The buzz this morning in the Twitterverse is all about a report from a 15 year old Morgan Stanley intern in London about how teenagers consume media (you can read the Guardian’s report on it here). One of the big conclusions the author, Matthew Robson makes is that teenagers don’t use Twitter because of the cost associated with sending text messages.
Of course, many readers are challenging the assumptions this boy has made – pointing out that this is just one kid’s opinion, with no research or substantial evidence to back up his anecdotal findings. I would add that this is also very region specific. Mobile phone charges are higher in England thaqn many other countries (in fact the prevalence of charging for local phone calls on landlines held back Internet penetration in the UK for quite a few years). It also presumes no access to unlimited text messaging plans like the data plans that are common in the States. And it presumes that users would only Tweet from their mobile devices rather than a laptop or desktop.
All that being said, it’s not surprising that Twitter is not seen as popular among teens. As retweeting becomes an ever increasing trend, it’s clear that Twitter is embracing it’s microblogging nature and evolving in to a more focussed information sharing network. That means that it will be used less and less for the status updates on user’s current activities (the kind of content that probably most interest teenagers) and more for business, hobbies, and other more adult pursuits. Kids don’t care. They’ve still got Facebook with all it’s various social applications (superpokes rule among younger users) and photo and video sharing capabilities. They’ll get around to Twitter when they are sitting staring at a computer 8 hours a day, like the rest of us.
In the meantime, I think a lot of commenters are missing the main point of Matthew’s report. The next generation of users are almost allergic to advertising. He constantly mentions that kids are abandoning traditional ad driven media modelsw like radio, television and newspapers for less cluttered and content driven experiences like online video, games and streaming music. His generation doesn’t miss the advertising messages any more than they miss CD packaging for their music. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until someone starts calling these kids the “Anderson Generation” (after Chris Anderson and his new book, FREE). It’s clear that Robson, at least, is happy to consume content but has no interest whatsoever in paying for it.
So the big question remains the same. it’s not really about whether Twitter can make money. It’s about what the new business model is for media. That’s what people need to be focused on. Not the delivery systems for that media.