Radio According to a 15-Year Old

I thought you might be interested in what Morgan Stanley did recently in the UK.

They offered a two-week internship to a 15-year old to critique the media business and write a report called How Teenagers Consume Media. In it, Matthew Robson believes he is speaking for over 200 other teens.

And if he is, we may want to listen up.

First, he proclaims Twitter for old people.

Stop and think about it. My young friends and former students are not all that enamored of Twitter. My older friends are in love with it.

Maybe Matthew is right.

And we know that only about 9% of the people who have Twitter accounts -- no matter what their age -- tweet daily.

Young people have Facebook but perhaps even more significant is that they have text messaging and there is nothing more critical to young folks today than texting.

In class.

At the dinner table.

While driving (yes, that's right -- many if not most texters admit to texting while driving which is thought to be more deadly than driving under the influence). Here's more on the dangers of texting and driving if you're interested.

More revelations:

1. “You use a mobile phone if you want to talk to girls,” as “only about one in fifty girls plays computer games.”

2. Girls are more into social networking -- at least in the UK and according to this 15-year old. Twitter is for adults. Facebook is for teens (and adults, I might add).

3. Eight out of ten teenagers don't buy music -- they steal it or get it through bit torrent sites. But then again, my readers already knew that, right?

4. Radio is a loser with teens. They can listen to Last.FM in the UK (or I might add, Pandora here) and eliminate commercials. They can choose the songs they want instead of having to listen to what a station features. And those in tune with generational media and have heard me talk about the importance of understanding the sociology of media know that an on-demand generation wants to be their own PD. And social networking buzz about music means more to the next generation than anything a dj can say -- assuming stations still have djs.

5. "No teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper, as most do not have the time and cannot be bothered to read pages and pages of text while they could watch the news summarised on the Internet or on TV".

6. With regard to viral marketing, "Most teenagers enjoy and support viral marketing... Teenagers see adverts on websites (pop-ups, banner ads) as extremely annoying and pointless...they are portrayed in such a negative light that no one follows them.” Wake up, America. We don't just simply have a radio crisis, there is an advertising crisis.

Here's the full report. I think you'll find it fascinating.

But that leaves folks in traditional media such as radio, with not a lot of good news.

The reason is that radio companies make decisions based on their perception of how consumers use or could use their services. Infrequently, if ever, do they study what consumers actually want based on generational considerations.

A few observations:

1. Radio is hell bent to cram towers and transmitters (or at the very least what they are broadcasting from their towers rerouted to the Internet) on young listeners. It has no growth potential. Look at Microsoft deciding to get into the Apple retail store business -- many, many years late. Betcha it fails. The market doesn't need or want a Microsoft retail store as much as Microsoft needs and wants it. That's what radio is forgetting -- the next generation doesn't want radio anywhere.

2. This doesn't mean they don't want content -- and radio talent can provide that content. But first, radio industry types have to stop making everything turn into radio. I can tell you that if you listen to a radio station podcast it is radio on a mobile device. No growth there, either. I work with clients to concentrate on the mouth-to-ear part of the relationship they are building in podcasting. This used to be what radio had with its listeners on-air. Podcasting is simply the next radio on devices the next generation cherish.

3. Audio alone is so 1920's -- if you want to be part of future revenue streams audio must have video and text capability along side it. That is, a podcast in the future will have all these things. If you accept that the next generation will not revert back to terrestrial radio, then you must consider that they are used to seeing, hearing and reading as one step. Think this way and crack the mind jam that radio people typically have.

4. The Apple Tablet -- which I tipped you about last Spring -- is on the way and will be the must have device for reading, listening and watching. Therefore, the media business has an opportunity to rethink delivery. Of course, in radio the content these days is threadbare. We think of new programming as The Sarah Palin Show. The Apple Tablet (or whatever cool name they call it) will be as significant as the iPod and maybe eventually as significant as the television. Today, we watch TV for content, listen to radio for content, read for content. The next generation will have a master controller in their hands (maybe the Apple Tablet) and they will project video onto screens that will be slaves to their devices. This is all good because radio companies can get back into the game again. Their record shows, however, that they are hell bent on doing just audio and will miss this revenue stream, too. Oddly enough, radio won't work without pictures and text.

5. Radio would have died a decade ago if not for availability of radio sets in cars. That's where listeners hear it and as the industry's own RADAR study recently reported, there are slightly more listeners who spend less time with radio. Not a growth business.

6. Music and radio are tied together. Mark my words, Apple is making nice to the labels because the tablet is coming. Where once radio was necessary for the music industry to thrive, iTunes will be increasingly critical to the music industry. Radio standing around and thinking voice tracked music will ignite the next generation is pure folly.

7. Radio's best bet for surviving new media is the exact opposite thing it is currently doing -- personality. On-air for now. Hundreds of local niche podcasts (and repeat after me -- that do not sound like radio). Music intensive in spite of the royalty problems. I'd like to sit down with the music industry and radio and negotiate a royalty rate that would include new media -- obviously, I believe there is no radio without new media. The labels will eventually win the repeal of performance tax exemption -- they're very close now. If I'm radio, I'm giving a bit up to get an agreement for new media projects that could be my future. Instead, they are fighting a losing battle here as well. They are going to wind up paying an added performance tax and will not have a sweet deal upon which to launch music podcasts.

You don't need a 15-year old to tell you the radio industry is missing the next media wave.

But you have to see the future to pursue it -- and we could all do a better job of doing that.

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