Editor's Letter: Connectivity Steps Out of Its Infancy

There aren’t many workdays that I get to officially invoke the spirit of Whitney Houston — or get to sing to defenseless colleagues. But at MEDIA, we believe the children are our future.

Go ahead. Roll your eyes. But as we started digging into the technology and demographics driving the trends we hoped to cover in our fifth annual Future of Media issue, we couldn’t help but marvel at how often we had to repeat that line.

We knew (and are frankly a little tired of hearing about) the tremendous influence Gen Y is having on all aspects of the media business. But as we delved into the younger end of that massive population bubble, we got swept up in the changes media channels will have to make in order to keep up.
In the U.S., the big birth years (more than 3.8 million per year) ran from 1987 to 1997. Worldwide, half the population is 25 or younger; an amazing one in five is between 15 and 24. We took a closer look at those born in the midst of this tsunami: Read Carrie Cummings' “The Rise of the 18-Year-Old,” (p. 22) story on why these radically connected kids are perhaps the most elusive demographic Madison Avenue has ever courted.

The habits of these just-barely-adult consumers will shape the future of media. And they are dramatically different not just from their parents, but even from their older brothers and sisters. While consuming massive amounts of video and sending constant texts (about six per hour, according to Nielsen), they don’t want a thing to do with landlines, cable companies, or even email. They rarely watch TV in real time, and when they do, it’s likely to be on their phones or tablets rather than actual TVs.

These extreme behavior changes are shaping the future on every platform, with every road leading to (and from) the phone.

Check out Doug Quenqua’s excellent “Mobile Reshapes the Future,” (p. 18) to see how these cell phones have gone from being a media afterthought to the heartbeat of a campaign and media plan. Or Dave Goetzl’s “Screensurfing USA,” (p. 24) for the latest in the many ways consumers want to romance that second screen. Or a Q&A with Discovery’s JB Perrette (p.50) on how the channel is expanding its once TV-centric view of the world to total screen-and-device domination.

And that army of kids, so many of them packing not just smartphones but tablets, are causing once separate platforms to merge and collide: Laurie Sullivan reports on “Search’s Social Exploration,” (p. 38); Cathy Taylor on “Social Leaves the Silo,” (p. 30) and John Capone on big changes within the mobile world itself (“Foursquare’s Second Act,” (p. 34)).

Of course, the kids who are pushing media into the future aren’t the only ones inching out of the early days of connectivity. Gen X is taking its lumps, but figuring it out: Larry Dubrow can now operate his iPad with a baby on his hip (“My Post-Parenthood Media Wasteland,” p. 58). And even us wizened Baby Boomers, fat fingers and all, are proving to be a fiercer digital force than many would have predicted, and will be so for decades to come. (Consider Erin Read Ruddick’s “Boomers: Past, Present and Powerful,” (p. 62)).

Finally, to get a look at Google’s future (not to mention the lightning fast Internet that will change the way we do business) take a trip way back to the Pony Express. Liz Tascio reports on Google’s launch of Google Fiber in Kansas City (“Welcome to the Fiberhood,” (p. 74)).

What do you think lies ahead for MEDIA? Let us know at sarah@mediapost.com

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