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Teens, Banking, Twitter and Media Madness

14 July 2009

You know Twitter is a Hot Topic when the opinion of one 15-year-old British teen is presented by a U.S. bank as “fact” — and the MSM jumps all over it. Without caveats. Shame on you, Bloomberg, because as a wire service, you helped this story go viral.

Matthew Robson, I believe that the execs at Morgan Stanley used you as PR fodder. (Which succeeded, probably beyond the wildest dreams of their marketing/PR folks.) Enjoy your 15-minutes of fame!

In the “I can’t believe that they really said this” category (it may explain the sorry state of banking in the U.S.), Morgan Stanley execs reveal their total disconnect with reality:

The US bank said the report was “one of the clearest and most thought provoking insights we have seen”, and published it.

Morgan Stanley folks, I point you to Pew Research, Groundswell, Here Comes Everybody, Millennials Rising: The Next Great GenerationGeneration We: How Millennial Youth are Taking Over America And Changing Our World Forever, Millenial Makeover, The New Influencers: A Marketer’s Guide to the New Social Media, anything by Yochai Benkler (@yochaibenkler) or Larry Lessig (@lessig) or Jeremiah Owyang (@joywang). Oh, and I’m pretty sure your corporate library has access to either Gartner or Forrester research. Check it out.

The Guardian (bless them) published the teenager’s “research note” in easy-to-read HTML. (Bloomberg didn’t even link to the Financial Times, which published a pdf of the report.) I ask you – are there any references for the sweeping generalizations in this “thought provoking” report? [Hint: no. A subsequent report asserts intern Matthew Robson queried a few friends via text.]

We can’t really call this “news” because assertions that might have been bolstered with research citations, like this one … “consumers are using more and more media but [many] are unwilling to pay for it …” are, umm, old news.

Although Twitter is the hook (Bloomberg headline: Morgan Stanley Intern Says Teens Don’t Twitter, Prefer Events), there are insights that are reflected in more nuanced research on millennials and validated by my experiences in the higher ed classroom. One of those:

“Teenagers are consuming more media, but in entirely different ways and are almost certainly not prepared to pay for it,” Morgan Stanley analysts Edward Hill-Wood, Patrick Wellington and Julien Rossi said in a note, citing Robson.

Note that the Bloomberg reporter was acting more like a transcriber than reporter (lots of “he said” quotes). The reporter could have spent an hour or so doing some online research and written a report putting the bank’s fluff piece into context.

Then there are inanities like this one:

Every teenager has access to the Internet, be it at school or at home.


Really
? EVERY teenager? I can assure you that there are a lot of teens in Washington who theoretically have internet connection at school, but the schools have blocked YouTube, Facebook, et al. And there is certainly not a computer for every student (even if social networking sites were not blocked).

Serendipity is one of the reasons I participate in the Twitter space. And serendipity got him the two-week internship:

In January Rudolph, a three-year-old whippet, was being walked by Matthew’s
mother in Greenwich Park when he became friendly with the dog of Patrick
Wellington, a senior financial analyst at Morgan Stanley. His mother and Mr
Wellington began chatting about her son’s struggles to get a work experience
placement.

“We had tried many places, mainly in the local area,” said his mother. Matthew
had written to local businesses, solicitors and banks including Lloyds TSB
and all had turned him down.

So he wrote to Morgan Stanley, which offered him a two-week internship and two
weeks ago on Monday he set off for the bank’s offices in Canary Wharf.

The Morgan-Stanley PR effort led to headlines like these (head-shake):

Sidenote: my just-turned-16 year old niece joined Twitter late last month. She is following an eclectic group (including her aunt – and no, I didn’t suggest this!). After she’s been on Twitter a while, I’ll ask her for an assessment.

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