Daily Archives: July 13, 2009

Teenagers reject Twitter shock

Much media kerfuffle about the news that teenagers aren’t interested in Twitter. Well – crucially, that they’re not interested in using it from their mobile phone, which costs money.

The piece in question, from the Financial Times, reports on a research note from Morgan Stanley written by 15-year-old intern Matthew Robson. (The note is available via the FT’s Long Room site, which requires registration and vetting before you can get to it, sadly.)

Among other things, Matthew Ronson indicates that teenage media users hate advertising, finding it  “extremely annoying and pointless”.

They also can’t be bothered to read pages and pages of text, which is bad news for newspapers but, really, which we kind of knew already.

I was particularly interested by this:

Their time and money is spent instead on cinema, concerts and video game consoles which, he said, now double as a more attractive vehicle for chatting with friends than the phone.

This is another piece of, admittedly unscientific, evidence confirming my own suspicion that journalists are far behind the curve when it comes to understanding the rapidly evolving media world. 

These are teenagers. And they don’t use the phone

Well, actually teenagers still use the phone a lot. I know this. But I suspect that they are not wedded to the phone. Give them something else to use to chat to their mates – games consoles, Facebook, hyper-intelligent sunglasses – and they’ll use that. If it’s free. And convenient.

Not only does that make it difficult for us as journalist to reach teenagers with digital media when they are consumers, but it also makes it difficult for us to reach them as the subject of journalism.

I have taken issue before with the view that the only way to do your job as a journalist is to pick up the phone and call people. I’ll probably do it again.

But, really – it sounds so archaic to make prescriptions for journalism students like this when a whole generation is growing up for whom the old-style pick-up-a-receiver-and-chat phone conversation is just one in a range of communication options they choose. And not necessarily the most obvious, especially in future.

As for Twitter – it’s also important to realise that Twitter is beloved by journalists above all else – but doesn’t have so much traction with real people. 

It’s a great research tool, and is kind of useful for professional networking – and it’s kind of fun and easier to do than long-form blogging.

But Facebook, say, has much richer content and is much better for social networking. Which is why it’s more popular.

The blow for journalists is that, unlike Twitter, it’s a closed network. You only become someone’s Facebook friend by invitation (unless the network belongs to someone who works for MI5). 

This means Twitter is much more like old-style broadcast journalism. Which is why you read and hear so much about it from journalists, when its traction in the real world is probably much less.

[HT: Judith Townend]

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