This is a post for the parents out there, but there are probably some kids that will get a kick out of it.
The media world your kids live in is quite different than the one you grew up in – but in many ways, it’s the same. Apologies for stating the obvious here, but let me offer some examples.
The DJ named Marshmello just held a concert (virtually on February 2nd, 2019) from within the uber-popular game Fortnite. Ten million people showed up to dance along and listen to the tunes (Fortnite turned off the ability to use weapons so people wouldn’t shoot each other!). Another 15 million people to date have watched the concert on just one YouTube link. God knows how many other links, memes and original shares are out there on YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and elsewhere.
To put this in historical terms, I’ll compare this to a TV audience for Different Strokes, one of my personal favorites from the 1980’s. The Nielsen rating for that show’s most popular episode was a 20.
Nielsen ratings for a TV show generally translate to 1% of 109 million TV households per ratings point. So, at its peak, Different Strokes reached 20 million households for one episode. That was when the three networks (NBC, CBS and ABC) held most of the TV audience, and there were very few other media options. No Netflix, no HBO, no nothing.
Another comparison: the Super Bowl that just completed reached less than 100 million people (the lowest rated Super Bowl audience since 2009), and nobody is going to watch that horrible game again on some YouTube channel. Well, maybe there are some Patriots fans out there who might buy the commemorative DVD.
The Marshmello experience was a 10 minute concert – just one event on a platform that hosts 125 million active players consistently. The artist erroneously claimed the concert was a first, but that’s not really true. From my own recollections, I know there were gatherings like this on Turntable.fm more than eight years ago. In that platform, you even had avatars to customize. The concept has been in play for quite a while.
What does this mean?
We’ve talked about these changes previously on these pages. A Kim Kardashian Instagram post draws more attention than the combined CBS sitcom lineup for the week. Advertising Marvel movies in Fortnite (via the Thanos skin/feature) is a much better ad value than a Super Bowl ad. YouTubers, not Disney Channel programming, rule the viewing appointment time of our youngsters.
As parents, we need to either keep up or give up. Not knowing how your kids are spending time online is tantamount to not knowing whether they’re down at the 7-11 smoking Swisher Sweets filled with weed.
It’s tough – I get it. There are no longer three networks to police or chaperone. You can’t just park a kid in front of Sesame Street and find comfort. Your fallback position is to understand where they’re spending their time and know how they’re engaging with entertainers and other “concert goers” and gamers in these spaces. You need to know who’s advertising in these games and why. Would you be concerned if ads for Juul e-cigs were in these games? Would you worry if some political messages crept in (it’s real – look up the Lear Foundation and Hollywood Health and Society)?
The games and sites your kids frequent are not boring. The kids are there for a reason. You need to know, however, that all kinds of persuasion and advertising dollars are headed to these platforms, if they’re not there already.
If you want to rest easier and understand what’s going on, keep reading these posts. If you want to engage with your kids on their terms and understand their worlds, you need to find out how they work and impart some media-savvy wisdom to the ones you care about. The best thing a young kid can do – whether she’s an aspiring programmer or a YouTube star wannabe – is to know what media mechanisms drive the platforms, programs and apps.
ASIDE: As advertisers and marketers, we need to keep pace or perish. As you’ve probably read elsewhere, the money is moving away from traditional media. There are incredible advertising opportunities for reaching young consumers in these games, video sites (Twitch), and social media apps.
The game has changed. You’ve been notified. 😊