From the Editor: Do You Know What Your Readers Want?
Recent news of Morgan Stanley Research Europe’s decision to publish a report, “How Teenagers Consume Media,” by a 15-year-old intern, quite frankly, blew my mind. It was not the report’s “findings” that perplexed me, but the fact that Morgan Stanley would publish this as a legitimate report of any kind and that, even worse, people obviously are viewing the “findings” (based on media coverage of it) as basic truths.
The problem was not in the fact that the report’s originator was 15, but that the report is based on the intern’s description of how he and his friends use media. The report’s conclusion that “teenagers do not use Twitter,” among other sweeping conclusions, may or may not be entirely inaccurate. I don’t see anywhere in the report that even discloses how many friends this teen prophet included in his “study”—two? five? 15? 100? (You can view the report on Scribd.com, as well as on many other Web sites that picked it up.) I don’t see any information about the demographics of this 15-year-old’s group of friends either.
The Morgan Stanley report brought this question to mind: How many of us make decisions based on our own personal preferences or on completely anecdotal evidence? It’s done all too often, whether regarding approaches to magazine covers and colors used, marketing concepts and messages, new-product launches and (I shudder as I write this) even editorial. (“We’re experiencing this, so our readers must be as well.”)
But one of the most harmful cases in which personal preferences or experiences are applied is format: “Well, I like to read my news on my iPhone in the morning, so obviously that’s how our readers read it and how news should be delivered.” Or, “I don’t read digital magazines, so obviously no one is reading them.”