Pete Cashmore: Top 10 Things My Generation Likes

Some observations about millennials from the creator of Mashable

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Charley Gallay / WireImage

Pete Cashmore and Jared Leto at the GRAMMY Museum on January 29, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.

Ah, Millennials.

Are we politically engaged and civic-minded Twitter addicts?  Or narcissists with a penchant for Instagramming our food?  We’re either the most socially-connected generation thus far with hundreds of Facebook friends, or we’re an anti-social bunch who would rather tap away at our smartphones than strike up a conversation.

Such is the challenge of distilling the essence of an entire generation. These are questions best answered by sharper minds than mine. But in the last eight years of running a new media company I’ve tried — with occasional success — to decipher what makes this “connected generation” tick, and I do have some observations.

(COVER STORYThe New Greatest Generation)

Perhaps the fundamental change in modern media consumption is a desire to participate. A generation of consumers now perceive themselves as content creators, with the material they publish competing with more traditional outlets for attention. My Facebook news feed may feature a link to TIME sandwiched between a friend’s photo album and a Spotify playlist.

Where some see a challenge, new media companies see opportunity. Distribution once meant having a cable channel or a shelf at the bookstore. Now, the reader distributes the content through social networks. In media at least, “community” trumps “consumer”.

Participatory media is reshaping the advertising world, too. If ad execs were to take a drink every time they said “engagement”, Madison Avenue would need more liquor stores.

The trend is a good one, however: Why shouldn’t advertising be engaging?  Why can’t it be entertaining?  Can brands create ads so good we’ll want to share them?

Having established that this generation loves to share, brands and media companies like ours increasingly seek to understand why. Gathering information about consumer preferences is no longer the challenge: There is more data about this generation than any other, and readers vocally express their opinions on a daily basis. Rather, we receive so much feedback from our community that increasingly our challenge is to make sense of it all.

(POLLWho’s the Most Influential Millennial?)

Unsurprisingly, we find that humorous content is highly shared by Millennials: Making your friends laugh is as desirable online as it is in person.

We’re also encouraged to see that uplifting news and articles about human acts of kindness are shared a great deal. Does this tendency reflect my generation’s willingness to help others or simply a desire to promote a positive self-image? Probably both.

It’s often said that constant connectivity has created a generation that craves the ephemeral, and while timely news indexes highly among our readers, we’re often surprised to see another category that performs well: Nostalgia. My fellow Millennials, it seems, have developed a great fondness for sharing their favorite pastimes like arcade games, cassette tapes and 1990s pop culture.

Of course, new media companies have known for some time that “cute animals” are a subject matter favored in the digital realm. Our analytics software has yet to establish whether Millennials are cat people or dog people.

The connected generation loves images and videos. Articles with large imagery are shared more among this demographic than those without, and posts with videos also perform better on average than text. This is likely because we’re so bombarded by information these days: Visual mediums are faster to consume.

Finally, and for reasons we can’t fathom, Millennials love lists.  My 20-something friends and I will read anything that starts with “Top 10.”  We might not even realize we’ve been duped until the end of the article.

MOREI’m Not on Facebook and I Don’t Regret It—Yet

34 comments
elizabethandrus
elizabethandrus

What about the many people out there not connected to social media? I think this current trend is blocking out those too poor to get connected. It is a form of bias that has not yet been dealt with

msmit
msmit

Love the bait and switch on the Top 10 List. Lists have become an easy out for content to masquerade as "journalism". They don't need a start, middle, or end.  They are less story and generally more of a ramble. And thus, they are easily consumable. Which is why I think they are heavily favoured today, when consumption of content reigns over cohesiveness of content.  Nice one.

myorigingals
myorigingals

10 THINGS MILLENIAL GENERATION LIKES (since Pete didn't include, I'll throw something out there, as a parent of Millenials, here's what I see in no particular order)

1. FREE: this generation likes and prefers 'FREE'. Previous generations were used to paying for services. This generation is enticed by FREE. ie, FREE shipping, FREE returns, FREE to use the service (Twitter, Facebook, Apps), in turn for watching ads, etc. So companies, think how can you offer your service for FREE, and still meet your revenue goals. They're figuring out how to get what you sell for free. (VIBER, WhatsApp..)

2. 'ADOPTING LATEST USEFUL THING': Millenials are early adopters, fear nothing new. If it helps them do something better, they want it or will learn how to use it like lightning. Again, don't expect to pay, so companies, think advertising for your revenue.

3. ONLINE SHOPPING: enables 24/7 comparison shopping for GOODS, VARIED SELECTION and $PRICE$, plus they can easily 'SHARE' with their friends/family to get opinions.

4. e-ENGAGING: they like to take part electronically. Don't like to miss out on anything, and almost don't have to, as their cell is attached to them 24/7. (Easy Prediction: GOOGLE GLASS will change the world and how we digest and share info. I can't wait!). For this generation, PLANNING is done last minute. We had to make our plans the day before to get our parents approval. Millenials plan on the fly, and then get approval on the fly. SKYPE / Video Chat: When in different locations and want to show someone something or multiple things, and/or want to share websites for shopping.  They use the appropriate e-channel, depending on what they're doing. They think and react quickly. DVR: watch it when they want. Don't miss anything.

5. STYLE: I don't know about you, but if I compare my h.s. yearbook w/ theirs, there's no comparison. My generation (Boomers) looked young and conservative geeks. These kids look like celebrities, because they watch them 24/7 in their homes (Kardashians (yuch, but they love 'em), TMZ, and have umpteen Fashion shows to watch and learn from.

6. CONSENSUS: This generation is able to SHARE and POLL a group easily, and thus likes to put ideas out there and get opinions to make decisions. They know majority rules. 

7.  MONEY: OK, maybe you'll argue everyone 'likes' money. True. But this generation 'sees' just how much others have, materially. ie, Celebrity homes, expensive cars, etc...It used to be if you lived in the hills, you had no idea. Now media shows them everything...and they want it. Who wouldn't...so as parents, it's hard, but we have to, instill what's important. Friends, family, health...it's hard.

8. BEING CONNECTED. Having access to connectivity via their phones, laptop, etc.. I recall the drama when kids were going to an island where they couldn't use their cell due to high fees. They didn't know how to find and schedule with their friends. I'll leave it at that. [try to take this away from a millenial, and beware the wrath ...]

9. INFORMATION NOW. this generation has access to info at their fingertips. If you want them to know about something you need to have your info in all of their channels. 

10. [FILL IN THE BLANK]: If I put 10, all the millenials will tell me how I don't know what I'm talking about and missed 'X'. So, this is for them. Because, it's all about them...but then again, when I was their age, it was all about me, too. So, maybe they're not *that* different?? :)


NancyHeltman
NancyHeltman

I realized right away this wasn't a list but then again I'm a boomer. :)

rbockman
rbockman

I know what they like, smoke pot, spit, curse, get free stuff and vote democrat

SteveEilertsen
SteveEilertsen

Take a stand and say something instead of beating around the bush

ed2d2
ed2d2

It's a pretty crappy post to not actually include a top 10 list.  It's false advertising which any reader hates.

ArasiaDavis
ArasiaDavis

I read the whole thing. I didn't even realize what the last part said. Guess I'm not cool enough to be a part of my generation.

JonOrozco
JonOrozco

@petecashmore I first scrolled down looking for the list before reading it :) I didnt see it so I read it looking to find it subtly buried in the article... :)

SmittnbyBritain
SmittnbyBritain

I'm a Generation X'er and kept looking for the Top 10 list. 

WPeregoy
WPeregoy

"Visual mediums are faster to consume."

Not really. I prefer text posts to video most of the time precisely because of this. I can read an article much quicker than I can watch a presentation or listen to somebody else talk about it. 

I do agree that posts should be engaging and part of being engaging is including pictures and video (when relevant, of course). But, I disagree that "video" is fast to consume - I find it quite slow to consume, honestly. 

tofer.reinke
tofer.reinke

Why the picture with Jared Leto? He's born in 1971, which makes him part of Generation X (whatever that is...)

TravisAustin
TravisAustin

I skipped to the end, because the design pattern that I'm used to implies that there's usually a slideshow at the bottom, which means that I skip all the reading. Then I read the last sentence. Ha ha to the both of us. 

BradM.Seraphin
BradM.Seraphin

Bravo! Though I'm not quite convinced of the value of striking up a conversation.

HeatherRemer
HeatherRemer

1. I was totally duped until the end. 2. I think like, so many things, the answer lies somewhere in the middle of the continuum. On one end, we have the narcissists who post hundreds of pictures of themselves making pouty face pictures, who spend so much time upholding their image through texts, tweets and posts that they have no awareness of their true selves, and on the other end we have those politically engaged, civic minded young folks out to change our world for the better. Unfortunately, as we tend to do with so many things, we try to lump everyone into one bucket. Personally I think this is a disservice to an entire generation, who will bring with it tragedy and triumph, kind of like every other generation. We'll just see more pictures of this one.

daslick
daslick

Millennials also enjoy skipping to the end to see if something is worth reading.  No top 10 list, no read.

alswack16
alswack16

I see what you did there with your title and last sentence... clever!

JennLull
JennLull

Many of the people complaining about this generation are the very same people who raised them...  If you want to complain to anyone start with yourselves.

Danny0_0Mac
Danny0_0Mac

@DeweySayenoff aka Dewey Saidenough if you know us so well you should know we don't bother reading "strangers" opinions when they are longer than 3 sentences.  Please modify your derogatory opinion to a briefly comical and objective (easy on the subjective- don't get too emotional- we can't relate to that) segment.  

And why is it so bad to live with your parents.  Didn't their generation create this "tough to find a job" environment.  We weren't just given a 40k "right out of school job".  We now compete against peers not only domestically but also internationally and everyone has an undergraduate degree nowadays.  Even teachers and nurses can't get hired out of school anymore.  Let's not forget the majority of the 3rd world lives with their extended family and besides, mom makes the best spaghetti and meatballs.  I am NOT missing out on that.  

Also, please know that if you don't share what you're doing then we don't care what you're doing.  Somehow people are managing to "live their life" and "earn a living" and "raise a family" while simultaneously using social media.  If I have a business (which I do) i have to put it on social media.  Social media is a free way for me to generate interest, leads and clients who share the same "likes" as me.  It is also a free way to be "seen".  In my experience people are mistrusting of the financial services industry and for good reason.  This gives them a great way to see who I am, what I do and find current clients to get feedback from someone who uses my services.  

Also, don't you want to work with people who are like you? What better way to get a quick glimpse of who someone is.  Please note that I said "quick glimpse".  Our generation still makes friends face to face but instead of going in blind we know a little about the person so we can have a more in depth conversation because we know a bit about them before actually meeting them.

If you think of social media as anything more than an online resume (a real living resume) then you've completely misconstrued what it is.  We don't actually think a "friend" is a friend because they accepted our "friend" request.  We are now acquaintances.  We may have the same friends, like the same music, belong to the same sports league, eat the same food, like cute pictures of kittens, etc.  

Or maybe if you're like my mom you enjoy pictures of relatives you haven't seen in ages.  Social media has changed this world for better or worse just like every invention before it.  Don't knock it brother.  Just accept it and learn from it.  Think positive, bro.  Don't be a Debby Downer- that's what Brian Williams is for (he's my friend on Facebook!).

thesnagel
thesnagel

haha I see what you did there. Top 10 >.<

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

"Having established that this generation loves to share..."

Yes, but the rest of us don't.  So why is it that "sharing" seems to dominate the Internet?  I don't give a tinker's damn about what other people are doing all the time.  If I'm interested, I'll call them and ask what's up.  You know, talk to them directly.  Like humans have done for millennia.

Conversely, I don't share what I'm doing, what I bought, what I viewed, what I listened to or who I "friended" to a bunch of faceless strangers.  They give a damn about the minutiae of my life just about as much as I do of theirs.  I don't know what kind of egotist believes otherwise, but I don't want to meet them.

Focusing on living your life, earning a living, raising a family, learning about things should be a personal endeavor.  It shouldn't be done on the world stage in front of the impersonal spot-light of faceless "friends" you'll never actually meet, let alone get to know in any meaningful way.

Social media, as it's practiced today, isn't.  It's about as social as Robinson Caruso before Friday.  Tom Hanks in Castaway, while he was on the island alone, was more socially connected than most people seem to be, with a far more compelling life story to tell than anyone else I've seen online.  And social media reflects this dearth of communication.  You know all about what someone "likes", but you know nothing about them at all.

The IDEA of social media isn't bad, but people should remember that it's SOCIAL media.  The way it's done today, it's just media, created for the benefit of advertisers, using us as unpaid research tools so they can make a slightly bigger profit from our wallets and life savings.  If you don't know the person, IN PERSON, and have never talked with them, IN PERSON, unless you're a celebrity or selling something, why would you bother to tell them ANYTHING about you?  More to the point, why would you WANT to?

Bring the social part back to social media.  If you're going to do something, do it right and do it well.

Rhomega
Rhomega

As a Millennial myself, I will say this: I'm far from narcissistic.  If anything, I was taught that pride and egotism were dangerous things, so I've kept myself modest.  Unfortunately, that leads people to think I have low self-esteem, which is kinda true.

privaterichard
privaterichard

Number one thing your generation likes: talking about yourselves.

Carmolli
Carmolli

@ed2d2IDK, I thought it was clever.  I enjoyed the article and completely forgot it was a Top 10 promise until the last line!  

myorigingals
myorigingals

@Danny0_0Mac @DeweySayenoff For a millenial you write a lot. I would have preferred three sentences...For the record, I made $18K when I graduated, and that meant canned tuna and pasta. I think Peter's article is well done, and if nothing else, creating conversation, which is what a good writer does.

Thetruthteller
Thetruthteller

@DeweySayenoff You know, Dew, you do make a lotta sense sometimes, you know... Or maybe we're just two grumpy old men commiserating about those self-absorbed "Millennials", ha, ha!

BrandonJohnson
BrandonJohnson

Which is a direct result of previous generations and their "self esteem movement."

Thetruthteller
Thetruthteller

@StevenLacks I guess that was just old Dewey's way of matching his hyperbole to the topic, don'tcha think? Or maybe those Neanderthals strung up some coconut shells or something...  :) 

worldsworstmoms
worldsworstmoms

@ed2d2 @Carmolli Agreed. I know quite a few "millennials" who represent their generation well. This writer and his article didn't.