About Me

  • I'm CEO of Newspeg.com, a social news-sharing platform. I've spent 20 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies. You can read more about me here.

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January 02, 2009


John Welsh

Do you know? I am not sure I agree totally with this (and I am reading the book!). If I look at my own media company, there are just as many twentysomethings who are slow to jump onboard digital as those who are older. Indeed it is some of those editors and reporters with years of experience who are moving fastest and understanding quicker.

I don't think youth enjoys immunity from lathargy and laggardness in these rapidly changing times. But I do think experience of media in general helps.

John Welsh

Me again! Just read this post that I thought might interest -

Michael Staton

I dislike it when the previous generation tries to intellectualize our (/my) generation.... He's part right. There's more to it, less to it. In a way, most young people in every generation want freedom and expression, they want playtime jobs and are interested in their social lives. And they want the world to be fair and good (companies included). What this Tapscott is saying is not unique to our generation, what is partly unique is that there's a complete bifurcation in lifestyles in the sense that we do everything openly on the internet and previous generations never could. However, such a bifurcation also happened with the rise of the automobile and air travel. My great grandma probably said many of these things about my grandma.

Mark Potts

Michael: In general, I agree with you. It's impossible to generalize about a generation, and now that I'm on the other side of the ol' generation gap, it's amusing to find myself having older-generation reactions to things and realizing that I'm sounding more and more like my parents. It's ever thus, I suppose, that generations look askance at those that follow them (now get off my damn lawn!).

But that said, I do think there are fundamental differences in today's younger readers and customers, many wrought or enabled by technology, than what we've seen before (similar to the changes you allude to with the automobile and air travel). Most importantly, I think, the older generation ignores those shifts or looks down at them at its peril.


Are there differences? Okay, then: let's quantify them.

- They're less likely to use email than their parents.
- They're more likely to have a computer at the center of their living space than a TV or phone.

The list posted above reads like a horoscope that just about anyone can apply to themselves regardless of when they were born. If you believe there are substantial differences that we ignore or belittle at our peril, what are they?

Mark Potts

I guess the best I can do is suggest you read Tim Windsor's full post, if not the book. The things that Tapscott is talking about are far more complicated than you seem to think. The products the traditional news business is building now are generally being rejected by this younger audience. I'd rather meet that audience's needs and grow along with it.


I don't know if it's complicated or not: I'm simply trying to figure out what those needs are. I've been sitting on this rocker on a couple of different blogs in the last couple of weeks, and no one has yet been able to describe for me how the new generation is different outside of banal generalities, like Tapscott's above.

In fact, the two items that I listed are more specific than any of the experts I've read, and I'm going to go out on a limb to state that younger people using email less than their parents is far more crucial than the fact that they like sparklies on their myspace.

I mean, "Customization"? I don't suppose you ever saw a teenage girl's high school locker in the late 1980s, did you?

Even the terminology: "Net Gen" is something I'd expect to read in Wired circa 1994 (I actually have a copy of Carla Sinclair's old book Net Chick which uses terminology like this). I'm around young people, I think, more than the average person of my age. I've never once heard that term, nor do I even hear them call it the Net. This is like PJ O'Roarke's famous description of Al Gore as "an old person's idea of what a young person is like".

I'm sorry, Mark, but this sounds like the same marketing clap-trap by someone seeking to define the market and make a claim to expertise. We've been seeing books of this dubious genre for decades.


I think the most crucial difference is really what's crushing the old media business in general: my (young) generation is used to getting something for nothing. Whether it's pirated MP3s or free news online, we don't have much respect for the creators of content. It's a very "me" centered model, which works fine until you bankrupt your source of entertainment.

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