It certainly won't shock you if you have children - especially pre-teens - but research continues to point to the power and influence they possess over the entire family when it comes to technology adoption and usage.
We know this anecdotally, especially from focus groups we conduct in the Classic Rock demo. More and more of them are texting, but mostly because they acquired this skill from their kids. If you want to be in touch with your children, you'd better learn how to communicate with your thumbs.
The newest piece of quantitative evidence comes from Ipsos OTX MediaCT, utilizing 2,000 kids between 6-12 years-old, and a parent. The study appears to be extensive, in that the kids fill out a diary (what a concept!), as well as a section that revolves around device ownership and usage.
The bottom line? Kids become digital mavens by the time they hit 12. And their impact on their parents is huge. Company VP Donna Sabatino says that for kids, it's totally content driven. They don't even think about how and where they access entertainment and information.
Here's her conclusion about what marketers and media executives should be thinking about:
"You have to pay attention to them, to what platforms they are using, and to how they are using things like social networking, phones and video games."
This same thinking is what drove Arbitron to commission us to put together "The Bedroom Project" a few years back. As we learned from firsthand "home invasions" among 17-28 year-olds, the younger end of the demo is especially media influential - and the chasm between parents and kids is reminiscent of the old "Generation Gap" that first was noted in the '60s.
If you want to know where it's all going and what the adult population will be doing a year or two down the road, the answer may be in your den or your kitchen. Teens and pre-teens can provide important insights about what adults will be doing in the not-so-distant future. If we observe and listen to them.
For radio, these studies continue to underscore the flaw in our 25-54 myopia. Some companies don't even bother with formats that target teens. While learning how to market and sell formats like Alternative or even CHR may present a higher sales challenge, the ultimate reward in better understanding people and their use of technology can more than make up for it.
This has been a consistent theme in this blog, and in our company's activities for more than two decades. From our championing of the Alternative format with The Edge in the late '80s to our "Your 14 Year-Old Thinks Radio Sucks" session at the NAB Radio Show back in 2001, we continue to emphasize the importance of a youth injection within radio companies.
What can broadcasters be doing on the macro level?
Recruit and hire teens at radio clusters. Tap into their skill sets. Many know how to edit video and can better manage social media pages than grizzled veteran employees who struggle with these tasks.
Connect with local high school and college media programs. They can be a source of talent on all levels. And of course, when you make stations and personalities available in schools, you reach their parents.
Offer an HD2 channel to a local school. You just might find a personality or programmer of the future and you'll be providing a community service. And you'll be providing something more interesting than 150 '80s songs in a box.
Initiate internship programs. Allow students to do more than hang banners and work remotes. Don't just order them around. Listen to what they say.
If there's an opportunity, sign on a youth-targeted station. Isn't that what these 5 or 6 station clusters were supposed to provide - a diversified portfolio of formats and audience?
The industry trades are now loaded with rosy stories of recovery for radio. Of course, this is welcome news, and an opportunity for radio companies to recoup some of the losses incurred during the past two years.
But it is also a chance for healthy companies to seek out new opportunities, to expand their footprints, and to learn from the new masters.