How Teenagers Use and Consume Different Media Channels

Here is a research note written by 15 year old Matthew Robbson while he was interning at Morgan Stanley. What's interesting is his thoughts on newspapers, pc gaming, and the internet. For the internet, he says that kids basically use social networking and search. Everything else? Not so much.

If you're in a business that targets this fickle market, it's worth a read.



Most teenagers nowadays are not regular listeners to
radio. They may occasionally tune in, but they do not try to listen to
a program specifically. The main reason teenagers listen to the radio
is for music, but now with online sites streaming music for free they
do not bother, as services such as do this advert free, and
users can choose the songs they want instead of listening to what the
radio presenter/DJ chooses.


teenagers watch television, but usually there are points in the year
where they watch more than average. This is due to programs coming on
in seasons, so they will watch a particular show at a certain time for
a number of weeks (as long as it lasts) but then they may watch no
television for weeks after the program has ended.

boys (generally) watch more TV when it is the football season, often
watching two games and related shows a week (totalling about 5 hours of
viewing). A portion of teenagers watches programs that are regular
(such as soap operas) at least five times a week for half an hour or so
but this portion is shrinking, as it is hard to find the time each day.

are also watching less television because of services such as BBC
iPlayer, which allows them to watch shows when they want. Whilst
watching TV, adverts come on quite regularly (18 minutes of every hour)
and teenagers do not want to watch these, so they switch to another
channel, or do something else whilst the adverts run.

majority of teenagers I speak to have Virgin Media as their provider,
citing lower costs but similar content of Sky. A fraction of teenagers
have Freeview but these people are light users of TV (they watch about
1 ½ hours per week) so they do not require the hundreds of channels
that other providers offer.


teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper, as most do not
have the time and cannot be bothered to read pages and pages of text
while they could watch the news summarised on the internet or on TV.

only newspapers that are read are tabloids and freesheets (Metro,
London Lite…) mainly because of cost; teenagers are very reluctant to
pay for a newspaper (hence the popularity of freesheets such as the
Metro). Over the last few weeks, the Sun has decreased in cost to 20p,
so I have seen more and more copies read by teenagers. Another reason
why mainly tabloids are read is that their compact size allows them to
be read easily, on a bus or train. This is especially true for The
Metro, as it is distributed on buses and trains.


the stereotypical view of gamers is teenage boys, the emergence of the
Wii onto the market has created a plethora of girl gamers and younger
(6+) gamers. The most common console is the Wii, then the Xbox 360
followed by the PS3. Most teenagers with a games console tend to game
not in short bursts, but in long stints (upwards of an hour).

consoles are now able to connect to the internet, voice chat is
possible between users, which has had an impact on phone usage; one can
speak for free over the console and so a teenager would be unwilling to
pay to use a phone.

PC gaming has little or no place in
the teenage market. This may be because usually games are released
across all platforms, and whilst one can be sure a game will play on a
console PC games require expensive set ups to ensure a game will play
smoothly. In addition, PC games are relatively easy to pirate and
download for free, so many teenagers would do this rather than buy a
game. In contrast, it is near impossible to obtain a console game for


Every teenager has some access to the internet, be it at school or home. Home use is mainly used for fun (such as social

whilst school (or library) use is for work. Most teenagers are heavily
active on a combination of social networking sites. Facebook is the
most common, with nearly everyone with an internet connection
registered and visiting >4 times a week. Facebook is popular as one
can interact with friends on a wide scale. On the other hand, teenagers
do not use twitter. Most have signed up to the service, but then just
leave it as they realise that they are not going to update it (mostly
because texting twitter uses up credit, and they would rather text
friends with that credit). In addition, they realise that no one is
viewing their profile, so their 'tweets' are pointless.

of social networking, the internet is used primarily as a source of
information for a variety of topics. For searching the web, Google is
the dominant figure, simply because it is well known and easy to use.
Some teenagers make purchases on the internet (on sites like eBay) but
this is only used by a small percentage, as a credit card is required
and most teenagers do not have credit cards. Many teenagers use YouTube
to watch videos (usually anime which cannot be watched anywhere else)
and some use it as a music player by having a video with the music they
want to listen to playing in the background.


never use real directories (hard copy catalogues such as yellow pages).
This is because real directories contain listings for builders and
florists, which are services that teenagers do not require. They also
do not use services such as 118 118 because it is quite expensive and
they can get the information for free on the internet, simply by typing
it into Google.

Viral/Outdoor Marketing

teenagers enjoy and support viral marketing, as often it creates
humorous and interesting content. Teenagers see adverts on websites
(pop ups, banner ads) as extremely annoying and pointless, as they have
never paid any attention to them and they are portrayed in such a
negative light that no one follows them.

Outdoor advertising
usually does not trigger a reaction in teenagers, but sometimes they
will oppose it (the Benetton baby adverts). Most teenagers ignore
conventional outside advertising (billboards etc) because they have
seen outside adverts since they first stepped outside and usually it is
not targeted at them (unless it's for a film). However, campaigns such
as the GTA: IV characters painted on the side of buildings generate
interest because they are different and cause people to stop and think
about the advert, maybe leading to further research.


listen to a lot of music, mostly whilst doing something else (like
travelling or using a computer). This makes it hard to get an idea of
the proportion of their time that is spent listening to music.

are very reluctant to pay for it (most never having bought a CD) and a
large majority (8/10) downloading it illegally from file sharing sites.
Legal ways to get free music that teenagers use are to listen to the
radio, watch music TV channels (not very popular, as these usually play
music at certain times, which is not always when teenagers are
watching) and use music streaming websites (as I mentioned previously).

all teenagers like to have a 'hard copy' of the song (a file of the
song that they can keep on their computer and use at will) so that they
can transfer it to portable music players and share it with friends.

teenagers play their music while on the go varies, and usually
dependent on wealth –with teenagers from higher income families using
iPods and those from lower income families using mobile phones. Some
teenagers use both to listen to music, and there are always exceptions
to the rule.

A number of people use the music service
iTunes (usually in conjunction with iPods) to acquire their music
(legally) but again this is unpopular with many teenagers because of
the 'high price' (79p per song). Some teenagers use a combination of
sources to obtain music, because sometimes the sound quality is better
on streaming sites but they cannot use these sites whilst offline, so
they would download a song then listen to it on music streaming sites
(separate from the file).


visit the cinema quite often, regardless of what is on. Usually they
will target a film first, and set out to see that, but sometimes they
will just go and choose when they get there. This is because going to
the cinema is not usually about the film, but the experience –and
getting together with friends. Teenagers visit the cinema more often
when they are in the lower end of teendom (13 and 14) but as they
approach 15 they go to the cinema a lot less. This is due to the
pricing; at 15 they have to pay the adult price, which is often double
the child price. Also, it is possible to buy a pirated DVD of the film
at the time of release, and these cost much less than a cinema ticket
so teenagers often choose this instead of going to the cinema. Some
teenagers choose to download the films off the internet, but this is
not favourable as the films are usually bad quality, have to be watched
on a small computer screen and there is a chance that they will be
malicious files and install a virus.


Mobile Phones

of teenagers have a mobile phone and most are quite capable phones. The
general view is that Sony Ericsson phones are superior, due to their
long list of features, built in walkman capability and value (£100 will
buy a mid-high range model). Teenagers due to the risk of it getting
lost do not own mobile phones over the £200 mark. As a rule, teenagers
have phones on pay as you go. This is because they cannot afford the
monthly payments, and cannot commit to an 18-month contract. Usually,
teenagers only use their phone for texting, calling.

Features such as
video messaging or video calling are not used –because they are
expensive, (you can get four regular texts for the price of one video
message). Services such as instant messaging are used, but not by
everyone. It usually depends whether the phone is Wi-Fi compatible,
because otherwise it is very expensive to get internet off the phone
network. As most teenagers' phones have Bluetooth support, and
Bluetooth is free, they utilise this feature often. It is used to send
songs and videos (even though it is illegal) and is another way
teenagers gain songs for free. Teenagers never use the ringtone and
picture selling services, which gained popularity in the early 00s.
This is because of the negative press that these services have
attracted (where the charge £20 a week with no easy way to cancel the
service) and the fact that they can get pictures and music on a
computer –then transfer it to their phones at no cost. Mobile email is
not used as teenagers have no need; they do not need to be connected to
their inbox all the time as they don't receive important emails.
Teenagers do not use the internet features on their mobiles as it costs
too much, and generally, if they waited an hour they could use their
home internet and they are willing to wait as they don't usually have
anything urgent to do.

Teenagers do not upgrade their
phone very often, with most upgrading every two years. They usually
upgrade on their birthday when their parents will buy them a new phone,
as they do not normally have enough money to do it themselves.


teenagers own a TV, with more and more upgrading to HD ready flat
screens. However, many are not utilising this HD functionality, as HD
channels are expensive extras which many families cannot justify the
added expenditure. Many of them don't want to sign up to HD
broadcasting services, as adverts are shown on standard definition
broadcasts, so they can't see the difference. Most people have Virgin
Media as a TV provider. Some have Sky and some have Freeview but very
few only have the first five channels (BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel
Four and Channel Five).


teenager has access to a basic computer with internet, but most
teenagers computers are systems capable of only everyday tasks. Nearly
all teenagers' computers have Microsoft office installed, as it allows
them to do school work at home. Most (9/10) computers owned by
teenagers are PCs, because they are much cheaper than Macs and school
computers run Windows, so if a Mac is used at home compatibility issues

Games Consoles

Close to a third of
teenagers have a new (<2 ½ years old) games console, 50% having a
Wii, 40% with an Xbox 360 and 10% with a PS3. The PS3 has such a low
figure because of its high price (£300) and similar features and games
to an Xbox 360, which costs less (£160). The Wii's dominance is due to
younger brothers and sisters, they have a Wii and parents are not
willing to pay for another console.

What is hot?

• Anything with a touch screen is desirable.

• Mobile phones with large capacities for music.

• Portable devices that can connect to the internet (iPhones)

• Really big tellies

What is not?

• Anything with wires

• Phones with black and white screens

• Clunky 'brick' phones

• Devices with less than ten-hour battery life

Full article at

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