Tech Forward With Teens: Stepping Outside The New Media Bubble

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, July 16, 2015

Sitting at a recent media conference, I once again heard someone tell how their family – and especially their teen – is the example of how the media market is being disrupted, or even dying.

These “my family” anecdotes are so prevalent at media conferences that, for the last couple of years, I’ve kept a running total of them, just for amusement.

But these anecdotes confound me, as they tend to reflect the “bubble” that many media people live in – a state of being unlikely to be to found west of the Delaware River and east of Interstate 5 (on the West Coast). This presence in the bubble may distort their perception of the overall marketplace.

This year, I decided to put some real data on my intuition. Using a recent, fully representative and projectable sample,

I looked at “tech forward” regions well colonized by the media industry – New York City, Boston, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle – and compared them with the rest of the USA for a short, but useful, list of media devices/services. 



What we I found is that tech-forward regions are indeed significantly more likely than the rest of the USA to view OTT content on TV sets; to own a tablet; and to have broadband connection to their home.

What’s counter-intuitive: If you listen to the anecdotes, we also see that tech-forward regions are significantly less likely to have cut the cord, and more likely to have pay TV, than the rest of the country. Even with more devices for alternative viewing, tech-forward regions are still devotees of pay TV.

Slicing the data further to compare tech-forward homes that have teenagers widens the gap even more. These tech-forward teen homes are significantly even more likely than non-tech-forward homes to view OTT content on TV sets; to subscribe to an SVOD service; to own a tablet; and to have broadband connection.

This harkens back to the concept of “regional differences” – the idea that media usage, habits of consumption, and even receptivity to advertising – can vary notably by geographic area. Savvy researchers leverage this concept for their businesses to make  sure tactics, strategies, or messaging is tweaked for maximum impact in different areas of the country.

But if you add a teenager to the already lopsided tech profile of households in these regions, the opportunities for misunderstanding become extreme. It is easy when one lives in L.A. or New York to forget that “normal behavior” may be very different just a few states away. Such a bubble can burst business strategies, if they were based on a distorted perception of the total marketplace – and especially if your market target has a teen wildcard in play.




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