Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Care less what the 15 year old intern does: Ask what his mum is doing.

I've really enjoyed the righteous abandon with which some sections of the traditional media have crowed about one 15-year-olds insight that his friends don't use Twitter.

Among the other details of his note for Morgen Stanley are that online advertising is 'pointless' (I'm pretty sure he means interruptive traditional style advertising of the kind that sustains traditional media) and that no kids are reading newspapers.

That teenagers aren't using Twitter (much) comes as no surprise to anyone whose been watching the regular stats that role out of Nielsen, Comscore and the like. That it took an 'intern' to tell Morgen Stanley is perhaps the greater surprise - but that's by the by.

What is of more concern to me is the considerable amount of barking going on up wrong trees around this.

First, why does it take one intern's paper to get media owners jumping up and down? Kids are available to speak to every day of the week everywhere. Take them seriously and they will speak to you. Ask Ruby Pseudo. Same message goes to Morgen Stanley. Publishing the bleeding obvious as 'insight' doesn't do you many favours.

Second. Please, please, please don't think that the behaviour (particularly what they say they do compared with what they actually do) of teenagers is an indicator for how the world is changing and a guide to how you should respond.

As Clay Shirky put it if you want to know what technologies will succeed don't ask what teenage boys are doing - ask what their mums are doing.

Mums are busy. And if the tech doesn't make a material difference to their lives they don't use it.
How many mums are on Facebook, how many on Twitter? How many using email? Text?

You can be sure there are many. They are organising their lives and the things they care about with these tools.

They are showing these tools matter for very many, now. Enough to change the world? Not yet. When we stop using terms like social media and just get on with organising ourselves - then we'll know the world has changed because enough of us find it everyday ordinary enough.

Follow the teenage boys if you wish - I'll be watching the mums.

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?