Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Captain Obvious Calling In

ABC news and -- if ABC news is to be believed -- financial institutions worldwide are aflame (not with passione, but with flame) over a report written by a 15-year-old Morgan Stanley Europe intern in England about how teenagers consume technology.

The report, if you care to read it, is here, but frankly, I'm confused as to why anyone thinks this is so revealing. Morgan Stanley Europe, in its introduction to this three-page report (bulked up with five pages of cover, index, financial gobbledlygook at the end, et cetera) certainly is all hopped up about it:

At the vanguard of this digital revolution are teenagers. While their habits will obviously change (especially when they start employment), understanding their mindset seems an excellent way of assessing how the media landscape will evolve. To this end, we asked a 15 year old summer work intern, Matthew Robson, to describe how he and his friends consume media. Without claiming representation or statistical accuracy, his piece provides one of the clearest and most thought provoking insights we have seen. So we published it.
Yes, published it, typos (in his report and the introduction) and all.

But why? The report doesn't reveal anything we don't already know about teen technology habits: They like their mobile devices and games, the cheaper the better, though they're willing to pay more for more features; they don't want to pay for music and see nothing wrong with piracy, though they will pay to see concerts and films; they don't read newspapers.; they don't like advertising, be it outdoors or on the Internet. They are also capable, it seems, of writing up a three-page statement of obvious generalities and getting a major financial institution all spun up about it.

Morgan stanley knows this. they say in their introduction that "these trends will not necessarily surprise." So why all the hype?

Or is this a viral marketing ploy, which Robson says teens enjoy so well. Does Morgan Stanley want to be seen as the Hip, Now stockbroker? If so, they'd better do better than a poorly proofread PDF.

Yes, as MS points out, the implications for profit models are shifting as we move into the technological era. But frankly, we don't need Robson's report to point that out to us. That profit (and delivery) models for newspapers, music and other bits of entertainment and informative gewgaws have to change is, to put it simply, blindingly obvious. And we can't all decide that viral marketing is the way to go -- because as soon as they become ubiquitous, the new, ripe crop of teenagers will tire of the tactics and demand to be entertained/sold to in some other manner. We might quite possibly see viral marketing become cliche and passe as are billboards and newspapers, so there's no salvation there.

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