I just finished reading an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about a recent Pew report on the internet habits of the "millennium" generation. Here is an excerpt (click the link to read the full report):
The results indicate blogging has become so 2006, when 28 percent of the two groups studied, teens 12 to 17 and young adults 18 to 29, actively blogged.
By the fall of 2009, that percentage dropped off to only 14 percent of teens and 15 percent of young adults as blogging "lost its luster for many young users," said Amanda Lenhart, one of the report's authors.
Who blogs? People 30 and over.
The title of the article is called Blogging is for old people, Pew report finds. Besides being annoyed that people over 30 are called "old" (although I guess when you're 15 people over 30 do seem old), I thought this article was interesting. It appears that the older you are, the more you like to analyze and discuss ideas, rather than just blurt out your activities. Blogging is written by people who have time to string more than 140 character thoughts together to create short essays, which are read by people who enjoy thoughts longer than 140 characters. While younger people don't have time for all that introspection. They're in a hurry doing some kind of interesting activity and relating to each other socially in person and on-line.
If the younger generations are too busy to read or write a blog, what, if anything, could this mean for the future of books?
Overall, the millennium kids read fewer books than Gen X or Boomers, and their attention span is shorter than the older generations. It appears that even blogs, which for years have been dismissed as amateurish rambles from people who think their lives are more interesting than they actually are, may be too dense for the under-30 crowd to read. In 10 years, will we all be reading books on our cellphones, delivered to us in micro-paragraphs full of texting shortcuts?
Maybe, but people have been proclaiming the death of books for years, and I don't buy it. Books, and the ways in which a story is delivered to readers, are changing. Interaction and portability is what the next generation wants, and we publishers had better be ready to deliver it.
I think this study impacts marketing and online networking more than books. Every author is told to "get a website and a blog." But if we writers and publishers want to reach a younger audience, we need to think outside the blog box and look more at what tools the next generation are using, which according to the Pew study is Facebook (70%! Only 40% use MySpace). Twitter was thought to be the giant of the marketing world, but it hasn't really caught on with the Millennium kids. Why? What makes Facebook the social networking site of choice?
The future of books rests in the future of technology. I believe there will always be a hunger for novels because people long to escape into a good story, but the way that story is delivered will be transformed by technology. The way that audience is reached will be transformed by technology. And the best way to reach the next generation of readers is to keep your pitch short, social, and interactive.
But this is only my opinion. Read the article, then tell me what you think.