The Dec. 12th issue of BusinessWeek has a really interesting cover story on the MySpace Generation. MySpace.com is a networking site geared toward young people aged 12 to 24. It's an absolute phenomenon. It's ironic that I was having a conversation with a co-worker last week at our monthly Happy Hour about MySpace, which is a site he had never heard of despite having kids in this age range. Most parents I've spoken to have never heard of the site, but the number of users registered at MySpace has quadrupled from January to October and is now at 40 million members. Keep in mind this has spread entirely by word of mouth from one teenager to another. According to this article, "Youngsters log on so obsessively that MySpace is ranked No. 15 on the entire U.S. Internet in terms of page hits in October . . ." Here are some other interesting numbers from this article: The estimated teen consumer spending market - $175 billion; estimated college student consumer spending market - $200 billion; the percentage of high school seniors with a credit card - 33%.
My own teenagers introduced me to MySpace earlier this year when they all created profiles on the site and wanted to show me the pages for some of their friends. A footnote here: my kids actually share a lot of things with me in an effort to keep me clued in. I'm not sure why, but I'm greatly flattered that they think I am so teachable. I listen intently to music they play for me (some of which I can't understand at all), I watch movie trailers and downloads they are excited about, visit websites they think are cool and generally listen to them explain life as they experience it.
So when I saw an article in July about Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. purchasing Intermix Media, the parent of MySpace, for $580 million, I had an idea that this demographic and this particular medium to reach them was significant from a business perspective. The article really delves in to the psyche, lifestyles and communities these young people inhabit. It also explores how companies like Coca-Cola and Apple have found effective ways of tapping into these complex networks. How this age group communicates greatly affects the flow of information, the speed at which it travels, and the influence of "group think" on how and what is being purchased.
If you visit the MySpace website (I encourage you to do so) and type in the real name of your own kids, nieces or nephews, or neighbors kids, you will see profiles come up which have only a first name or a "display name." My own kids all have fictitious "display names" but a search of their real names pulls up their profile. I have searched out their cousins all over the country and have easily found some of them. Even though there might be 3 pages of "Beths" I can tell which one is the cousin by the fact they identify the city and states where they all live and their age. Almost all these profiles also contain photos, many of which are not in very good taste, but this is the nitty gritty reality of the world they inhabit. Intimate information they would never tell their parents (do you smoke, drink, use pot, lost your virginity?) they post in cyberspace! Their friends post messages for them that are in the public domain. Some of these friends are offline friends as well, but others are people they meet online but have never met in person.
How this age group processes information greatly affects what influences their purchasing decisions. Companies need to understand how to reach them at this age if we want to be positioned as the go-to source for purchases of cars, homes, insurance, furniture, electronics, entertainment, clothing and cosmetics. While new technologies and the fickle whims of the 12 to 24 year old age group will change rapidly, it's a demographic worth keeping up with if you want to tap this multi-billion dollar market. Rupert Murdoch decided it was worth $580 million dollars to his enterprises and it's probably a worthwhile investment.