Millennial Footprint

The Millennial Footprint on Media and Entertainment

Millennial Footprint

The millennial generation will continue to leave a lasting footprint on American culture.

Every generation leaves their footprint on media and entertainment, and it looks like the Millennials’ footprint is likely to be a big one.

Last week at the ThinkLA conference in Los Angeles, I gave a Presentation on this topic. Attending were over 600 executives in the media and entertainment business. Among this group, there is a growing sense of unease about where it’s all going. Long standing business models have been disrupted overnight. In a recent research paper conducted by Ipsos for the Social Media Advertising Consortium, it was reported that 30% of Millennials’ media time (5 hours/day) is now spent with User Generated Content (UGC) created by their friends and peers. Our own research at LifeCourse confirms this. In a recent survey we conducted for, we found that  93% of Millennials go to social networking sites on their smart phones. This compares to 85% of GenXers and only 52% of Boomers. Conventional media like broadcast television is under enormous pressure to stem eroding market share from emerging media, and Millennials are leading this shift.

History shapes generations. Generations shape history.

To understand how Millennials  influence these new trends and discern where it is all going, we need to go back in time to the formative years of their childhood, and their coming of age experience– their own history. These early experiences shape their values and beliefs that remain enduring and unique, and can give us a glimpse into the future. Every generation is shaped by their place in history. Aristotle said that history shapes generations, and then generations shape history.

Millennials were raised during a time of increasing parental involvement. We’ve all heard stories of helicopter parents, clearing the way for their child’s success and achievement. Indeed, Millennials were raised to feel special and instilled with an ethic of achievement. Surrounded by a team of parents, teachers, coaches, and tutors, the expectation of individualized attention as well as a trusting support network allowing them to grow and achieve has always been part of the Millennials coming of age story. Role models at an early age encouraged teamwork and cooperation. Do you remember Barney the Dinosaur? I love you, you love me, we’re one big happy family… By contrast, GenXers grew up to learn to fend for themselves– it was a time of declining parental involvement. One of the iconic figures of their coming of age experience was a Muppet who lived in a garbage can– Oscar the Grouch!



In my presentation, I’ve identified four shaping criteria that is now influencing, and will continue to influence the direction of entertainment and media usage:

  • Hyper-Socialization

Millennials are a connected generation, but it is more than the technology that allows them to connect. Millennials are social, and they seem to love everybody. They love their parents, they love their friends, and they love the community where they live. 82% of teenagers in 2005 (now Millennials in their late 20’s) reported “no problem at all with any family member”. This compares to 75% in 1983, and 48% in 1974. We all know that Millennials are the “friend” generation. In our 2014 LifeCourse survey, 55% of Millennials agreed with the statement, “My friends are the most important thing in my life”. This compares to 44% for GenXers and 40% of Boomers. But it is not just about being social and liking friends and family… it is about doing things together. Millennials like to work with others and collaborate in teams. In the world of video gaming, long thought of as a lonely geek activity, 72% of Millennials play video games with their friends or family members.

Perhaps the most telling event in recent media history about Millennials’ propensity for hyper-socialization and doing things together was the recent phenomenon called Twitch Plays Pokémon. Here is how it worked: An anonymous gamer from Australia developed a program on one of the world’s most popular live streaming sites for Millennials called On, gamers input over 112 million commands to vote on how the main character should move. Together, they beat the game in 16 days. Twitch Plays Pokémon is now a regular site feature where users play assorted Pokémon titles together. Furthermore, users have also enhanced the game in ways the creator could not have anticipated, from creating memes in Photoshop to planning Pokémon battle strategies on social media.  In essence, this one game created a thriving community of its own.

  • First Life/Second Life Blend

Unlike Boomer and GenXers, who adapted to today’s technology, Millennials are digital natives. Their orientation is entirely different than older generations. They spend more time in front of a screen (10 hrs per days vs. 8 hrs for Xers and 7 hrs for Boomers), and they are the first generation that feels as much ‘at home’ with their second life on the internet as their first life (their actual real life). IRL is a common acronym going around today– it stands for In Real Life, as opposed to “life” on the internet. The fact that Millennials need to distinguish between the two suggests that there would otherwise be confusion for which is which. This is a remarkable paradigm shift that can’t be overstated. Indeed, in the LifeCourse survey for twitch, 52% of Millennials think that life is like a video game. Millennials quite simply trust technology. It was there with them in their crib, and has always been a dependable partner, so no wonder Millennials gravitate toward this second life of technology.

All of this means that as far as media and entertainment preferences, Millennials are likely to get deeper into interactive media– spend more time and become more engaged on the internet and in their second life, and of course, bringing their friends and family with them.

  • The Maker Movement

Like many new movements in the last few years, this one started with geeks in their basements. The whole maker culture represents learning by doing in a social environment. The maker movement is networked, informal, peer-led, and motivated by fun, learning, and achievement. This is quintessential Millennial! We know that Millennials are highly networked to their peers, and we also know that the notion of achievement is very important to them. Schools have increasingly been focused on achievement standards, and Millennials are on track to becoming the best educated generation in U.S. history. Good performance is a source of pride and social capital for Millennials, and the maker culture encourages both.

The rise in Millennials time spend with User Generated Content (UGC) is up to 30%. This is content that is created by their friends and peers. Earlier this year, Disney purchased Maker Studios for a deal worth about $900 million. Microsoft introduced Project Spark to the gaming community, and program that allows players to create their own characters, plot lines, settings, etc. All of these events point to a Maker Movement and this has “Millennial” written all over it.

As to the implications of Maker Movement on Media and Entertainment, expect more Millennials to be using today’s technology tools to advance their education and the their avocation. I predict that the entertainment industry will reshape the education business in America and throughout the world. After all, entertainers know how to grab your attention and keep you engaged.

  • The Barney Effect

The purple dinosaur that millions of Millennials watched as children encouraged teamwork, cooperation, respect, and fairness. Whether it is support for same sex marriage, or support to reduce the income gap, Millennials’ values of equity, respect and fairness were forged in their early years. Millennials are the first generation since the GI’s (pre-WW II) to value a middle class. 72% of Millennials believe the government should work hard to reduce the income gap between the rich and the poor, according to a 2014 CNN poll.

Along with this fairness and equity ethic comes Millennials’ embrace for brands that have a socially conscious element to it. Millennials scored higher than GenXers of Boomers when agreeing with the two statement “having a positive impact on society is important to me” and “It is important to me companies I buy products from support social causes.”

This notion of equity and fairness extends to expectations Millennials have on their participation in how products and brands are developed. This is often accomplished through crowdsourcing, which is second nature to Millennials. Ben and Jerry’s was one of the first companies to crowdsource flavors. According to the LifeCourse publication Social Intelligence, “Millennials expect brands to listen to their feedback and engage in two-way, interactive conversation with them.” Wasn’t it Barney who originally taught them to participate and share?


The Three Key Words for the Footprint: Participate, Create, and Share

Those that are paying attention to the footprint are finding ways for Millennials to participate, create, and share in their media experience: Participate because Millennials feel that it is important to have their voice heard in the decisions being made, whether it is an ice cream flavor, or privacy policy on Facebook. Create because Millennials are leading the original Maker culture with an active and engaged mindset to learn, build, and achieve. And finally, Share, because Millennials value open transparency and dialogue, and advocate a crowdsourcing mentality. Follow the Participate-Create-Share mantra and watch your audience grow.

-Warren Wright

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