The report busts a number of myths:
- Teens use media 10 screens at a time. Not true.
- Teens are abandoning TV for new online media. Not true.
- Teens are driving the growth of online media. Not true.
- Teens are the most avid Internet users. Not true.
- Teens' online habits are different from adults'. Not true.
- Teens don't listen to radio or read newspapers. Not true.
- Traditional advertising doesn't work with teens. Not true.
First, we don't really understand this market. We think we do, based on our own perceptions, but not on facts. (My youngest son, who's just a little past his teen years, dropped his Facebook account a few weeks ago. I quizzed him about this, because I thought at the time, "This is strange. He's supposed to be really into Facebook. That's what young people do, right?" He dropped it because he felt he was spending too much time with it and it wasn't offering him much meaningful information. Hmm.)
Second, we tend to use projection to decide what the trends are rather than analyzing what's actually happening. In other words, "I'm really into Twitter, all my friends are really into Twitter, most of the business books I see in the bookstore are about Twitter, therefore Twitter is taking over the world."
Third, as I noted in my last post, it's fashionable to latch onto what seems like a trend, write a hot book about it, go on a speaking circuit claiming something outrageous like the death of the newspaper industry at the hands of online media, sell lots of books, then take the money and build a 15,000 square foot home in Aspen. A lot of gullible and not-too-careful marketing practitioners get swept up in this hype, then unwittingly promote the myths themselves.
Fourth, it may have something to do with parenting itself. Today's parents are far more involved in their kids' lives than was true a generation ago. And as these "helicopter kids" become the early adopters of media like Twitter, Facebook, texting, and so forth, moms and dads are right there, trying to make sense of it and attach some profound meaning to what's going on. (When I was a kid, I don't think most parents were aware that a social revolution had happened until a decade or so after it had happened!)
The lesson, quite possibly, is that the real revolution now taking place is happening more on the business shelves at Borders and Barnes & Noble, rather than in the media habits of Americans.