What My Students Listened To on Their Summer Vacations

I've decided to return to USC for yet another year to teach several courses including Music, Broadcasting & the Mobile Future.

Today is the first day of classes.

There is an ancient eastern saying "The teacher and the student together do the teaching". For a guy who previously considered eastern thought coming from Hoboken, New Jersey this is an epiphany!

I kid.

But you can see why I have been commuting from Scottsdale, AZ to Los Angeles every week to spend most of the week learning more than I am teaching. And most of my professional readers know me and know this is true. In fact, it's true of every good professor and that's what I try to be.

So what have my young students done on their summer vacations that you might be interested in?

They are even more enmeshed in social networking as plain old email and even instant messaging doesn't quite do it for them any more. By next May there could be real movement in the area of social networking vis-a-vis the next generation.

These young folks took advantage of advances in Facebook to allow them to add music to their sites and a whole lot of other cool features including a box that allows people to tell them exactly what they think of them. (No, I'm not going there on my Facebook page).

They're not using "traditional" email as much. It's easier and more fun to use the built in communications system offered by Facebook.

My students swooned over the iPhone once it was introduced in June. For a generation that wants everything for free and doesn't want to even pay for the music they enjoy, they are scheming for ways to get a $500-600 iPhone in their pockets (can you say mom and dad or another part-time job?).

They watched less television than media people would think even though they finally got away from the burden of doing papers and taking exams. It's true many students had summer jobs but even with more leisure time, television is not the addiction it was for Gen X or Baby Boomers.

What they did do is go online and search for the videos they wanted to see. They even slipped DVDs into their computers to watch programming on inferior screens just because a computer is a great place for them to direct their TV viewing.

This summer they didn't read newspapers, but who don't know that (as we used to say back in Philadelphia). I should correct myself. They may have gone to newspaper websites but these are not the only sites they visit to stay well-informed and I find that they are remarkably well-informed.

They spent a lot of time listening to their iPods -- but you knew that, didn't you? Time spent listening to iPods, if you will, hasn't declined as far as I can ascertain.

They didn't listen much to radio. They still don't know or care what HD radio is.

They love their Internet and love Internet radio and streaming.

50% of them download music legally usually from iTunes. The other 50%? Well...you know.

This generation still doesn't like to pay for anything.

They continue to want what they want when they want it.

And I love them because they are the children of my generation and we had something to do with the way they are today -- different from us and the same. As a generation they are singlehandedly changing the media business for better or worse depending on where you are.

If you're in the media business you may find yourself on a permanent vacation if you can't keep up with the next generation over the coming months.

Their vacation is over and yours never started when it comes to learning from the generation that is remaking your business.

If you're interested I'll pass along some of my observations about this new crop of students over the year ahead.

If the past few years is any indication, it should be quite an education -- for us.

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