Teenagers and cold hard cash

This is a great article on teenagers (relief all round they’re not referred to as millennials) and their relationship with social media, in particular Tumblr.

Quite aside from the amusing “Yahoo bought it and everything began to go downhill” moment, the most interesting thing about this began to occur to me about half-way through the article.

This wasn’t about technology at all.

This was about money.

And from that angle, this was exactly like teenagers that grew up in the 80s or 90s. Or whenever really.

People who are not digitally-native tend to view technology as something interesting, something fascinating. We had to learn about it, adjust to it. We were old enough when the internet arrived that we noticed how it changed our lives, so technology remains the fascination.

What’s remarkable about this piece is that the teenagers aren’t fascinated by Tumblr, nor any of the technology. It’s just a means to an end, the most suitable platform for what they’re trying to do.

Teenagers – at least the teenagers featured in this article – are fascinated by money. The prospect of earning it, of spending it, of earning more of it. Tumblr, YouTube, Facebook – they’re just delivery mechanisms. The article opens by talking about Teenagers’ skills at content creation, but rapidly strays away from even this. Pizza might be a damn witty teen, but they’re little evidence given in the article. But that’s because this isn’t about content, in the same way it’s not about technology. It’s about money.

It reminds me of a kid from school who’s dad had a wholesalers card and could buy penny sweets at a discounted rate. That kid then managed to undercut the school tuckshop, making a tidy profit until he was banned from doing it by the headmaster. Ok, so he was 11 and his tidy profit probably never amounted to more than £50. But at the time we all thought that was a fortune.

Every school had an entrepreneur or two, whatever they were selling. A friend of mine used to draw band logos on canvas bags. He didn’t care what the band logo was, it wasn’t about music. It was about cash.

And this is the same. This is entrepreneurial, in exactly the same way. Some people want to earn money and are good at working out ways of doing that.

It illustrates one of the dangers of modern day marketing. This assumption that modern teens are just – dammit – TOTALLY DIFFERENT NOW. They’re millennials. HOW CAN WE UNDERSTAND THEM? If you spend just a moment looking under the hood, just a moment thinking about it, you can see they’re really no different at all. Human motivation is still human motivation. That’s still what we’re building, designing and creating for.

So, I don’t feel this is a story about how different teens are. I feel like this is a story about how exactly the same we all still are. Which at the end of the day is quite a nice thing.

(As an aside, I do love how they game Adwords over and over again. It’s just so easy for people who grew up with this stuff to intrinsically understand how to take advantage of loop holes the rest of us either don’t see or are socially conditioned not to abuse. Possibly worth a longer post!)