Yo, kids, don’t you like Amazon.com?
Dirk Singer points us to a recent Pew report evaluating differences in internet use by age. Many of the findings are obvious — teens like games and blogging, seniors are increasing their time on the internet — but one leaped out. Only 38% of online teens said they shop online, compared with 71% of young adults 18-32 and 80% of Gen Xers age 33-44.
Some of this may be driven by finances; teens don’t make much money. But you would think teens — with their constant online connections and the marketers rabidly chasing them — would spend what money they have via online purchases. It could be that youth have a focused modality on creating and sharing content in social media, and so all those hours spent on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs reduce the time teens spend shopping. Or, alternatively, young people use online access to gather information but prefer to make actual purchases at the mall.
(Or it could simply be teens don’t have access to credit cards, usually required for online purchases. If so we smell a huge marketing opportunity here for a credit card firm that can provide some entry credit tool for young people with parental controls. No, wait. BAD idea.)
Since people take their media habits with them as they age, ecommerce players and online advertisers should watch this new modality. It also points out the need to match offline results with online impressions; the last click on a web site is not the only indication of a sale.
The gut reaction to Cosmogirl magazine shutting down is that teens just don’t read print anymore. The teen pub follows the death of other similar titles, Elle Girl and Teen People. But some media analysts, such as Robin Steinberg, SVP at MediaVest, think the closure could just signal changing tastes. “Teens are not walking away from magazines,” Steinberg told WWD Media. “They are getting more sophisticated in title selection.”
Perhaps Cosmogirl’s teen readers simply grabbed the more risqué Cosmopolitan title. But with three major teen pubs now gone and only Seventeen and Teen Vogue left, the trend line looks pointed to digital, not wood pulp.
Maybe love leads technology.
As we watch mobile internet devices sweep into the United States, their adoption is led by teens, young adults, Hispanics and blacks. 60% of young adults age 18-29 use text messaging vs. only 14% of their parents. We’ve pondered why some groups adopt handset devices so quickly. Is it simply default, that teens and some minorities may not have access to PCs in offices so use cell phones instead? Or is there something deeper for demos outside the mainstream that makes mobile devices attractive?
Danah Boyd writes that young Palestinian women often receive cell phones from boyfriends so they can have private communications, in a society where such talk may be taboo. The girls hide the phones under clothing and charge them late at night, when parents can’t see the power cords. For teens, the mobile phone is a key device for negotiating intimate relations throughout the world, she writes.
So maybe it isn’t bandwidth, the gadget, or the interface. Maybe humans, especially those forming or protecting their identities, hunger to connect privately in a very public world.
Photo/self-portrait by imanifest. Pew studies on mobile technology trends here.