The characteristics that define this generation are their inherent comfort with social media and video, in particular.
Those of us who are older than the Post-Millennials, and that’s pretty much all of us reading these lines, can benefit from understanding the new generation’s thinking, uninhibited by older strictures of privacy and self-consciousness. They are not only leaning in, they are jumping in. I like to call it Participatory Media. And today, those who fail to recognize the power and promise of live social, participatory, video will lose out.
The implications run far deeper than failing to spot the next Justin Bieber. Participatory Media is on its way toward upending Hollywood, music, advertising, news, activism, and even shopping. The possibilities are enormous and mostly untapped. There is a trend, over the past 15 years, in which consumers participate more and more. As technology advances and Wi-Fi becomes prevalent, participation becomes easier and more and more users jump in, becoming media creators at a flick of a button. It’s not a prediction, it’s reality.
If you want to understand emerging video platforms, you have to understand the needs of the demographic that uses them. Young people today are unencumbered by legacy concerns about being captured on video; it’s part of their lives everyday. They were born with screens all around them, with parents and grandparents peeking and smiling. Historically, we consumed media at a distance, slaves to the whims and schedules of faceless corporations. But now, young audiences demand interactive control, real time feedback, and authentic experiences with the content and people on screen.
Platforms like YouTube and Facebook gave everyone the ability to both consume and easily create media, mass distribute it and instantly get feedback on it.
Live is simply a technology that enables social networking to happen in even more real time, with more pronounced social interactions, enabling participation and feedback more easily.
The Internet has made everything more personal and more immediate, and young people born into a world where media consumption is internet-centric will not engage in anything that does not offer direct contact and interaction.
According to a Pew Research Center Survey, about 60% of 18 - 34 year olds said they sleep next to their cell phones so they don’t miss calls, texts or updates during the night. But according to Bucknell Magazine, the need for instant gratification is likely to become even more pronounced in the generation born after 2000. More than 70% of children age 8 and under had used a mobile device for some type of media activity (such as playing games, using apps or watching videos) in 2013, up from 38% in 2011, according to a survey of parents by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that provides information and recommendations about young people’s media use. Even babies and toddlers are being given access to tablets and smartphones these days: Some 38% of children under 2 had used a mobile device for media activity, up from 10% two years earlier.”
Today’s “teen” media stars don’t have to be packaged or polished. They don't need a manager or an agent. They don't audition or wait for callbacks. The gatekeepers are us. What matters is that creators — teens or older — make their audiences feel they matter. It’s easy to scoff at new video idols, but they are actually more real than those manufactured by Hollywood and the old media apparatus.
Content producers must be creative and willing to let go of fully controlling the narrative. Authenticity trumps high production values. And if there’s a common value among the creators who have emerged from video platforms, it’s the authentic.