An IBM consulting report titled “The End of Television As We Know It” divides viewers into three distinct groups: Kool Kids, Gadgetiers and the Massive Passives. It’s an interesting shorthand with implications that go beyond television viewing habits.
According to the report, there’s a “Generational Chasm” between older viewers who passively receive live television, and a younger “lean forward” group who demands more control, flexibility and portability. The lean forward group is divided into two segments, teenage “Kool Kids” who are tech savvy but cash poor, and twenty-something “Gadgetiers” with lots of disposable income to buy devices and services.
The distinction between the Gadgetiers and the Kool Kids is a helpful one. According to the report, the Kool Kids are into user generated content, instant messaging, filesharing and mobility. They know the workarounds to defeat copyright protection, because they have more time than money.
The Gadgetiers, on the other hand, are willing to buy hundreds of songs on iTunes and pay for advanced subscription services. They may use peer-to–peer or YouTube to access material they can’t get through traditional means, but are willing to pay for content and convenience.
I think this typology applies equally well to the music space. A look at the best selling albums of 2006 makes it clear that the older demographic dominates the purchase of traditional CD’s. The Gadgetiers are iTunes best customers, and the Kool Kids are ripping, burning and trading.
IBM’s brain trust warns the media business that the Massive Passives and their fat wallets will not last forever. “The Massive Passives, the largest group today, represent the annity to fund the industry’s future growth.” From TV to Movies to Music to Newspapers, that sentence pretty well sums up the challenge.