Social Media And Mass Media as Young Americans See It

by admin on November 2, 2011

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The following guest post is from author, speaker, and social media strategist Stephen Monaco, on a subject that is becoming synonymous with digital and social media strategies.

The millennial generation has been engrossed by the inundation of media and are products of an environment where media companies create and reinforce the content it deems best for the consumers of media. With the arguable exception of Disney’s ABC Family network, media conglomerates are not creating programs quickly enough which suit the tastes of the millennials.

The inclination of millennials to create and disseminate user-generated content via social media has produced considerable competition for the attention of media conglomerates’ audiences and developed into a legitimate force to be reckoned with by the media giants. Millennials’ use of the Internet transformed this medium into a two-way conduit where consumers can easily and inexpensively produce their own content. Subsequently, this has substantially fragmented the audiences which were once dominated by media conglomerates. In addition, this generation strives for continuous connectivity via their social networks.

Transfer of Power

YouTube was founded as an Internet channel in 2005 and acquired by Google in November 2006, so the genie has been out of the bottle for years now. Giant media companies are truly in danger that millennials may completely ignore their traditional program offerings in favor of more relevant content created by other millennials, or by innovative new companies who are more in tune with what this demographic finds interesting.  Young Americans in high school and college are bringing about a transfer of power, shifting control within the industry of mass media by creating their own content.

TV Creates Background Ambience

The millennial generation is expected to have a tremendous impact on the media business over the years ahead. Millennials’ very strong propensity to continually multitask has turned the television into a device for creating background ambience while using the Internet.  This is in stark contrast to the way their parents and grandparents regarded their TVs as major appliances, worthy of the important role of serving the household’s primary needs for providing news and entertainment.

millennials-collageLean-back / Sit-forward

The late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple,  was known to describe the difference between television and the web as, “the difference between lean-back and sit-forward media.” Jobs contended that computers networked via the Internet tend to make users lean in, focus and engage, while television encourages people to “zone out.”  When it comes to millennials it is not really precise to say that they zone out while watching television. A much more accurate assessment is that the time they are spending watching television is also time spent multitasking and concurrently consuming other forms of media via other platforms.

Multitasking Across Multiple Channels

Way back when, television overtook radio as America’s dominant electronic media format. This is consistent with the functional displacement theory which hypothesizes that one medium will be overtaken, or ‘displaced’ by another medium.  For instance, one might hypothesize with the ongoing rise of Internet usage; the Internet might displace other traditional media, mainly television. Declining radio listenership is consistent with a functional displacement theory.  That is, as music obtained over the Internet, (legally or illegally), and listened to on iPods, or via streaming Internet music stations like Pandora is usurping broadcast radio.

However, the decline in TV viewing is not consistent with the functional displacement theory, as millennials frequently consume media via television and the Internet simultaneously. Nevertheless, this generation’s strong proclivity for multitasking between several forms of media simultaneously has resulted in their consumption of television to be an increasingly passive activity. Millennials are more fully engaged in the media they’re obtaining via the Internet via a number of devices – including smart phones and iPads.

Social Bubble Existence

The millennial generation in the United States has 10 million more people than the baby boom generation. With the oldest baby boomers reaching 70 years of age, this decade will in large part be shaped by this enormous group of young people. Millennials’ ongoing connection to the Internet, the multitasking behavior they demonstrate regarding media consumption, combined with their “social bubble existence” has diminished the value of a single media platform approach for marketers. Because of these young peoples’ deeply rooted yearning to connect, social media has created an enduring change in the way they interrelate.

Economic Impact Due to Fragmented Audiences

Media conglomerates are already feeling the economic impact of the resulting audience fragmentation. There are cultural ramifications as well, as affordable ubiquitous Internet connectivity are dissolving the boundaries between the affluent and the less fortunate; and the Internet has leveled the playing field regarding the ability to instantly access information.

Information is Power

A shift in power is coming like a tidal wave.

Considering the rapid pace of media convergence, it is crucial for companies to gain a much better understanding about behavior millennials are demonstrating as it pertains to their consumption of mass media and their use of the Internet.

Irrelevance = Extinction

It’s imperative for media companies, marketing firms, content producers, advertisers, and brand managers alike to collect, filter and analyze “big data” to gain insightful knowledge to develop an understanding of Millennials’ sentiments, perceptions, and behavior. This is vital, so brands can engage them where they live, work and play with highly-relevant content across multiple channels – before it’s too late.

Stephen Monaco is a global marketer, thought leader, author, and speaker. As social media strategist, Monaco works where high tech and integrated marketing intersect — driving global strategies and helping leverage new media to effectively realize business goals.Monaco works on social networking strategies with international publicly-traded companies, mid-market firms, early stage companies, and funded start-ups. His contributions have been appeared in the American Marketing Association’s “Marketing Thought Leaders,” Advertising Industry Newswire, Bloomberg / Business Week, and Marketing Executives Group International.

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