Generation gaps are common to us all. They occur when there are completely different perspectives and attitudes on a range of subjects based on an individual’s age and place in the society. The biggest generation gaps occur during periods of great transformation, where protocols of the past seem out of sync with current problems.
 
In light of the great transformation taking place in the media industry today, we wondered whether a generation gap exists when considering viewpoints on the future trends. Do those who have been working in media since the pre-cable days—with more than 25 years of media experience—have different ideas about the evolution of the media industry compared to those with less than five years of experience, who came of age with devices such as tablets and smartphones? We polled both of the “>25” and “<5” groups by asking the following questions:
 
  1. How do you think the media marketplace will look in five years?
  2. How will viewers view content?
  3. What will the sales model look like for buying and measuring media?

Our respondents work in diverse areas and platforms: research, marketing and sales at agencies, content providers and suppliers. This is by no means a definitive sample but rather a cross section that suggests a need for further study.

 
Executive Summary
  1. Rate of Change: The greatest difference between <5 and >25 was in assessing the rate of change. Those who grew up with the Internet see much more rapid and transformational change than those in the >25 group. The latter group has “seen it all,” and believes that there are entrenched metrics and business operations that are difficult to change in the industry. Yet there were many in the >25 group who consider the merging of platforms, through such advancements as Connected TV, to be pushing the rate of change forward.
  2. Span of Change: There was also a difference on the type of change. While the <5 group focused on social media and cross-platform issues, the >25 group had a broader outlook that spanned issues beyond social media and cross-platform. 
  3. Degree of Change: The <5 group was more consistent in its belief that we will see many changes in the next five years, while those in the >25 group differed in their opinions. Some believed there would be little overall change and others saw a potential for great change within the same time span.
  4. Top Medium: While the <5 group sees mobile and social media as the future preeminent force in media, many in the >25 group believe TV will continue its dominant place in the media landscape.
  5. Impact of Social Media: Because the <5s have grown up with computers and the technology created as a result, they tend to believe social media is the central force in the new media landscape. The >25s see social media in partnership with, or even as a secondary driver to, television.
  6. Impact of Mobile Media: Increasingly, mobile is becoming the <5 group’s media consumption mode of choice. This was not as strongly expressed by the >25s.
  7. Targeting: Both groups saw the impact and benefit of the increasingly interactive aspect of media. Both saw the communication process being more highly targeted and one-to-one, volleying back and forth from sender to receiver. Marketing efforts will talk to a “person” or a “custom segmentation” rather than to a demographic or generic group.

Conclusion:

Is there a generation gap in media? The degree of difference is surprisingly small, given the expertise, insight and life experiences of the two groups. The two groups share many assessments, but it is clear that there are points of differences that will propel radical changes in platform importance and measurement as one generation hands off responsibility to the next. 

Whether it is the experience of the >25s having lived through the “future shocks” of the past or the unbridled optimism and youthfulness of the <5s, the upshot is that both generations must work in tandem to construct a strong business model for an industry embroiled in change. Whether it will be business as usual or an entirely new framework remains to be seen.

Read the full report here.
 
(Robert Mercier is a media research professional and a student at NYU. Charlene Weisler is a strategist with more than 30 years of media research experience, from broadcast to cable, to off-platform and set-top box data.)  
 

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