Addictive Media

Guess how many text messages the average American teenager sends and receives each month?

No, I'm not going to make you go to the end of this piece and turn your screen upside down to see the answer.

How does 2,272 sound?

Probably a little low if you are a parent or teacher as the next generation's addiction to text messaging is beginning to have consequences -- like declining grades, poor health and sleep problems, sore fingers and joints, anti-social behavior -- to mention a few.

Maybe you saw this coming but most people thought text messaging was just a diversion that came with a cell phone.

AT&T and Verizon have helped turn texting into an addiction by offering unlimited usage plans. It's hard to find a youth who doesn't opt for it -- often with a parent paying for their digital dependency.

That's 80 messages a day according to Nielsen.

More than double the previous year.

They text while they are in school, at dinner, in school and in bed (the phone not far from the pillow).

My readers are more familiar than most with observing generational and sociological media habits and this one is a whopper.

Perhaps you remember when there was an outbreak of "sexting" going on where high school students were getting into trouble taking naked pictures of the opposite sex and sending them to God knows who via texting. I even saw an opinion recently where some psychologists dismissed sexting as no more dangerous than any other youthful activity.

Well, you don't need Nielsen (with all due respect) and psychiatrists telling you about the next generation -- just look for yourself.

Addicted to the cell phone.

Consumed with texting -- a means of communication that has rendered email their father and mother's way of communicating.

Smartly fostered by cell phone carriers who fell into this one quite accidentally.

Yet, unlike record labels, these cellular carriers were shrewd enough to know how to feed an addiction.

As they say at Promises in Malibu, you've got to get a taste for drugs to be hooked on them.

And digital dependencies such as text messaging started by cell phone carriers offering a taste of the habit -- use more and you pay more -- until the carriers rode in on a white horse and said for $20 extra a month, unlimited texting for all.

Contrast this to how record labels tried to sell $20 plans for all the music you could legally consume before they got their consumers hooked on their crack -- paying for music they can steal easier.

Teachers can't control texting.


Forget about it. Most just won't.

But even as texting is the disease of choice for the traditional media world, there are other addictions that the next generation has that are also potent.

Music filesharing.

iPods and smart phones like Blackberry Storms and iPhones.

The Internet in every way possible.

Life is intolerable for most young people without their addiction to this technology.

Sadly, the radio and record industries do not understand digital addiction. They are doing the best they can to make the Internet and mobile devices an add-on to a radio or a CD.

They are not.

This new generation is the program director (watch how they use their iPods).

They are the record promo guy (using social networking and filesharing to promote new music).

They are taking on-demand to new levels. Keep an eye on how much of the video game business will migrate over to Apple apps. Electronic Arts is watching -- closely as they respond as well.

Young people don't call in their requests to a music radio station anymore. They click and play their own songs.

They don't look at the radio dj as the purveyor of information about bands, acts and musical genres as baby boomers did in their day. To Gen Y, their friends are more influential than a radio dj (or more accurately, a voice tracked radio station).

They get their news by reaching out on the web and finding it in various places.

When an earthquake or tornado happens, they can text a friend who may have experienced it themselves for an eyewitness account. Or share a photo.

This is all perplexing to traditional media as they wrestle with how to go forward and backward at the same time.


The Ad-ology survey quoted in yesterday's Inside Radio that confirms once and for all that one-third of all-Americans sit through commercials.

They'd have you believe that new technology makes it easier "to block out commercials" and touts the old fashioned way -- radio.

This industry continues deep in denial when it cites that only four in ten people change stations to avoid commercials and only 13% report listening to satellite radio or "recorded music to sidestep radio spots". Their argument: "That’s much lower than the number of people who use pop-up blockers (30%) and record TV shows to scan past commercials (28%)".

Again, open your eyes and look around.

Do you believe this based on what you observe and what you know? Hell, one-third may sit through radio commercials but -- do they listen to them? That's the issue -- especially if you're fighting for advertising dollars.

You just know that radio is done with a fork right in the middle of it when Microsoft, the uncoolest company on this earth, announces it is adding HD radio to its colossal MP3 failure Zune this Fall.

The Zune and HD radio -- perfect together and definitely not addictive.

Radio is not addictive media to the next generation but you don't need me to tell you that.

What is surprising is that radio is fast becoming less compelling for available older listeners who are being "treated to" repeater radio, loss of their favorite personalities, long commercial stop sets that they do not sit through and a disconnect from local radio, news and public service.

Older available listeners are fast adopting Facebook -- and statistics show that most Facebook users spend a half hour a day on it every day and you know what they are not doing when older listeners are spending time on Facebook.

Talk radio used to be an addiction a few decades ago. Today it is a mere shadow of its former self. Only a few voices in spite of all the talent that is out there. It skews old -- very old and cannot be called an addiction for anyone under 60. Talk radio is more like a babysitter for old people who want to hear the same old same old.

There is a significance here that should not be missed.

Texting is technology. The content is provided by the user.

Radio is old technology and the content is provided by -- Central Command.

Radio executives may not like it but in a world where the consumer demands to be in charge of his or her information and entertainment, the radio industry is missing a giant opportunity to provide such addictive content for phones and online.

The reason this discussion is an academic pursuit instead of the basis for a strategic business plan is because radio and records is being run by incompetent CEOs.

Hell, I thought a Supreme Court justice was one of the few people appointed for life.

Not so.

In radio, every one of the consolidation CEOs has been in it from virtually the beginning.

None had to face a confirmation hearing (although I would have paid to see that -- excuse me, Mr. Suleman, can you outline your experience for the job of CEO?).

The Supreme Court terms and radio CEOs is probably a bad analogy.

Banana republic dictators would be a better example.

What hurts about all this is that radio and even the music industry has content that can be addictive if it is recreated to accommodate new technology and changing sociology.

But we know that can't happen because the CEOs on Radio's Supreme Court are in it for life and not one board of directors, group of shareholders or venture capitalist can kick them out.

And the lenders that could force them into bankruptcy don't even want the assets back so the decline of radio continues.

New media companies feed the addiction of their consumers.

Radio and records feeds its addiction to power -- damn the consumer.

As Fagreed Suleman fights for his corporate life, you know you won't be reading a headline that says he was fired or that he resigned. He should, in my opinion, but it isn't going to happen.

Lew Dickey's father controls Cumulus and his sons are safely employed in spite of their failures.

Clear Channel under the Mays family just about did in this industry and the clueless venture firms of Lee Capital Partners and Bain Media are so clueless they employ a not ready for prime time general manager to be the caretaker of their $20 billion investment.

Addicted alright.

To failure.

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