Boys Like Notebooks, Girls Like Phones, Everyone’s Mobile

16 Apr

Last summer, just after my 40th birthday, I took a road trip from Minneapolis to a comic Chicago convention in an old Subaru with three recent art school grads.  I’d steeled myself to 8 hours of feeling completely out of touch listening to people 20-years younger riff on a pop culture that I hadn’t been seriously in tune with in a good seven years, if not more.  I mean, these kids were weaned on 100+ cable channels and infinite online entertainment, where when I was a kid, we had a remote that hooked up to the VCR by a cord. 

What struck me though, was how completely in tune they were to commercial TV and radio from 70s and 80s.  I didn’t see a single text message sent and the only thing that made me feel really old was the couple in the back seat playing Nintendo games against each other on wireless handhelds. 

So maybe youth isn’t such a foreign country, but kudos to the fine folks with my old agency’s  Next Great Thing team to offer insight into youth and youth culture — and particularly how mobile technology has become integral to their social lives.  Their global panel of “young adults” between 14 and 29 in Europe, Asia and North America came up with some interesting nuggets:

  • “68% of survey respondents say that their mobile device is their most essential personal device (followed by Laptop/PC at 40%).”
  • “But 65% of females picked their mobile as top device compared to 45% of males, who would rather reach of their laptop or PC.” 
  • “On average, respondents interact digitally for 2.9 hours per day, but it strongly varies by region.”
  • “While respondents in the US spend 2.2 hours, Malaysians spend 4.5 hours a day online and only 3 hours on real-life interactions.”

What does it all mean? It certainly gives credence to the idea that mobile marketing is indeed the “next great thing”.  More good stuff from the NGT team in their new youth trend report, here.

At the same time, I always have trouble reconciling research with my real-life interactions with 20-somethings.  When I was in the office with lots of them, they’d say thing like, “yeah, I text a little, but mostly I just use the phone and email.” Back in my own 20s and 30s, I was the office internet expert and expected that the next generation of PR people would just know this stuff cold — they’d get how the web worked, be involved in multiple social networks…and more.  But most just had Facebook sites that weren’t so interesting now that they were working full time.

My lesson:  keep an eye on this stuff, but don’t get too caught up in the hype.  There is the “highly mobile, super engaged, network savvy youth market”, and then there are just plain youth … and there’s something to be said for recognizing the reality that lies somewhere in the middle. 

One Response to “Boys Like Notebooks, Girls Like Phones, Everyone’s Mobile”

  1. Hiloa April 16, 2008 at 11:31 pm #

    Mobile advertising is a good gage to watch for the health of mobile social networks. Right now there a lot of mobile social networks trying to prove their business model based on ad sales. Crush or flush has added a new revenue model for mobile social networks that looks very promising. See the article posted at

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