Media Meshing Hierarchy

Youths and their Media Meshing Hierarchy

Of course we all know this already. But still, let's take a moment and consider the results of a couple of recent research projects documenting the ways in which youths (13 to 25-year-olds) in developed/wired nations around the world use media.

First we have to consider media use as consumption: young people still watch a lot of television. According to June 2005 research from the European Interactive Advertising Association (EIAA), "this key target audience is spending almost a quarter of their media time (24%) online, more than reading newspapers (10%) or magazines (8%). Among 15-24 year olds, TV continues to represent the largest share of media time at 31%."

In a report released in October 2005 on media use in The Netherlands and Flanders, the same conclusions are drawn: youths still watch a lot of TV, next to (and and the same time while) using all kinds of other media. The report concludes: "De meeste jongeren gaan hier laconiek mee om. Ze zijn opgegroeid met (nieuwe) media en vinden er moeiteloos hun weg in." The researchers see a clear shift among youths in Western Europe away from offline media to online media, and predict that the internet - and all that it stands for: instantaneous communication, multimedia information, interactivity - will quickly become the dominant medium.

According to a study of 13-24 year olds in 11 countries released in September 2005 by Yahoo! and OMD Worldwide, "youth's use of interactive and wireless technologies has created a global generation highly accustomed to personalizing their experiences with interactive media." The report concludes profoundly that traditional media are quickly losing out to their online, mobile and networked competitors in what the researchers aptly call the contemporary 'media meshing hierarchy'.

The most powerful conclusion of all these research projects comes from the Dutch report - and is supported by the data in all contemporary studies among how especially younger people use media - which clearly states that the only way for 'traditional' media (and news media in particular) to survive is to let young people determine for themselves what they want from their media. Indeed, these and other projects show clearly how young people's media use has become synonymous with media production - whether its through customization, personalization and interactive use of media content, or through kids making their own media: podcasts, blogs, or even television, movies and news.

Ultimately, what all of this suggests is clearly how cultural pessimism regarding information overload and civic disengagement is, and I apologize, a load of B.S.; young people around the world are more engaged with each other and the public 'good' than ever before - and seem to have a lot of fun doing so - precisely BECAUSE they increasingly refuse to be spoken to, to be told what to find important or how high to jump. Sure, this does not always mean that what they do with their media agency is beautiful, useful or thoughtful. But come on - have you ever read a newspaper lately, played an Xbox game lately, or seen a Hollywood movie lately?