Most teens find “tweeting” pointless — Morgan Stanley

July 13, 2009

Taking a break from flogging the latest tired media business model, Morgan Stanley published a short report on Friday entitled, “How Teenagers Consume Media” by 15-year-old summer intern Matthew Robson that offers a frank discussion of what young digital media consumers are up to.  The FT has highlighted it on its front page, perhaps as an antidote to wall-to-wall coverage of the annual Sun Valley media moguls conference in recent days.

The most memorable moment in the report is its discussion of the irrelevancy of Twitter to teenagers:

Facebook is popular as one can interact with friends on a wide scale.
On the other hand, teenagers do not use twitter. Most have signed up to the service, but then just leave it as they release that they are not going to update it (mostly because texting twitter uses up credit, and they would rather text friends with that credit). In addition, they realise that no one is viewing their profile, so their ‘tweets’ are pointless.

Many of the issues higlighted in the 4-page report are obvious: Teenagers are consuming more media, but not prepared to pay for it. They resent intrusive advertising, while print media and radio are largely irrelevant to them. These observations may be nothing new to anyone who bothers to ask kids what they are up to.

As with previous generations, the answers aren’t always what adults hope they are doing. But they have sobering implications for complacent media investors.

On newspapers:

No teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper, as most do not have the time and cannot be bothered to read pages and pages of text while they could watch the news summarised on the internet or on TV. The only newspapers that are read are tabloids and freesheets (Metro, London Lite…) mainly because of cost…

On radio:

Most teenagers nowadays are not regular listeners to radio. They may occasionally tune in, but they do not try to listen to a program specifically… With online sites streaming music for free they do not bother, as services such as do this advert free, and users can choose the songs they want instead of listening to what the radio presenter/DJ chooses.

On (yellow pages) directories:

Teenagers never use real directories (hard copy catalogues such as yellow pages). This is because real directories contain listings for builders and florists… (and) because… they can get the information for free on the internet, simply by typing it into Google

On digital devices:

Teeage texting champion wins award in New York City

What is Hot?
•Anything with a touch screen is desirable.
•Mobile phones with large capacities for music.
•Portable devices that can connect to the internet (iPhones)
•Really big tellies

What Is Not?
•Anything with wires
•Phones with black and white screens
•Clunky ‘brick’ phones
•Devices with less than ten-hour battery life

Elsewhere in the Twitter media echo chamber, The New York Times highlights “Web Site Story,” a video by that dramatizes what might happen if the classic 1950s musical West Side Story had taken place in the era of Facebook and Twitter.

Reuters has an analysis of what Twitter cannot teach the media business.

(Credits: Morgan Stanley Research; Photo: Reuters/Eric Thayer)


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Not to cast too much doubt on what seem like fairly sensible musings by the lad, but someone who is doing an intership at Morgan Stanley at 15 may not be an archetypal ‘teen’

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Not sure why this only applies to teens. In reality I (a 52 yr male) agree with most of the report, though I do use twitter for breaking news.

As far as newspapers, all the information I need is on the internet (places like Reuters). I find conventional newspapers to have far more content that is opinion based rather than facts.

BTW, I stopped using paper before the intern was born!

Posted by TomG | Report as abusive

I’ve been 15 for nearly 20 years, and I can say that Matthew is “spot on” about Twitter. As fads go, once they reach the parents, the fad is all but over. Mainstream is where all fads go to die.

Posted by Louise | Report as abusive

So… basically, it’s a report that says, “We’re ignorant and we’re too busy entertaining ourselves to learn anything.”

Well, good luck, kiddies. When you figure out how to write software, plant a field of corn, design and build a car, defend your nation on some battlefield or prevent your government from trading your freedoms away for a bag of shiney beads — by texting — you just might save yourselves from starvation.

Posted by inked | Report as abusive

To Inked, that is one of the most ignorant statements I have ever read. Do you realize that the young people that you denegrate so carelessly are the same people currently defending nations across the world? Soldiers are young, remember; they consume media through the same outlets that other young people do. I, as a college student, know many capable software writers and engineers who may go on to design cars and other important goods. One would think that someone who clearly feels that young people are ignorant and their elders know everything about how media should be consumed would know how to spell “shiny.” Just because media consumption methods change from generation to generation does not mean that today’s youth is any less intelligent than previous generations.

Posted by GG | Report as abusive

I wouldn’t call this 15-year-old intern at MS to be a mainstream teen! Twitter will only go away if they start charging fees to use it. Name any other service where you can directly communicate to famous people, media, politicians, etc. You can’t get their emails, but you can get their twitter name and see if they are regularly updating.

Posted by x | Report as abusive

The only reason twitter has gotten this far is that the big Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists who backed it are caught yet again with another useless piece of software nobody cares about. Better to hype it up, and IPO it than write it off. Like the 15 year old says — anyone who has got a life could care less what what you are doing.

Posted by I M Won | Report as abusive

As soon as I heard of Twitter I knew it was a flash in the pan. Nobody is going to take the time to tweet once the novelty is over, even with a real keyboard. Now I keep hearing that I was right. (Exception: People who stand to make lots of money, etc., by tweeting. But a blog is better.)

While “inked” has good points, I think they’ve applied to every generation (with much individual variation, now as ever, which makes the ageist epithet distasteful), and if young people in fact did tweet a lot it wouldn’t help those concerns. I’ve also seen plenty of garbage in newspapers. And those young people are using search engines to learn things “inked” may never know.

Posted by Laryngitis | Report as abusive

BTW, everyone should take a look at what Reuters is doing on Twitter. Its a perfect use of the technology, real-time headlines.

Take a look at this e/2009/07/01/live-blogging-the-gm-bankru ptcy-hearing/

This is just one of many examples of the usefulness of micro-blogging. There are some obvious commercial models that work around this as well.

The Twitter model is what’s important, not necessarily Twitter itself. Twitter’s value proposition is around the viral adoption of its delivery model.

Ultimately a mix of free and premium content with an appropriate commercial structure will either make or break Twitter as a company.

Posted by TomG | Report as abusive

How could they leave out the 10 ton gorilla, the fact that all now teenagers believe all intellectual property resides in the public domain and should be free and not be purchased including music, film, and software.

Posted by Stickywheelz | Report as abusive

When the last battery dies, civilization is over.

Posted by MJP | Report as abusive

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Twitter is a perfect use of the technology. It cames

Posted by Bomber Wobbler | Report as abusive

This is totally untrue! I’m 18 and noway think like this… Well Ok maybe about the gadgets lol!

But no I love Twitter!
I’m pretty addicted actually! I also love listening to radio programmes (OK not regular/devoted listener) cus it keeps me like connected to the rest of the world!

Sometimes I have a skim through a newspaper too, and read a few articles that are a bit interesting expecially late at night when it is relaxing and quiet!

Lol you are kinda generalizing teens there and I don’t agree.

God Bless

Oh and if any teen (If there “are” any) or anyone else for that matter would like to follow me, please do!


Posted by Liam | Report as abusive