Nielsen has a new report on teen TV watching, and I’m not sure I agree with one of the findings.
Nielsen finds teens are watching a lot more video on laptops and phones, than regular TV (aka the “first screen”).
“12-24 year olds are more connected, more tech savvy, and more likely to use personal devices such as smartphones, laptops and other gadgets for video viewing. They are also less likely to watch traditional television.”
OK, that makes sense. (Maybe even: Well, duh!) But check out the next sentence:
“But much of this is driven by economic necessity and lifestyle choices, and is likely to change as the younger becomes the older generation.”
Nielsen makes this prediction based on data showing that teens in the past turned into heavier TV watchers as they aged, as shown in this table:
While the research about the past seems solid, I have to wonder about the prediction for the future. As people’s attention spans grow shorter, and as they get more habitual in their usage of portable tablets, laptops and phones — doesn’t it seem like a whole lot more is changing than just age?
It seems to me we’re seeing a fundamental shift in media consumption, one that defies comparisons to behaviors of only a few years ago.
In the chart above, the starting year is 2001. 2001! Facebook didn’t exist. Google was just one of several popular search engines. There was no YouTube.
What’s startling isn’t just the huge leaps in technology, but the dramatic changes in how people spend their time: YouTubing, Googling, Facebooking.
If you spend any time at all with teens and 20-somethings, try picturing them in 10 years vegging on the couch with the remote. I can’t.
Robert Niles posted a provocative piece today called What to cut when ad revenue doesn’t cover your expenses?
His main point is that some editors are looking at user-generated content as a way to substitute for, in his example, a movie reviewer. And of course, Niles is correct that the “community” by itself is a poor substitute for a trained beat writer. Too often, the “community” isn’t self-policing, or even self-correcting, and it needs some professional guidance and moderation.
But the larger, and harder, question is: in times of reduced revenue, where should newspapers focus their skilled, trained staff?
Pick up any local newspaper and you’ll see example after example of mystifying choices in coverage by local staff: pro sports in a distant city, columnizing about national issues, press conferences covered just because, press releases spun into bylined stories.
Editors’ hardest questions come after the relatively easy ones of movie reviews and CD reviews.
- Are we covering the community in ways that meet readers’ interests?
- What criteria drive daily coverage decisions?
- And who’s making those decisions?
- Why is this event being covered?
- Why do we assign a reporter to this beat?
- Do we even have the right beats?
- Is every reporter contributing high-impact coverage to page 1 and section fronts? If not, what’s standing in the way?
Point is: when you can’t sustain business as usual, everything must justify itself, from the movie reviewer to the courthouse beat. Editors need to shape a vision of the new newspaper, encourage information-gathering to make decisions, and then support decisions that move toward the vision.