John McCann

Teens participating

In Content business, Content workers on August 1, 2006 at 7:34 pm

Judy McGrath, chairman and CEO of MTV Networks, gave a keynote address at the 2006 CTAM Summit, which was a conference of cable and media folks. Lostremote provided a synopsis of her remarks. The aspect that interests me the most is her remark about the role that teens are playing in MTV’s media efforts:

  • MTV research shows that 57% teens create content for web; spend 3 hours on the web every day; and 9 out of 10 use the web for homework.
  • “Our audience wants to participate and wants to leave their mark on the media landscape.”
  • These teens are content workers. Even though they work for free, they are still content workers. They are in the content business in the sense that they are creating content. Firms such as MTV provide the tools and the context for their creation. Just a couple of years ago, such content did not have a suitable distribution channel. Today, sites such as YouTube provide the conduit, one that is getting filled with content. The result: serving 100 million videos a day.

    This is just one more piece of evidence that the Participation Age is in full bloom.

    1. Wow, I had no idea that so many teens in the U.S. are “creating content” on the web. That is definitely not the case in Japan, where I’d say a majority of teens don’t go online more than a couple times a week — if at all!

    2. Startling comment from RisingSunofNihon …. I wonder if there are any statistics on participation by country.


    3. though Nota Bene the one percent rule – “It’s an emerging rule of thumb that suggests that if you get a group of 100 people online then one will create content, 10 will “interact” with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it.” (,,1823959,00.html). This means that ‘participation’ doesn’t really mean that everyone participates – only a small minority (0.5 %). The rest primarily consumes. Therefore I wouldn’t go as far as to call our age the ‘particpation age’. Instead I’d follow Jenkins’ ideas of convergence culture (Bolter and Grusin’s idea of Remediation).

    4. The Guardian article is quite interesting and seems to confirm the 80/20 rule that has been around for a long time. As I was reading it, I thought of MySpace and Friendster. If the rule applied to Friendster, then we would only see a small fraction of the college student population creating profiles. That does not seem to be the situation, at least in the U.S. So I think there are some sites where the 80/20 rule might not apply.

      MTV’s research certainly indicates a higher level of participation: 57% teens create content for the web. How do we explain the difference between the Guardian data and MTV’s? I think it might be in the unit of analysis. Guardian looks at websites, where they find that many more people use the site than contribute to it. MTV looks at people and find that most of them create content. One difference: a website is visited by people of all ages, and MTV is only measuring teens. Another factor: people create content in different media for different sites. Just today, I have made 5 contributions, but I have visited dozens of websites. In lenia’s terms, I consume more than I participate (thus my data supports the Guardian argument). But I do create content, and thus I participate.

      And the Participation Age is not just about the Internet or media. I just saw the book “Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East” that tells how 3 billion people in Asia are now able to participate in the economy in ways that were unheard of a few decades ago.

      Finally, I like the phrase Participation Age because I think it provides a good lense that we can use to see what is going on. But I doubt that it is a phrase that will endure and become widely used, like the Middle Age or Modern Age. I also like the notion of convergence culture becuase it, too, provides a way to view some aspects of our world.

    5. […] I invite you to read the comment secton of my recent post about teen use of the Internet. I really enjoyed the exchange with the commenters and I encourage all of my readers to comment so we can have a conversation. […]

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