

Lessons abound.

Without the next generation, you have no growth business. Period.

Once traditional media "gets it" (and I am being generous here), the next generation moves on.

To operate a media business aimed at the next generation it will take more than acquiring their favorite web sites. It will take a keen understanding of who these people are and what they really crave.

They don't crave radio.

They don't have time for TV.

YouTube is not TV (can you hear that, TV networks?). It's a website for short video clips -- homemade, professional, stolen. It's a commodity. No emotional relationship. Not marriage.

Now, we see the first signs that this generation doesn't hold their social networking sites as sacred. They want smaller ones -- more niched communities.

What does all of this mean?

That content is the only thing that can make a new age or traditional media company thrive and it's the one thing everyone is spending less time and money on these days.

People ask me, "what is the answer?"

I always respond by saying "content". Spend on programming, music, entertainment. Be nimble and flow with new technology and never assume -- no matter how big you are -- that money will buy you a lasting franchise.

Radio used to get teens and sales managers everywhere said, "I can't sell them". Wouldn't they love that problem today?

Then the teens became 18-24 year olds who grew into 18-34 year olds. Meanwhile stations made few adjustments to grow older with their listeners. They expected the return on their investment.

The payoff for radio came when they captured the lion's share of 25-54 year olds and when the audience aged, radio programmers just turned the format into an oldies type station. After 25-54 declines, you get "Jack" -- in more ways than one.

No media company can expect this loyalty in the future.

So, when you hear college aged users are beginning to reject MySpace this early, welcome to the new world of interactive media.

From now on the only thing that remains permanent is change at the speed of "click".

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