An article in last month's Media by Kyle Acquistapace provides an interesting - and totally unscientific - look at what new media students are using. An advertising exec, Acquistapace spent the fall teaching a media planning course at USC's Annenberg School of Communication. And he observed his young charges very carefully, in and out of class.
He writes that very few students participate in many new media activities - podcasting, accessing video on mobile phones and iPods, etc. Yes, they text like crazy, but they are also network TV addicts, buzzing about "Lost" and other prime time shows.
Acquistapace's conclusion? His students are bonded to old media in ways that new media or user-generated media cannot replicate. And he notes that emerging technologies are just that - emerging, and far from widespread. And, a recent Census Bureau release on teen media usage release fully supports this notion.
We saw very similar things in the focus groups we conducted for Arbitron back in 2005. While we went out of our way to recruit technology-involved 18-34 year-olds, outside of email, texting, and iPods, most were not forward-thinking, new media addicts. In fact, many were confused by new technological advances.
In the past couple of years, we have seen network television step up and meet the new media challenge. Reality TV, from "Survivor" to "American Idol," has consistently captivated water cooler talk. And episodic shows like "24" and "Lost" have done the same. In fact, many of network TV's big nights are indeed just that - evenings where it seems like everyone is watching that final episode or season debut of one show or another. (You know that the debut of the new "24" season this month will be a huge deal, for real time viewers and TiVo addicts.)
Acquistapace offers an interesting thought, and it goes beyond ratings, page views, and downloads. His question is whether there are still old media bonds - be it with TV dramas like "Grey's Anatomy" or your morning show - that are difficult to break. While new media is all the buzz, how long will it take podcasting and video downloads to replace that connection that consumers have with their old media friends?
And if he's right, his thought leads to the opportunity that networks and radio personalities have in developing their own new media tools. If "CSI" on the one hand, or Bob & Tom on the other, already have a strong connection, why not strengthen it and modernize it on the web? It's noteworthy that Disney is about to unveil a completely revamped site for its various media properties. And it makes you wonder whether radio companies ought to be more involved in providing stronger web support and features for its personalities and shows, rather than simply building in ubiquitous gadgets like video downloading and mp3 purchasing.
As online sales skyrocketed once again this Christmas, most radio stations and companies weren't participating. Even though consumers have become very comfortable buying from Amazon, Overstock, their favorite sports team, and other online sources, station logo wear isn't typically in the mix. Most stations and big broadcast companies simply haven't figured out that their brands - stations, personalities, events - could provide thousands of dollars in holiday online shopping sales. We have brand equity, but we have been slow to monetize and capitalize on them.
So as we begin 2007 with all the exciting emerging media stories and developments, let's not lose sight of the fact that many consumers are still reasonably content with many "old media" offerings. Combining the excitement and innovation of the web with the warmth and familiarity of comfortable brands is an initiative that every station and radio company ought to be working on.