Report on young people’s media habits written for investment bank by teenage intern causes huge interest in the City
Julia Kollewe guardian.co.uk, Monday 13 July 2009 11.08 BST
. Photograph: Howard Kingsnorth/Getty
A research note written by a 15-year-old
Morgan Stanley intern that described his friends’ media habits has generated a flurry of interest from media executives and investors.
The US investment bank’s European media analysts asked Matthew Robson, an intern from a London school, to write a report on teenagers’ likes and dislikes, which made the Financial Times’ front page today.
His report, that dismissed Twitter and described online advertising as pointless, proved to be « one of the clearest and most thought-provoking insights we have seen – so we published it », said Edward Hill-Wood, executive director of Morgan Stanley’s European media team.
« We’ve had dozens and dozens of fund managers, and several CEOs, e-mailing and calling all day. » He said the note had generated five or six times more responses than the team’s usual research.
His colleague, Julien Rossi, added: « It’s an interesting starting point for debate. »
The rapid surge of interest in social networking and messaging sites has prompted speculation that sites such as Twitter or Facebook could be taken over. But Robson’s report, which was sent to Morgan Stanley’s clients as a research note last Friday, suggested that such a move could be folly. He said teenagers were using more and more media, but they were unwilling to pay for it.
« Teenagers do not use Twitter, » he wrote. « Most have signed up to the service, but then just leave it as they realise that they are not going to update it (mostly because texting Twitter uses up credit, and they would rather text friends with that credit). They realise that no one is viewing their profile, so their tweets are pointless. »
He warned that traditional media – television, radio and newspapers – are losing ground.
No teenager Robson knew reads a newspaper regularly since most « cannot be bothered to read pages and pages of text while they could watch the news summarised on the internet or on TV ». The only newspapers that are read are the cheaper tabloids and freesheets.
His peers are also put off by intrusive advertising so they prefer listening to advert-free music on websites such as Last.fm to traditional radio. Teens see adverts on websites – pop ups, banner ads – as « extremely annoying and pointless, » Robson said. However, « most teenagers enjoy and support viral marketing, as often it creates humorous and interesting content ».
He stressed that his peers were « very reluctant » to pay for music and most had never bought a CD, with a large majority downloading songs illegally from filesharing sites.
Money and time are instead devoted to cinema, concerts and video game consoles. Downloading films off the internet is not popular as the films are usually bad quality and have to be watched on a small computer screen and there is a risk of viruses, Robson said.
Game consoles like Wii, which are now able to connect to the internet and offer free voice chat between users, have emerged as a more popular choice for chatting with friends than the phone.
His report came as media moguls gathered at the Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. This annual event is a chance for the likes of Rupert Murdoch, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to discuss the latest business and technology issues in a relaxed atmosphere.
When interviewed at the event, Murdoch appeared to rule out making a bid for the micro-blogging site Twitter. Asked if he was considering buying Twitter, Murdoch said, « No. » Asked about selling MySpace, he replied, « Hell no. »