When I decided to study Communication, courses at UT’s Moody College speculated about the mind-boggling array of emerging cable channels and introduced the concept of “narrow-casting” in contrast to traditional broadcasting. Tastes were becoming divided and specialized for demographics that were very valuable to advertisers.
Internet was still to come. Email was for the workplace and smart phones were decades away. The notion that an audience like teens or golfers could be cherry-picked for targeted marketing had come to life.
I think what attracted me to television was how cable programming could be directed to my particular interests. Later on, after we got computers at home I would create my own graphics. Then reality TV took over my network, and I left MTV along with the music.
Designing something on my own and immediately printing or sending it became attractive to me. I think just as Gen X-ers got used to having our “Twenty-something” programs tailored to our interests, we also got access to new do-it-yourself technology. The popularity of Facebook, blogging and editing photos and video with our own devices attests to my generation’s morphing into the first mass digital creators for both TV and internet.
Designing graphics for marketing now in a multi-media era, I clearly see three broad audiences:
- Newspaper Readers, who only watch a few channels on mostly live TV and don’t use internet much. This is my parents’ generation and older, though my parents themselves are quite media savvy and spend most of their retirement days on their desktop computers. (They do like their smart phones but they seem tech forward for their age.)
- Email Senders and Facebook posters, who are getting hooked on commercial free streaming video services which we still may watch on a big TV. We like to text also, but our texts are much longer than Millennials’ and often look more like emails. While we still occasionally flip through a printed magazine or read a paperback, most of our media consumption is online.
- Social media junkies who consume videos on YouTube, Snapchat and now Tiktok. My Gen Z child only watches our big TV if it’s family movie night. All “her” media is consumed on a gaming PC or iPhone. She texts at lightning speed and uses email only for teachers or her grandmas.
Any mass media outlet should think about these different audiences. Something new will always be coming around but take heed, omni platform marketers– newspaper readers will still be around for quite some time!
Photo: Moody College of Communication studio at my alma mater UT Austin. Courtesy utexas.edu.