January 23, 2007

A new crop of kids: Generation We

A special CNET News.com feature: A new crop of kids: Generation We.

When Amy Jo Kim’s son Gabriel says he wants to "watch videos," she knows he doesn’t mean DVDs or television. He wants YouTube. …

"He finds TV boring. So during Reading Rainbow we look up stuff on Wikipedia like side commentary. But I’m driving that," said Kim, a 40-something game designer and resident of Half Moon Bay, Calif. "His interest in TV has really declined, because it’s just there, you can’t customize it."

"What we’re talking about is a generation that has the ability to be in touch with each other immediately at earlier and earlier ages," said Nancy Robinson, vice president and consumer strategist at Iconoculture, a Minneapolis company that tracks consumer trends for consumer giants like Nestle and Sony. "If you asked someone 10 years ago about the necessity of a cell phone for a 5-year-old, they would have laughed and walked away; now you can buy that at Target."

This generation hasn’t rejected TV, but the way Generation We watches the tube has evolved from their parents’ days. What’s been called the "Tivo-ization" of households now give kids unprecedented freedom over the handling of their TV diet, so much so that young kids often don’t understand the traditional way of watching shows with a set geography and time. And now that TV shows are migrating to portable devices and are streamed on demand from the Web, the experience for kids is even more interactive and community-based.

Jonathan Steuer, a researcher at Iconoculture, has a 5-year-old daughter who recently asked to watch one of her shows while they were visiting a friend’s house. Because the friends didn’t own a TiVo, "I had to explain to her the show wasn’t on there," he said.

"You’ve got a generation of kids who’ve had an unprecedented amount of control of their media and they’re not going to give it up," Steuer said. "It does put out a challenge–for anyone in the media busines–of how to keep attention in that media." …

I want my MTV mix masher
Take what MTV Networks is doing
with its teen-targeted digital cable channel, The N. It produces
television shows that air on cable, but its audience can stream the shows via the Web
through its broadband player, The Click. On the site, kids can use a
so-called video mix masher to take a scene from a show, put a comment
on it and add other scene asynchronously to create their program. Part
of it is what The N calls "vomenting," or adding commentary to shows
via text blurbs or audio, ala Mystery Science Theater."

Dixie Feldman, an editorial director at The N, which reaches about
50 million homes, said that group’s audience is increasingly turning to
the Net to watch shows and bond with their peers from all over.

"On the Net, geographic boundaries disappear–a teen can watch a
scene in New York, and another teen in Nebraska can watch and comment
on that same scene," and they can both create something new, she said.
"The Net creates that community aspect."

JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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