The World has changed: did you notice?

Two new pieces of research confirm what we probably already knew: younger people see the Internet as their primary source of information. One study, reported by Reuters, shows us that the Internet is the main source of news for people aged under 30 years. A second piece of research by the recruitment firm, Reed, reveals that nine out of ten graduates only look for jobs on the Internet.

Meanwhile, the industry that is essentially run by young people – the media – continues to plug away at the more traditional media. They spend millions on TV advertising, for instance, in spite of the research showing that almost all young people fast forward through adverts. At the same time, the vast majority of FTSE 100 companies – which need new talent – are unable to accept job applications online.

In other words, big business is firmly stuck in the “old world”, only paying lip service to the Internet. The younger generation, on which those old-fashioned businesses depend – either for sales or talent – are running their entire life in an online world. Big business may think it is using the Internet, but is only tinkering around the edges.

One interesting point in the study reported by Reuters is that those reading their news online feel that the traditional news media are “out of touch”. This is in spite of the fact that a huge slice of online news is produced by traditional media companies. But those big publishing companies are producing their online news using old-fashioned media industry methods and standards.

For instance, the BBC’s highly popular web site may be able to deliver your local news, news in specific sectors or the “top stories”. They may think they are being advanced – and compared with big business, they are – in delivering a range of RSS feeds. But the issue is the BBC is deciding what you will read. The reason young people think the traditional news organisations are out of touch is because they don;t deliver exactly what their online readers want; instead, they choose for their readers.

That worked in a print world – it was the only choice. But online, people want to choose their individual news stories, their most liked writers, their own mix of text and pictures. They want a completely personalised news service – and they want to change that personalisation at any moment. In other words, they want choice – and most traditional media web sites do not offer that to any significant degree.

That’s also why people skip through ads using personal video recorders; they want to choose what adverts to look at, rather than be forced to view certain material. Similarly, graduates want to choose which employers to apply to by researching them and applying for them online. They don’t want to be forced to only read selective information chosen by the employer and be made to apply in a particular way.

Choice and personalisation are clearly essential in the modern online world; it wasn’t possible in the “old world”. How much does your web site and your online business offer such features? If it doesn’t – and I admit, this site doesn’t (yet!) – then you are much less likely to connect with a younger audience. And that can spell trouble with a capital T for your business future.

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