The Kids are Alright

I was in London last week to help launch my business partner Andy Green’s new book on word-of-mouth marketing.
As usual with these things the audience was mainly made up of white, middle-aged men – all of them working in the media (sorry guys but this is an accurate description). And all of them stared at me blankly when I mentioned Web2.0 and social media. It’s the same in the newspaper industry – as John Naughton points out in his column in today’s Observer – Young People Don’t Like Us. Who Can Blame Them? His main point is that young people don’t read newspapers anymore and, worse, the media industry doesn’t give a damn.
White, middle-aged editors don’t care but they are presiding over their own funeral in much the same way the PR industry is. Here are the facts:

Today's 21-year-olds were born in 1985. The internet was two years old in January that year, and Nintendo launched 'Super Mario Brothers', the first blockbuster game.

When they were going to primary school in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee was busy inventing the world wide web.

The first SMS message was sent in 1992, when these kids were seven. Amazon and eBay launched in 1995.

Hotmail was launched in 1996, when they were heading towards secondary school. Around that time, pay-as-you-go mobile phone tariffs arrived, enabling teenagers to have phones, and the first instant messaging services appeared.

Google launched in 1998, just as they were becoming teenagers. Napster and launched in 1999 when they were doing GCSEs.

Wikipedia and the iPod appeared in 2001.

Early social networking services appeared in 2002 when they were doing A-levels.

Skype launched in 2003, as they were heading for university, and YouTube launched in 2005, as they were heading toward graduation.

These people grew up in a universe completely alien to that inhabited by in the media business. They've been playing computer games of mind-blowing complexity forever. They're resourceful, knowledgeable and natural users of computer and communications technology.
They don’t need newspapers because they create their own content - and publish it on MySapce or in a blog. (Remember the motto of YouTube: 'Broadcast yourself!')
They buy music from the iTunes store - but continue to download tracks illicitly as well. They use BitTorrent to get US editions of Lost. They think 'Google' is a synonym for 'research' and regard it as quite normal to maintain and read blogs (55 million as of last night), use Skype to talk to their mates and upload photos to Flickr.
Some even write entries on Wikipedia. And they know how to use iMovie or Adobe Premiere to edit videos and upload them to YouTube.
Now look round the average British newsroom or public relations open plan office. How many hacks have a Flickr account or a MySpace profile? How many sub-editors have ever uploaded a video to YouTube? How many PR executive have used BitTorrent?
This is not the future – this is now. This is one of the subjects we will be covering in the Word-of-Mouth Communications event in London on Friday December 1 at the the Dental Institute, Thomas Street, London. Blatant plug I know but John Naughton does know what he is talking about.

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