Media Generations

When I decided to study Mass Communication, professors were speculating about the mind-boggling array of new cable channels and the concept of “narrow-casting” in contrast to traditional broadcasting. Viewing tastes were starting to become more divided for specialized marketing to niche demographics.

Internet was still to come. Even email stayed in the workplace before we had computers in our homes, and smart phones were decades away. But the notion that an audience comprised exclusively of teens or golfers could be cherry-picked for targeted advertising had come to life.

I think what attracted me to television was how cable programming could be directed to my particular interests. MTV seemed made for me! Later on, after we got computers at home many of us could even create our own digital media. But when reality TV took over my network, I left MTV along with the music.

Designing something and immediately printing or sending it became my new media. 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 utexas.edu.

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