Gen Y’s Media Hierarchy of Needs

Bad news travels fast.

When that teenage girl in Lakeland, FL was beaten by a group of her friends recently, it was recorded and posted on YouTube. By the kids who pummeled her. Even they wanted their 15 minutes of infamy.

The situation is horrifying and disgusting – the beating, that is.

The same could be said for the fact that we are now a generation of addicts to YouTube for better – and for worse. In fact, YouTube arguably is the most important resource the next generation possesses because they can see almost anything they want – and everything they may not have known they want to see.

So here is Professor Del Colliano’s next generation hierarchy of needs. Some young people may argue the order, but few will dispute the importance of what is listed here:

1. The cell phone.

Who can live without a cell phone these days – at least if you’re under 25? And if you want to make fun of my students for being on the phone all the time with voice, email and texting then please remember your fellow older adults are on their Blackberries. Cell phone communication has become an addiction and for all the benefits, it also carries some disadvantages. So, if food is number one on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, then cell phones are the basic building blocks for today's media needs. Radio companies think they can put terrestrial stations on the phone and consumers will listen as they once did to transistor radios. Ask a young person. They would be wrong to make that assumption. The cell phone is not a transistor radio -- it's a lifeline to physical and psychological well-being.

2. The computer.

I know of no young person who can live without a computer – at least at the socioeconomic level of a college student. You often ask me for my observations about the next generation and I can tell you that their laptops and PCs are more than ever the command and entertainment center. You’d be surprised (or maybe not) how many of them watch video on their laptops. No need for HD screens or satellite services. They either insert a DVD or get the program online. When the commercial starts at the beginning, they check their email and don’t watch. You can’t force this generation to hear your commercial message.

3. Facebook.

This is the social network of choice for the next generation. Before they approach a person, they check them out on Facebook. Posting pictures, forming groups, staying in touch, sharing music – Facebook does it all. It is hard to imagine a young person who is not connected to Facebook or to MySpace – although the dew is off the lily for MySpace and the young generation. Too commercial. Remember, you can’t force this generation to hear or see your commercial message.

4. YouTube.

Arguably this online, on-demand video concept is popular. The next generation is used to seeing what it wants on demand. It is also a mash-up generation so if “I Love Obama” becomes a hit – it starts on YouTube. Then others mash-up their versions. I can’t imagine their world (or mine, for that matter) without regular access to YouTube. Google paid $1.6 billion for it. Still hasn’t turned a profit. But it is a major part of the way young people live.

5. iPods.

It’s old hat to them, but it's standard equipment nonetheless. Just as important is the time spent downloading free music online and transferring it to their devices. Where transistor radios would be the portable music device in the past, an iPod is that device today. I related the iPod fatigue I have seen over the past few years, but it’s not enough for this generation to abandon carrying around their music libraries in their pockets – with zero commercials and much more music.

Notable is what doesn’t make the list.



To a lesser extent traditional television.

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs -- that we studied in psych class -- it begins with the basics at the bottom of a pyramid. For example, physiological needs like breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, etc are basic needs before the others can be possible on top of these.

Let’s see what happens when the next generation’s media needs (as I observe them) are plugged into Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs:

Physiological = Computer (the basis of media life itself)
Safety = Cell Phone (provides security in actuality and in social life)
Love/Belonging = Facebook (friendship, community, sexual playfulness)
Self-Esteem = iPod (respect for music, respect for other’s music)
Self-Actualization = YouTube (creativity, spontaneity)

I have been spending too much time in academia. I know it.

My point is that without the next generation, traditional media can show no meaningful growth and may even be marginalized.

And most people working in traditional media aren’t even familiar with the five media needs of the next generation – and they should be.

So, I invite you to dive in.

1. If you don’t text people, start doing it. If you don’t use all the features of your cell or smart phone, try them. You can bet the next generation does. Text a mile in their shoes.

2. Watch a movie on your laptop. Watch a TV show on your laptop and see if you sit through the pre-roll commercial. They don't.

3. Join Facebook. A link is on my website Friend me if you like, as my students do. Get to know how much fun it can be and perhaps start your own Facebook page. Hell, do you want to experience a place radio lost some of its listeners to.

4. Watch five YouTube videos a day (view the most popular). Really want an initiation, post some home made video clips to YouTube.

5. Many of you have iPods, but how many discover new music and transfer it over. Most older people use their iPods as a portable oldies library. Try putting on lots of new music – you don’t have to steal it as many Gen Y’ers do. You'll see first hand how the next generation uses their iPods.

I can't tell you the number of readers who have tried Facebook since I put a link on my web page and then tell me how much they like it.

If broadcasters are truly interested in understanding the challenges of creating content for the next generation, I have just given you five ways to delve into their world and no doubt help your world at the same time.

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