The two secrets millennials don’t want you to know

Senior Content Marketing Manager, Communications Sector, IBM Analytics

I recently attended the OTTtv World Summit in London where I spoke on a panel entitled “Monetizing the Millennials.” The panel was hosted by Canon Street and had panelists from Norwegian Broadcasting Corp., AMC Networks, Elemental Technologies, Hotwolf and IBM.

Our goal was to examine ways of adapting business models to connect with this “new kind of audience.” To do so, we needed to clearly define what a millennial is. We started off with the common definitions of birth years from the 1980s to the early 2000s. We also defined a millenial as a person who reached adulthood by 2000.

The fact is that both definitions are correct, if not overlapping.

That led to me wonder: Do we want to define millennials by age or by attention span? Millennials of any age range tend to have a very short time in which they remain focused on one single thing, regardless of the type of media content they are consuming. This is not a bad thing, as some people claim, or something that requires a long-winded medical diagnosis. Instead, this is an opportunity for us to change the way we engage our viewers and add value to an audience that is multi-focused and multifaceted at all times.

Consider this: when my father was a boy, he would sit around the radio with his family and listen to various shows. This sounds both ancient and dull. When I was a kid, I used to sit around the old cathode ray tube TV in my parent’s basement (it was connected to an antenna on the roof) and watch Saturday morning cartoons. Every once in a while I might fire up the ColecoVision or the Atari 2600 but, for the most part, when the shows were on, they were watched without interruption.

Now I have two boys of my own. And when they watch TV, it’s a whole new ballgame. They’re using their tablets, they’re playing with smartphones, and they’re switching back and forth between linear TV, on-demand content, over-the-top (OTT), video games and more. It’s an entirely different way of consuming content. And that’s cool, right? For millennials it certainly is. But for media and entertainment (M&E) companies, it is a massive challenge.

But there are two secrets millennials don’t want you to know

  1. They are growing up: As they age, their tastes in media change just like the rest of us. So once again, we see that relevance is key. It’s the currency they are most familiar with. Why? Because millennials expect you to know them as much if not more than they know themselves. They expect—no, they demand—M&E companies of all shapes and sizes to provide a highly relevant, personalized experience that caters to all the devices they have on hand at any given time. This is a big data and analytics challenge.
  2. They know their data has value: They’re not going to just give it away forever. Millennials are quickly coming to the point where they’re either going to want to share in the revenue generated by their personal data, or they’re going to want to participate in how it works and determine who gets their hands on it (which reminds me of this article on digital profile transfer). Consider the rise of ad blockers, for example. It’s not as if they don’t like receiving relevant ads—they just don’t like irrelevant interruptions and bad UI experiences when they’re surfing the Internet. Millennials expect to receive a much better experience in exchange for their data (whether it’s social, device, application, click stream, gaming or STB)—which is a greater big data and analytics challenge.

For millennials, a simple content recommendation or poor-quality retargeting scheme isn’t acceptable and it won’t be easily forgiven. They want a wider, deeper, more personalized experience. Think all-inclusive resorts with a personal suite staff versus one single bartender who knows what you like to drink but can’t remember your name. What used to be tolerated is now just not good enough. They know you’re watching them watching you, so millennials have much higher expectations than previous generations.

Because millennials are constantly connected, they want everything and they want it when and where they are at any given time. They also want it on their terms, on their devices, and they want to tell the world all about it.

So the only question is: What do you want them to say about your content?

To see how IBM provides market leading analytics capabilities to ensure a sustainable consumer experience is at the heart of this rapidly changing environment, visit the solution pages.