Ypulse Mashup 2010
Although my main focus these days is on the worlds of radio and music, I've always had a strong affinity for teen culture. I did my college thesis on adolescent diaries, worked at an ad agency tracking youth trends on accounts like Levi's, spent most of grad school writing about youth-oriented TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Real World, and Parker Lewis Can't Lose, and even worked for a dot com that helped teenagers to shop online without a credit card.
When I ran across Ypulse back in 2004 I thought that I had found a youth culture soul mate in its author, Anastasia Goodstein. She'd spent many years writing about young people and devoted her blog to chronicling the goings on in youth media and technology.
For the past three years Ypulse has hosted Mashup events, in which youth enthusiasts come together to learn about the latest in youth technology and media. These events draw marketers from both non-profit and for-profit companies, educators, journalists, and youth experts.
This year's event took place on May 24th and May 25th in San Francisco at the Hotel Nikko. As I did last year, I will focus my Spinning Indie coverage on the music and radio-related tidbits that I gleaned.
Youth, Health & Social Media Marketing Session: Radio is Still Relevant, But Mobile is Huge
A really cool theme throughout the entire conference was the importance of social causes and giving back. The first session that I attended featured several panelists talking about how their organizations reach out to youth in order to address various health-related issues.
Tina Hoff from the Kaiser Family Foundation shared some factoids (PDF) from their 2010 study, "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds." It's an awesome study that reveals how much the media landscape has changed in the past decade. In terms of music and audio, she pointed out that according to their study, 76% of youth own an iPod/mp3 player, 66% own cell phones, and 29% own laptops.
Young people spend more than 2 and a half hours each day listening to music/audio, with 23% of that listening time through radio and 23% through computers. Twenty-nine percent of the time young people are choosing to listen to music through an iPod, 12% of the time listening is through a cell phone, and 12% of listening is via CDs. She also mentioned that in a typical day, young people are spending 17 minutes listening to music via their cell phone. Although her presentation just scratched the surface of the study, earlier this year I took a close look at the report and pulled out all of the radio and music-themed findings.
Trina DasGupta shared the case study "Mobile Matters: Youth Empowerment and HIV Prevention in South Africa" (PDF). She spoke about the project loveLife and how it's working to educate youth in South Africa about HIV prevention. And, interestingly, loveLife is making a significant use of both traditional radio and mobile to reach young people. In South Africa, the Internet is not the best way to communicate information, with only 10% of the country having Internet access.
Radio is still a significant form of communication and loveLife not only utilizes public service announcements, but also airs weekly programs on 11 stations and has an entire program called "Radio Ys" in which young people are getting trained in radio production and are hosting radio shows related to HIV Prevention. At the same time, loveLife has created a mobile social network since 75% of South African youth own mobile phones. It's a fascinating approach, using both new and traditional media.
MTV also shared some of the projects (PDF) that they are doing in order to advance social causes. Jason Rzebka talked about their latest project, A Thin Line, in which they are helping to raise awareness of digital abuse, as well as "It's Your (Sex) Life's" GYT (Get Yourself Tested) campaign and mtvU's attempt to address mental health issues (and erase the stigma of mental illness) on campus with "Half of Us."
In each campaign they've provided opportunities for MTV viewers to create content, submit stories, or write lyrics in response to various questions or challenges. One of the latest projects is an app called "Over the Line," which Jason described as a "digital morality meter." Through the app, people can submit and rate stories related to digital abuse, judging whether certain behaviors are over the line or not (for example, demanding access to a boyfriend's emails or texts). The day of the conference, MTV also launched a "A THIN LINE's Digital Bill of Rights", inviting youth to craft their own rules about how they want to be treated online (or via mobile devices), from protecting one's privacy to being safe from bullying.
As is always the case with MTV, social causes are incorporated within their programming, from "The Real World" to "16 and Pregnant" and music and musicians are often the message-bearers. (By the way, later in the day Jason also did a separate presentation (PDF) focused exclusively on the "A Thin Line" campaign).
Action Sports and Music: Vans Warped Tour as Rite of Passage
Next I dashed into a session about action sports because there was a presentation about the Vans Warped Tour, dealing with the intersections between music and sports. Kathleen Gasperini from Label Networks talked about how influential music and musicians are to young people. She said that the Vans Warped Tour (coming up in a few weeks) has become a "quintessential rite of passage for North American youth culture" and that music helps to forge connections between kids across both gender and ethnicity. She also talked a bit about music subcultures, from NuRave and Synth Punk to Metal. My favorite quote of the day came from her, when she said that metal never really went away, "it just went to Europe for awhile."
Radio, Music and Global Youth
I missed the session about Global Youth, but Ypulse has kindly posted many of the presentations on their website. One thing that caught my eye in the presentation about youth culture in China, was a slide on the "vintage trend" featuring a picture of a young person holding a boombox and sitting next to a dial telephone. I wonder what that means for terrestrial radio?
Ypulse's Dan Coates shared some figures about U.S. youth from Ypulse's research division. According to Dan, 17 to 26-year-old non-college students listen to radio (overall) an average of 7 hours a week compared with 4 hours a week for college students in the same age group. Non-college students listen to traditional radio an average of 5.1 hours a week (vs. 2.6 hours for college students), listen to online radio 1.3 hours a week (vs. 1.1 hours for college students), and listen to satellite radio 1 hour a week (vs. 0.45 hours for college students).
Archeological Dig of Student Backpacks: Condoms, Tampons, and Flash Drives
I love it when researchers do projects in which they delve into the lives of people in real-world settings. It's just WAY more interesting to talk to teenagers in their bedrooms, on shopping trips, or at their schools than to chat with them inside a sterile focus group facility. For the next presentation, Dan Coates presented findings from an audit of the contents of the backpacks (PDF) of more than one thousand high school and college students in the United States. He pointed out that for young people, a backpack is a "library, a workplace, a financial center, a medicine cabinet, a cosmetic counter, a communications hub, a safe deposit box, and a stash."
It was fascinating to hear about the range of items found in backpacks, from underwear to a "beat up apple," a "marginal banana," and a crucifix/knife. As you might guess, young people carry a lot of technology in their backpacks, including items to facilitate listening to music, such as MP3 players (57% of girls, 52% of boys) and headphones (42% girls, 41% boys).
Genevieve Bell at the Ypulse Mashup
Genevieve Bell's Keynote Presentation: An Anthropologist's Take on Product Innovation
In the afternoon we heard a keynote presentation from anthropologist Genevieve Bell. As the Director of the User Experience Group at Intel's Digital Home Group, she is fixated on "consumer-centric product innovation" and global research. I was very interested in her comments about "stubborn devices" like television, as many future tech-oriented folks seem to discount their ongoing relevance. She said that home TV viewing in the United States has actually gone up in the past 10 years to 4 to 6 hours a day on average, even though that viewing may be in the background while using other devices like laptops. She added that the fastest growing group of TV watchers is young people (aka millenials), with their viewing increasing by 18% in the past 6 years. [I'm super curious to know what Genevieve would say about radio, as it seems to be another stubborn device, being used by most, despite popular perceptions to the contrary]
Genevieve also argued that there may be a backlash against the "always on, always connected" lifestyle of mobile devices and social networks. She is seeing evidence of people turning off their phones in order to manage their relationship to mobile and has found that some people are turning away from online social networks. She said that when a technology ceases to be "new" or "sexy," then people may end up using it less.
In terms of privacy fears, Genevieve argued that people now assume that all of their information is already out there and are in fact more afraid of certain pieces of information damaging their image or reputation. She said that people are afraid of others knowing "what we're really watching on television," because that could make them look uncool.
I was happy to see that Genevieve also emphasized that, "a globally located world doesn't end localness" and that there is "no single arc of technology adoption." In terms of radio, I've found that to be true, in that its power lies in its localness and in the fact that how it is used around the world can vary tremendously, depending on the other available forms of communication technology and media.
DJs from The DJ Project
Happy Hour with the DJ Project: Digital Turntables
The first day of the Mashup ended with a reception that featured young DJs from The DJ Project "spinning" music for the attendees. I was fascinated to see that the slabs of vinyl being manipulated and scratched on the 2 turntables were seemingly "blank" DJ records that were used to interact with digital music files on a computer. I chatted a bit with the DJs about this and they commented that it's a lot easier than lugging around a bunch of vinyl. It's the perfect reflection of the seemingly contradictory trends of music's digital future and the renewed interest in vinyl records.
It was awesome to see The DJ Project at Ypulse, as it's an amazing youth empowerment program in San Francisco that uses "music to engage young adults" and provides classes in audio production, DJing, and break dancing.