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Why The Old Vs. Young Debate Over The Future Of News Is Wrong

I don’t typically post much here about what I’m doing at my day job at the San Jose Mercury News. But for this weekend, I’ve got a column up that I think is worth sharing: Older generations adopting new technologies faster than young:

“Let us now banish that enduring image of the bumbling parents who can’t program their VCR and must beg their teenager for help. It turns out that the middle-age demographic stands ready to lead the digital revolution. When it comes to listening to music on iPods, blogging, downloading podcasts, joining Facebook, and using Twitter, the over-35 crowd is adopting everything from social media to consumer electronics at a faster rate than their Generation Y (ages 18-24) counterparts.
These figures challenge some deeply held stereotypes about technology and age. Tech companies, often obsessed with designing for youth and hiring young, should take heed of this emerging powerhouse to think differently about their products, and where growth and opportunity may be found.”

I mention this here for a couple of reasons. Too often, I hear some folks complaining that somehow younger journalism types are more innovative, that somehow older folks in the newsroom are inherently less so. In some cases that’s true, and in some cases it’s not. But I’ve visited plenty of college media organizations in the past couple of years that are far more conservative than professional ones when it comes to the need for transformation. And I’ve met plenty of sharp minds over 35 who are ready to embrace new thinking.

Even more importantly, people like to focus on what younger generations want and don’t want in terms of news consumption. But such patterns don’t necessarily break down neatly among generational lines. We should be seeking to understand where the whole community is and what their needs are.

The big exception to all of this: The Accenture report indicates pretty clearly that the 18-25 demographic is embracing mobility at a faster rate for now. I think more than anything, that’s going to define Generation Y in terms of technology. They are going to be the mobile generation. This is both a challenge and opportunity for news organizations that I’ll write more about in the coming weeks.

One Response

  1. I would just keep top of mind that 18 to 24 is the time in life when mobility defines activity. Back in hippie days it was all about traveling and finding new experiences. That is not, in my humble opinion, unique to this cohort of 18 to 24 year olds. It’s a natural property of this age. What happens when they have families, raise children?My bet is that many of them will work near or at home, still mobile, but with a different twist.

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