Media Generations

When I decided to study “mass communication,” profs at UT’s Moody College were speculating about the mind-boggling array of new cable channels and the concept of “narrow-casting” in contrast to traditional broadcasting. Tastes were becoming divided and specialized for niche demographics so valuable to advertisers.

Internet was still to come. Email was for the workplace and smart phones were decades away. The notion that an audience comprised exclusively of 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 get hooked on commercial free, streaming video services which we still may watch on a big TV. We like to text also, but Gen X 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, nearly all our media consumption is online now.
  • Social media junkies who consume videos on YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. My young Gen Z  or “Zoomer” teen only watches a big TV if it’s family movie night. All their media influencers are viewed on a laptop, gaming PC or iPhone. Having had a smart phone from the age of ten or younger, they text at lightning speed and use email only for school or Grandma.

Any mass media outlet should think about these different audiences. Something new will always be coming around but take heed, omni channel marketers– newspaper readers will still be around for quite some time!

Photo: Moody College of Communication studio at my alma mater UT Austin. Courtesy

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