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Morgan Stanley enlists a 15 year old intern to report on young people’s media habits

Posted by Hamish Grant on 6th August 2009

The national press and online media were awash with stories this month that Morgan Stanley had published a report written by a 15 year old intern. The subject: teenage media consumption habits

The theme of the note was that traditional media are of little interest to teenagers and that Twitter is not a social network that they engage with. Neither of these points came as much of a surprise if you follow social media trends. What was revealing, was that an internationally renowned investment bank was turning to a teenager for insights into the youth audience.

The teenager in question may not be truly representative of your average 15 year old but the process of getting your audience to tell you what they think is of enormous value. Rather than commissioning a disinterested party to write the piece (the alternative being a 30 something Oxbridge graduate with an MBA and little true insight into the daily life of a spotty youth), they went directly to the source. This approach is equally applicable for delving into just about any other audience.

Research projects with large sample sizes and sophisticated modelling techniques are an invaluable tool for establishing high level trends, yet can conceal as much of the valuable nuance as they reveal. Having a technique that provides you with the “colour supplement” can often complement and enhance the research process, and deliver a compelling insight or actionable data.

By way of example, there was an interesting insight delivered through the research note.  “Teenagers do not use Twitter,” he wrote. “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).”  The fact that they don’t use Twitter is well established. The reason why is harder to establish.

This opens up a whole range of interesting thoughts and opportunities – both in terms of what other things teens are not doing with their phones because it chews up credits, as well as what their level of price elasticity is across a whole range of potential offers

Interestingly, one of the things that the ‘youth’ value less than the rest of the population is their personal data, which they are prepared to trade in exchange for free services.  What are the implications for database building, and through that, relationships with the mass of consumers of the future?

We would encourage businesses to consider what value can be obtained from getting a client or customer to keep a diary, or write a piece on how they are consuming media and why. You may be surprised by what you find out.

picture credit

Hamish Grant