5 Generational Trends

One reason radio has fallen on hard times is because the CEOs who run it don't understand the next generation and can't see trends that they need to consider in forging forward.

Many of you read this space every day to take a look at what is happening on a sociological basis before you make decisions -- either for your stations and/or businesses and your careers.

Here are a few trends to watch:

1. Twitter

This real-time communication service is getting legs with the next generation.

The social networking system that asks you "What are you doing" in 140 keystrokes or less is something you should play around with. Works on mobile as well. You can follow people and they you.

Now don't go off half cocked like some of the out of touch corporate radio types and find some embarrassing radio use for Twitter. Just enjoy it. This will help you be part of the new world not just our old world.

Do this enough and the sum total of all your experiences begins to affect the way you operate traditional media -- it should. Check out my latest "tweet" just for fun.

2. On-Demand Video

I believe that there will be no distinction between radio, TV and print in the future.

It's happening now with the next generation. They click when they want to read. Click when they want to hear. Click when they want to watch. Again, I caution, don't do something silly like using a radio station to drive listeners to your video site. Very uncool.

Instead, put some video up on YouTube if you have never done so before. Find five more short form video sites. By experiencing video every day (as often as the next generation does) you will pick up an appreciation for the importance of seeing video on demand. Go to YouTube for the heck of it and see a short trailer to a working seminar I did a few months back on "Generational Media & Marketing". Better yet, use your imagination and type in the most ridiculous search words you can think of.

Video on demand is the new television and will have an impact on podcasting -- what will emerge as the new radio. TV networks have it all wrong and radio still thinks broadcasting to the masses is their mission.

3. Death By Promo

Can we talk? I'm about to hurt your feelings. I know that because I have also hurt mine.

Promos are dead.

The next generation doesn't believe them and probably everyone else, too. Now that doesn't stop us from doing them. Hell, I do them by instinct. Except that instinct is wrong today. Whatever we say it is, it isn't -- at least in the minds of our audience. More music, fewer commercials, best variety -- knock yourself out. They're just words.

Start thinking about actually delivering on promises instead of promoting that which you have yet to deliver (if in fact you ever deliver it). I don't blame you for throwing something at me here. But I'm telling you -- from a guy who raised his kids by doing a promo at :03 and :33 ("I'm the father whose going to make you spaghetti sauce for dinner tonight") and ("Take a bath before bed and I'll read you a book") this promo realization really kills.

By the way, if you want a good laugh, watch your local TV news and see how many times they try to drive you to their website. Now really. Do you think anyone in this world doesn't know where to find you online? Do you think anyone is going to get up and go to your site because of the promo?

In today's world everyone has a web site and everyone (with the help of Google) can find it quickly. No promos needed.

4. Facebook

For millennials Facebook is the Holy Grail. You could argue MySpace is as well and I wouldn't give you a hard time. Still, Facebook is potent and you've got to get a handle on it if you don't already have one. A friend of mine who suffered the loss of her brother-in-law a few weeks ago was taking sympathy wishes on her Facebook wall. And young people carefully consider who they list as their favorite friends on Facebook and believe it or not some consider the rankings before they break up with each other. No more, "that Jerry is a jerk, don't go out with him" in the locker room.

I was introduced to Facebook by my USC students back when you had to be a professor or student to get access. Today Facebook is open to the world and you should join. The last time I prodded my readers many "friended me" and discovered a lot of other folks as well. Come visit me. There is also LinkedIn and tons of other social networking sites you may already know about -- and a lot of other niche networking sites. Facebook was among the first. There will be more as the next generation comes of age.

This is major.

5. Social Causes

Baby Boomers took to the streets and fought for civil rights and against the Vietnam War, but millennials do not raise such a ruckus. They are non-confrontational.

When I first arrived on campus during my USC radio sabbatical I asked a group of students, why no one was protesting (as we did when I went to college). As Morley Winograd and Michael Hais will warn you in their new book Millennial Makeover this is a social generation.

Broadcasters -- new and traditional -- would be wise to get a handle on this element of a very populous new generation. It is not without note that some of the most popular bands also can be identified with causes. This is major to millennials.

I often wondered aloud to students why they don't speak up. But I came to learn that they do -- in their own way, in their own circles. This is critical if you want to take a step away from the buffoons who run traditional media and get a sense for what it's going to take to adapt.

I hope this has been helpful. If so, I'll do more in the future.

On Tuesday Millennials arguably helped push Barack Obama into office.

Unlike prior generations, they actually showed up to vote.

They used their Internet to help raise money.

They used social networks to do their own advocacy separate and apart exclusively from the official campaign.

They turned their phones into recruiting devices.

Oh, and so did that forty something guy named Barack Obama who also used the tools of the next generation to accomplish his goals.

Need I say more?

There is a lesson in this for all of us.

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