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A 15-Year-Old Electrifies London's Media/Marketing World

Morgan-Stanley's 15-year-old intern, Matthew Robson, is shaking up the financial and media industries in London upon release of his report about teen's media habits today. So far, much of the news coverage seems to be centered on his finding that Teens don't use Twitter, although this has been documented in previous studies. What he has to say about all media channels is of interest.

Plus, like certain other precocious teens I know, Matthew presents his conclusions in a straight-forward, unambiguous writing style that more senior, highly educated financial analysts rarely achieve. Here are a few of Matthew's main points (it's a long report), with a few of my U.S.-centric comments appended:

Radio. "Most teenagers nowadays are not regular listeners to radio. They may occasionally tune in, but they do not try to listen to a program specifically." The reason? "(W)ith online sites streaming music for free they do not bother..." (Except when in Dad's car going to and from summer camps, school, or dog-walking chores.)
Television. Teens watch less TV nowadays "because of services such as BBC iPlayer, which allows them to watch shows when they want. Whilst watching TV, adverts come on quite regularly (18 minutes of every hour) and teenagers do not want to watch these, so they switch to another channel, or do something else whilst the adverts run." (Except when ads come on that they actively enjoy like those by Comcast in the U.S. market.)
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." (Except for the comics section and for The Onion, which is sort of a newspaper.)
Gaming. "Whilst the stereotypical view of gamers is teenage boys, the emergence of the Wii onto the market has created a plethora of girl gamers and younger (6+) gamers...As consoles are now able to connect to the internet, voice chat is possible between users, which has had an impact on phone usage; one can speak for free over the console and so a teenager would be unwilling to pay to use a phone."

Internet. "Facebook is the most common (site), with nearly everyone with an internet connection registered and visiting >4 times a week. Facebook is popular as one can interact with friends on a wide scale." He notes that Google is the search tool of choice among teens and that many watch videos on YouTube.

Twitter: "(T)eenagers do not use Twitter. Most have signed up to the service, but then just leave it as they realize that they are not going to update it (mostly because texting Twitter uses up credit, and they would rather text friends with that credit). In addition, they realize that no one is viewing their profile, so their 'tweets' are pointless."

Outdoor Billboards: "Most teenagers enjoy and support viral marketing, as often it creates humorous and interesting content." (They also make endless fun of "stupid" outdoor ads.)
Music. "Teenagers listen to a lot of music, mostly whilst doing something else (like travelling or using a computer). This makes it hard to get an idea of the proportion of their time that is spent listening to music...A number of people use the music service iTunes (usually in conjunction with iPods) to acquire their music (legally) but again this is unpopular with many teenagers because of the 'high price' (79p per song)." (This is not as true on this side of the Atlantic. Many teens indeed have iPods, as well as the spending power to purchase many songs.)
Cinema. "Teenagers visit the cinema quite often, regardless of what is on. Usually they will target a film first, and set out to see that, but sometimes they will just go and choose when they get there. This is because going to the cinema is not usually about the film, but the experience â€"- and getting together with friends." (Amen.)
Mobile Phones. "99% of teenagers have a mobile phone and most are quite capable phones...Teenagers do not upgrade their phone very often, with most upgrading every two years. They usually upgrade on their birthday when their parents will buy them a new phone, as they do not normally have enough money to do it themselves." (Plus, most teens do not use phones for calling nearly as much as for texting.)
There's much more in his report, including Matthew's views on "what's hot, and what's not," among teens. But as some of my comments indicate, there are cultural differences between a group of teens in London (his research methodology involved surveying his friends) and in San Francisco, where I am raising teens and therefore know many others.

I think it is useful to note that as the author is only 15-years-old, the "teenagers" he is talking about are mostly 13-15 year-olds, which is the same group I'm most familiar with curently. I hope he writes more reports, and I'm quite certain he will, for instance, when he is 18, and 21. The thing about teenagers that all marketers know and find endlessly frustrating is how much they keep changing and how baffling many of those changes in taste (and media habits) can be to their parents and other adults.

Therefore, his current study is best thought of as a useful glimpse into media consumption by very young teenagers, and, BTW, probably more relevant to boys than to girls -- except for his insights into the cinema-going experience of young teens, which is delightfully accurate for boys and girls alike.