Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Can Newspapers Ever Make Gains with the 'Texting' Generation?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Can Newspapers Ever Make Gains with the 'Texting' Generation?

Article excerpt

We often discuss the need to mobilize the millennial generation, but with the ever-increasing prevalence of cell phone culture that term is more highly charged than ever.

From a business perspective, it appears to be a home run. Despite the collapse and resurrection of niche efforts like ESPN mobile service, the power of direct access to consumers via cell phones has skyrocketed as high as the presidential election coverage, with candidates looking to the utility-driven impact of text messaging to galvanize their get out the vote efforts in November. In every meeting I'm sitting in, every conference I attend and every company I advise, we're talking about mobile media as the next frontier, which has already been established overseas.

From a user perspective, however, I'm starting to experience fatigue. Although, this may mean that at the ripe old age of 28, I'm already a geezer. My friend Karen North, director of the online communities master's degree program at USC's Annenberg School of Communication, notes that research shows teenagers believe text messaging is the form of interaction they own, while "only their parents and teachers use email."

Karen explains further, "Gen Y has already shown that they prefer and 'trust' news and information from their friends rather than from expert sources. Add to this that, as is true with pretty much all generations, Gen Y has created their own slang, but in this case, it is in the form of the communications technology and it's language and code rather than spoken slang. The adoption of mobile as the language of this generation, and the ability of mobile to transmit short messages virally and almost instantaneously, makes it more difficult to share expert or even aggregated news, and instead may lead Gen Y to rely on viral news sound bites rather than news as we have known it."

Considering how much we've scaled back and accelerated reporting to acclimate to online consumption already, this just feeds the microwave mentality of the instantaneous news cycle that doesn't satiate the intellectual public's need for analysis.

Of course, this does give newspaper reporters a unique opportunity to own analysis. The Wall Street Journal has done a good job of advancing to analytical second stories in print, but the more likely winner in these circumstances are the magazines. …

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