Is There A Generation Gap In The Media Industry?

We’ve all heard about “generation gaps” where there are completely different perspectives and attitudes on a range of subjects based on an individual’s age and place in the society. The biggest generation gaps occur during periods of great transformation, when protocols of the past seem out of sync with current problems.

Because of the great transformation going on in the media industry today, we wondered if there was a “generation gap” about future trends within our industry. Do those who have been working in media since pre-cable days (those with more than 25 years of media experience) have different ideas about how the media industry will evolve, compared to those with approximately five years of media experience, who came of age with devices such as tablets and smartphones? We polled both groups -- “More than 25” and “Less than 5” -- by asking them the same questions to see if there is indeed a media generation gap.

The questions we asked were:

1.                 How do you think the media marketplace will look in five years?

2.                 How will viewers view content?

3.                 What will the sales model look like for buying and measuring media?

Our respondents work in diverse areas and platforms -- research, marketing and sales at agencies, content providers and suppliers. This is by no means a definitive sample but rather a cross-section that suggests a need for further study. Here's the executive summary of our study; for the complete version, click here.

1.                 Rate of Change: The greatest difference between Less than 5 and More Than 25 was in assessing the rate of change. Those who grew up with the Internet see much more rapid and transformational change than those in the More Than 25 group, who have “seen it all” and believe that there are entrenched metrics and business operations that are difficult to change in the industry. Yet there were many in the More than 25 group who see the merging of platforms through such advancements as connected TV as pushing the rate of change forward.

2.                 Span of Change: There was also a difference on how each group discussed the type of change. While the Less Than 5 group focused on social media and cross-platform issues, the More Than 25 group had a more expansive outlook that spanned issues beyond social media and cross-platform. 

3.                 Degree of Change: The Less Than 5 group was more consistent in its belief that we will see many changes in the next five years, while those in the More Than 25 group differed in their opinions. Some believed there would be little overall change and others saw a potential for great change within the same time span.

4.                 Top Medium: While the Less Than 5 group sees mobile and social media as the future preeminent forces in media, many in the More Than 25 group believe TV will continue its dominant place in the media landscape.

5.                 Impact of Social Media: Because the Less Than 5s have grown up with computers and the resulting technology, they tend to believe social media is the central force in the new media landscape. The More Than 25s see social media in partnership with, or even as a secondary driver to, television.

6.                 Impact of Mobile Media: Increasingly, mobile is becoming the Less Than 5 group’s media consumption mode of choice. This was not as strongly expressed by the More Than 25s.

7.                 Targeting: Both groups saw the impact and benefits of the increasingly interactive aspect of media. Both saw the communication process being more highly targeted and one-to-one, volleying back and forth from sender to receiver. Marketing efforts will talk to a “person” or a “custom segmentation” rather than to a demographic or generic group.

The Conclusion:

Is there a generation gap in media? The degree of difference is surprisingly small, given the expertise, insight and life experiences of the two groups. Both share many assessments  -- but it is clear that there are points of differences that will propel radical changes in platform importance and measurement as one generation hands off responsibility to the next. 

Whether it is the experience of the More than 25s having lived through the “future shocks” of the past, or the unbridled optimism and youthfulness of the Less Than 5s, the upshot is that both generations must work in tandem to construct a strong business model for an industry embroiled in change. Whether it will be “business as usual” or an entirely new framework remains to be seen.

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