According to Bloomberg News, 15-year-old Matthew Robson is gaining a bit of notoriety in world financial markets with the publication by Morgan Stanley of his report, “How Kids Consume Media.” Robson was an intern this summer when he penned the document requested by Morgan Stanley’s European media analysts. Seems Robson’s answers were not at all what the analysts were expecting:

The Times Online summarized Robson’s findings, which he said reflected his conversations with about 300 youths:

Radio With online sites streaming music for free they do not bother, as services such as last.fm do this advert-free and users can choose the songs they want instead of listening to what the radio presenter/DJ chooses

Newspapers No teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper, as most do not have the time and cannot be bothered to read pages and pages of text while they could watch the news summarised on the internet or on TV

Internet Facebook is the most common, with nearly everyone with an internet connection registered. On the other hand, teenagers do not use Twitter

Music They are very reluctant to pay for it (most having never bought a CD) Teenagers from higher income families use iPods and those from lower income families use mobile phones

Directories Real directories contain listings for builders and florists, which are services teenagers do not require. They can get the information free on the internet

Viral/Outdoor Marketing “Most teenagers enjoy and support viral marketing … Teenagers see adverts on websites (pop-ups, banner ads) as extremely annoying and pointless … they are portrayed in such a negative light that no one follows them.”

Cinema Teenagers visit the cinema more often when they are in the lower end of teendom but as they approach 15 they go to the cinema a lot less. This is because of the pricing; at 15 they have to pay the adult price. Also it is possible to buy a pirated DVD of the film at the time of release, and these cost much less than a cinema ticket

Mobile phones The general view is that Sony Ericsson phones are superior, because of their long list of features, built-in Walkman capacity and value

So what are the implications for the public relations industry of a generation of Millennials (ages 8 to 2) who do not consume media or news the same way the rest of us always have? It’s an important question because in the United States Millennials represent 90 million, or about 30 percent of the population, while Gen-Xers (age 29-44) are only 22 percent and their parents, the Baby Boomers (45-63) account for just a quarter of the population.

The first two alarming things that we see happening right now — no newspapers and no radio. To kids accustomed to customizing everything they do, from the music play lists they create on streaming Internet channels to how they organize the information on their Yahoo News page, they want to control how, when and where they consume media and news.

Next — they hate advertising, and will actively ignore products or services they perceive as too “intrusive.” They use their phones as music storage devices because calls and texts are expensive, and they use their computers for voice over Internet protocol communications because it’s free. So much for delivering news to the next generation over their handhelds, which is where everyone thought it was going.

So what’s the solution to getting information to the young people of today? PR people need to adopt an approach similar to what the Associated Press did in the wake of a study last year that uncovered similar consumption habits among young adults in four different countries. We need to provide the news and information in a customizable and layered format.

These should include:

  • Short, newsy headlines that can tell the main story in a single line when skimmed in a list of headlines
  • The next layer is a short abstract of 150 words that gives the nugget of the story with links to
  • A longer more detailed story with further hyperlinks to a variety of source materials that enable a young person who becomes interested in a story or topic to drill down into it as deeply as they want

It’s going to take some rethinking to get the Millennial generation to choose to consume our news and information in one of the most radical transformations of media since the introduction of the printing press.

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