The Media Generation Gap
It started with the birth of the Internet and then was turbocharged with social media. It grew with technological advancements such as time shifting and on-demand viewing, and is now defined by social media, streaming and the proliferation of alternative sources for television, radio and just about any other form of entertainment imaginable.
“It” is what I call The Media Generation Gap. Unlike the Generation Gap of the 60’s, which was driven by politics, the sexual revolution and Rock & Roll music, this new generation gap is driven to a large degree by culture and media habits created by the continuous evolution of technology.
Not to disparage other demographic groups, but to simplify, the principle “generations” in this theory are Boomers and Millennials as the two dominant segments. While there are some media habits common to both demos, they have fairly dramatic differences in their media choices and consumption habits. To better understand this, we have to look at the differences in each group’s formative years as well as their early adult years.
Anyone who has seen the TV show The Wonder Years has a peek into the early years of Boomers.
It was an era of traditional family units with Post-Depression parents, a growing economy, the Vietnam War and concerns over the Cold War. Early Boomers came of age into young adulthood during the war and civil unrest during the 60's. Late Boomers came of age during the gasoline shortage and the recession in the 70's followed by the economic boom of the 80's. Throughout this upbringing their media of choice were radio during the advent of FM for music, newspapers for the news of the day and television for the news and nightly entertainment at home. News and Special Interest Magazines provided more in-depth information for those interested. Because of this, Boomers tend to be heavier consumers of traditional media than Millennials. Additionally, since these formative years predated on-demand consumption, broadcast media was historically consumed live. This created somewhat of a social opportunity with next day discussions around the coffee machines and water coolers talking about last night’s Dynasty, Knots Landing, Seinfeld or LA Law. More recently, Boomers have evolved to consuming media on demand, but are also attuned to “scheduled programming”.
For the most part, Millennials’ early years were markedly different than Boomers (especially Late Boomers). While both generations’ early years came during strong economic times, Millennials were less likely to experience economic hardships until they were young adults. They lived in an era where they reaped the benefits of their parents’ relative prosperity. They grew up with multiple electronic devices; HDTVs, computers, ipods, ipads, tablets, cell phones/smart phones providing access to dozens of cable channels, the Internet, and various forms of music on demand. However, when they came of age as young adults, they were faced with the reality of “leaving the nest” in the midst of a recession. One byproduct of this is while they may spend money on their devices, they prefer free or lower cost media by reading the news digitally and choosing Netflix and Hulu over cable TV. This also provides them the opportunity to control their media consumption and view their programs on demand at their convenience. Other than TV events like The Super Bowl, awards shows or the timed release of specific programs by various streaming services, which allows for social media interaction, this creates a one-on-one viewing experience.
The challenge of The Media Generation Gap: how to reach each “generation”?...Stay tuned for Part 2.