Category Archives: Gen Y

Pew: Teens much less likely to shop online

Yo, kids, don’t you like

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.

Photo: turtlemom4bacon

Why teens text: Because PCs don’t fit in their pockets

Brandflakes gives us a great post that teens are using instant messaging more than email. Follows Slate’s analysis of why. We think there’s one missing conclusion: Teens use instant messaging more than adults simply because cell phones make it possible.

In other words, don’t big-brain the nuances of email communication vs. texting to death. It’s not about the channel preference; it’s about the user environment. Email requires access to a keyboard and computer, and those are usually found in home offices or work places that teens don’t frequent. Texting requires a cell phone, which most teens have. If you didn’t have a job with an office and spent most of your day in classrooms, soccer stadiums and malls, you’d be texting more than emailing, too.

We bet email will come back as teens age, and as input devices like the iPhone make emailing from mobile phones easier. This trend of teens using instant messaging is sort of like the trend of teens drinking beer by railroad tracks. It’s not the railroad they like; it’s just a really convenient way of doing something interactive without getting permission from mom and dad.

Saturday night, teens are rocking — and it ain’t to radio

The Pew Internet & American Life Project points to a stormy future for broadcast ratings, buried in a new report on how American families use the Internet. Pew surveyed 935 teens and their parents to ask questions such as whether parents monitor Internet content (yes) and do parents think the Internet has been a bad influence on kids (surprisingly, parents are ambivalent).

The bad news for broadcasters came on a little chart on page 3, titled “Gadget Ownership within Households.” Teens and their parents tend to have the same number of gadgets, probably since discretionary income and interest in technology may be common under one roof. But parents and teens have different types of gadgets. All have heavy penetration of PCs and laptops, but parents tend to use cell phones more, while 51% of youths age 12 to 17 now have an MP3 player.

51% — more than half — of teens have iPod equivalents! Let’s pause and digest that. (A) That’s twice the rate as parents, suggesting the gadget interest is a major shift from the older generation to the younger. (B) Add it up with the other devices that teens use — 72% own a desktop computer, 63% own a cell phone, 25% a laptop, and 8% a PDA — and you see a world where today’s youth are immersed in media devices that are not TV or radio. (C) 88% of teens in total say they use this technology to “make my life easier,” and this list does not include TV or radio.

You can see where this is going. These kids will grow up, and as they take today’s media habits with them, ad dollars will be shifted out of broadcast (whose ratings are falling) and into mobile media (the future for the Millennial Generation). We’ve seen a similar shift in video games in the past two decades. Back in 1990, the average age of a video gamer was 18 — and today, 17 years later, that average age has increased 15 years to 33. The adults now trading Linden Dollars on Second Life started out playing The Hunt for Red October when George Sr. was in office.

Unfortunately for radio, today’s teens have found new devices to get their kicks, and those include Wi-Fi internet and MP3 downloads, not airwaves. Advertisers are going to chase this market as tomorrow’s adults change the dial.

Blame it on NASDAQ. U.S. kids are running from IT.

Be careful what business news you share with teenagers — they have long memories.

Today new college freshmen are abandoning IT and computer science studies, and switching to economics. The number of frosh chasing economics degrees is up 40% in the 2003-04 period from five years earlier, while new computer science majors are down 50%. The trend is so significant that big players like Microsoft are seriously worried, and launching new training programs to jazz up computer classes.

We can’t blame the popularity of Freakonomics for this (the book was published in 2005, after the trend began). Academic types believe three things led to the youth shift: the aftermath of the 2000-2001 dot-com bubble burst, in which teenagers saw parents’ savings wiped out in the NASDAQ implosion, shown above; the much-talked-about outsourcing of computer jobs from the U.S. to other nations, which further scares youth about future job prospects; and the simple fact that many CS courses are SO BORING in the first year.

The dearth of American computer talent will be filled by experts from abroad. The magazine The American reports that in April, the first day H-1B visas were allowed for U.S. firms to hire skilled foreigners, the government received 150,000 visas for 65,000 openings. The good news for today’s college kids: If they do study computer science, they’ll be among the few U.S. citizens qualifying for tomorrow’s wide-open technology job market.

Commercials as content

Firebrand launches on Oct. 22, trying to make commercials as cool as MTV was back in the day by offering “commercial jockeys” playing the hippest ads after 11 p.m. on ION. Pop culture fans will also find Firebrand at its web site, or with downloads from iTunes.

The economics are also cool. Firebrand targets Gen Y-ers/Millennials who account for $200 billion in consumer spending each year, and about 40% of online purchases. This audience is spending less time with mass media, so Firebrand will reach them via late-night cable and internet and mobile and, they hope, twentysomethings passing the cool commercials on to all of their friends. The launch plan includes outreach to influential bloggers, who are now either writing up the business model or praising the press junket.

It’s a new point of entry for making your message go viral. Question is — is your ad cool enough?