Over the past 10 days, Morgan Stanley, an established global financial services provider with offices across the world, saw a 15 year old teen create a lot of noise while interning at the firm’s London office.
Matthew Robson was tasked with the project of writing a report on how teenagers consume media, the kind of job you give the son of a friend who’s asked for a summer internship. “Isn’t the boy sweet? Make sure the office manager offers him a glass of juice, will you?” Anyone who’s worked in an office has had this kind of intern around, kids with an interest in business who’ll gain more insight than you can ever imagine from a few weeks around.
Usually, however, these students leave as quietly as they arrived, having organised a few filing cabinets and tended to a few menial projects.
In this case, Matthew was given the opportunity to write a report on media consumption, which could have very well fallen on deaf ears, but not only have Morgan Stanley paid attention, the Telegraph published the report in full.
If you spend your life bathing in online media as I do, none of the observations in the report are mindblowing. What is remarkable is that, this time, the CEO’s, directors and people in charge of company direction have listened to Matthew’s report.
It’s a chronic problem with management: The higher up you get, the more out of touch you become with the reality of your users, current and future. You think in “audience”, “viewing figures” and other amorphous blobs of numbers, you forget that you’re dealing with people, intelligent and curious and ever-changing people.
This boy’s report highlights some interesting realities.
- Newspapers: This generation doesn’t want to pay for news. The Sun (20p) will occasionally get picked up but free papers or other means of consumption like the web or TV.
- Directories: A dying medium, the print directory has never been used. Being Google-savvy means the teens can easily find what they want, again for free.
- Viral/Outdoor/Guerrilla advertising: Teens welcome these unusual, exciting campaigns, so while they might shun banner ads and conventional TV ads, they enjoy guerrilla marketing, in-game ads and quirky ads that don’t tell the full story.
- Music: Again, free and digital are preferred. Music that is accessible offline is also preferred, so the streaming model may not be right for them.
- Mobile: Pay as you go, reasonably priced devices are topping this market. iPhones are nowhere to be seen due to cost and likelihood that the teens will lose them before the contract is up.
- Games consoles: Surprisingly in this teen’s research, only a third of the teens had games consoles at home, with 50% owning Nintendo’s Wii console, 40% an XBox and a measly 10% with PS3’s, Sony’s prohibitively expensive console.
- Social networks: Less surprisingly, Facebook is the clear winner in terms of favourite way to spend time online. Twitter doesn’t ring true with these teens, probably due to the time it takes to get to a stage where the service feels gratifying, versus Facebook that excites as soon as a friend or two are added.
For some unknown reason (slow news week?), this report got far beyond the teen’s direct summer manager and was truly acknowledged by City bosses.
While I think many of the observations don’t necessarily reflect the rest of Britain’s teens’ reality, it was a great read: Uninhibited, honest words, without the usual adult filter that causes us to speak in much less absolute terms. I think we should all try to see the world through a 15 year old’s eyes every so often, we’d notice amazing things.