The opening session at Music Ally’s Sandbox Summit conference in London today was a keynote by Dylan Collins, the CEO of children’s network SuperAwesome.
His focus was on the new generation of consumers (mainly those under the age of 13) and why we need to scrap most – if not all – of our preconceptions about younger audiences and consumption trends.
His company was set up four years ago and – through working with 250+ brands that include Disney, Lego and Cartoon Network – reaches half a billion children a month, meaning that it has plenty of data on the trends in how these young people are interacting with entertainment.
“As regards everything you thought you knew about young people – you are pretty much wrong with regards to under 13s,” he said. “They are the ones who are reshaping the media landscape – and particularly around music.”
To back this up, Collins showed research that traditional TV viewing among this age group has slumped 50% in the past five years, while tablet ownership has shot up. “They are not watching TV but they are still watching screens,” he proposed. “They are still watching TV content […] They have completely divorced content form the channel or platform that is delivering the content.”
Knowing the type of screen they are using is key. Collins said that kids are primarily using “all the hand-me-down hardware” (i.e. the original tablets in a household get passed along to the youngest members). Do not develop apps that are aimed at the latest devices, he suggested. Focus instead on the oldest hardware as that is what these consumers are using.
While kids are still using screens (albeit in tablet and mobile form), they are not really brand loyal beyond key names like YouTube and Netflix. “They are a transient generation,” said Collins. “They don’t give a shit about your platform; but they give a shit about content.”
Brands are not about what they look for. “The brand loyalty is not in the logo,” he cautioned. “It’s in how use the UX [user experience] is to use to get them the things they want to get access to.”
On the UX theme, he argued that “YouTube is still crushing every other streaming platform for kids” simply because it is the easiest one to use.
However, the next disruption may sweep some of these assumptions away, as voice control in devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home greatly expands its reach, and it becomes one of the primary ways that children access entertainment – music included.
Collins also said that today’s ‘centennials’ are much more adaptable when he technologies and interfaces come along and, as their parents become increasingly befuddled, there is a new domestic hierarchy being pegged out.
“This is the escalating seniority of kids at home,” is how he put it. “From a tech perspective, kids are becoming the new parents.” They are infinitely more capable of using the tech than their parents, and will increasingly help decide – as the resident experts – what tech is bought and brought into the home.
“These are trends we haven’t seen before in terms of the autonomous behaviour of kids,” argued Collins, before adding that the types of content kids want is being reconfigured. This is what we can see as a Minecraft mindset where they want to create, and their engagement is defined by how and where they can create.
“Don’t just feed them content – give them the tools where they can remix your brand,” he recommended. “If you treat them as regular consumers, they will not give a shit.”
While the power balance in the home is being subjected to a profound generational tilt, the importance of privacy laws and how they impact on the under-13s needs to be better understood.
These will become increasingly tighter and class action suits could become the norm for companies that do not properly implement sign-up and data protection measures.
Collins pointed to Pokémon Go as the model to follow here. It had an under-13 signup process in place, creating a two-tier onboarding system for users that safeguarded it against future litigation.
On the flipside, he suggested that social-music app Musical.ly is one of the services that runs its signup process as if everyone is over 13, but which has attracted lots of younger children: and that this is a crucial challenge for the company to get to grips with.
Collins noted that under-13s are the fastest-growing audience on the internet and pointed to the emergence of “kids’ internet” where data capture and ad rules will become increasingly more regulated. Like a twist on the Internet Of Things, what we could be looking at soon is the Internet Of Kids.
To hammer home his point about a generational divide, Collins said the music industry should never presume what this audience want or expect.
“Kids are creating more content and apps for themselves, so if you don’t have people on your team who are 14 or 15, by definition, you don’t know what you are talking about,” he said. “You have to make sure you have your representative audience in your team.”
The biggest generational divide ever is happening right now. “This is the generation that will reshape the media landscape,” he concluded, “They do not give a shit about the things we give a shit about. They are strange and dangerous creatures!”