New Ink | Communication Insights
Matthew Robson, a 15-year old intern at Morgan Stanley in the UK, wrote a report earlier this year about teens and
their use of media. The global headlines generated by this report reﬂect a widespread interest in answering the
question ‘how do today’s young adults consume media?’
To provide a Canadian perspective on the topic, Cohn & Wolfe asked our summer intern (Rachel Halpern – a certiﬁed
‘gen Y-er’, slightly older than Matthew) how Canadian youth consume media and exchange information. Without
pretense of scientiﬁc methodology, Rachel used social media to survey her peer group and their siblings this past
August, and provided the results in her own report.
Whether currently communicating with youth as consumers and inﬂuencers, or looking ahead to
communicating with future employees, Rachel’s observations make an interesting contribution to the dialogue
about changing modes of communication and the implications they may hold.
If you are interested in seeing Rachel’s full report, please do not hesitate to give us a call.
Intern Report: Youth in Canada and Media Consumption
The secret is out – the media landscape is changing. Social media and
digital technologies have had a transformative impact on information
Rachel’s research audience was made up
sharing and media consumption.
of a group of 38 of her peers and their
At the forefront of this change stands a powerful and inﬂuential group: siblings, distinguished by the following
youth (teens, and young adults). While we know their opinions and
age groups: 14-17 (high school), 18-21
habits will change, understanding their attitudes to information
gathering and communicating may help all of us become better (university) and 22-24 (recent grads)
communicators and shed light on the future shape of the media world.
Who’s bringing me my news?
“usually iʼll (sic) read the news online - at the Across all age groups, young information seekers cite
bottom of my msn messenger chat thing their friends as their number one source of news.
thereʼs a little news thing that cycles through 14-17 year olds are passive consumers of media, and
expect that the news will present itself to them (sort of like
and if something catches my eye iʼll click it,
dinner). On the other end of the spectrum are 22-24 year
otherwise, i usually watch tv before school”
olds, who more actively seek information through traditional
and online media, signaling a relationship between maturity
and interest in their world beyond their immediate circle of
Backed by experience, insights and support of a global network, Cohn & Wolfe has provided expert
communications services for nearly 20 years. With strategically located ofﬁces in Calgary, Toronto and
Montreal, Cohn & Wolfe has a proud Canadian history, and over 50 of the country’s most creative thinkers.
Cohn & Wolfe Toronto is located at 2 Bloor Street East, Suite 1700, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 1A8. If you have any
questions about this report, or Cohn & Wolfe’s services, please call us at 416-924-5700, or visit our website at
OMG call 911 - I lost my phone!
With an abundance of channels to choose from, youth and teens rely on their mobile devices, text messaging to
communicate with their friends. To supplement, 14-17 year olds also turn to Facebook, instant messaging and face-
to-face communication, while 18-21 year olds and 22-24 year olds use face-to-face and telephone communication.
(Research sponsors note: we didn’t ask how youth communicate with their parents – on the assumption the answer
would be ‘as little as possible’)
POS G2G* - What are they doing online?
Facebook vs. Twitter
14-17 year olds use the internet for entertainment and leisure
Almost everyone had a Facebook account, purposes, spending most of their time instant messaging and
which they use to keep in contact with on social networking sites. While entertainment and leisure
friends and acquaintances. It has become use continues into the older age brackets, as they get older,
the ultimate communication portal, and youth become more focused in their use of the internet,
spending more and more time actively seeking speciﬁc
young people are loyal to it. On the other
hand, Twitter was universally not
understood by our youth audience. 14-17 *(Parent Over Shoulder – Got to Go)
year olds did not use Twitter, and only one
third of the older groups
Given their interest in social networking and entertainment, it is
no surprise that Facebook is the favourite website among all age groups. Beyond Facebook, YouTube and other
entertainment-based sites were noted by 14-17 year olds. Older youth added search engine sites (Google, Yahoo),
news and entertainment websites such as Perez Hilton to the list of favourites. Yet, only the grads included news
websites on the list, suggesting that an interest in news may be sparked by age (or the post-grad reality that the
economy really does matter).
If youth are the future – are they watching their investment?
14-17 year olds typically do not read the news, and when they do, they expect it to be presented to them. Some 18-21
year olds read the news, relying mainly on hyper-current online sources or television. They prefer brief, convenient
updates. Meanwhile, 22-24 year olds read the newspaper, but opt for free versions found at school or at the bus stop.
They skim traditional news media at best, conﬁdent that important news will make its way to them through their
Newspapers = 8-track + VHS?
“Yes, I think the traditional hard-copy newspapers are soon to be
Approximately half of the older youth
expect traditional newspapers to
disappear, giving way to online 1) People don't have the time to visually search front to
versions that they say are easier to back to ﬁnd what they want to read. It’s much easier to
navigate, cheaper, and more type in a search engine.
environmentally friendly. If not in the
near future, this group believes the 2) Environmental waste. So many pieces of paper when
fall of newspapers could come people will probably only read one or two articles.
with the death of the baby boomer
generation. Interestingly, our youngest 3) The generation who actually enjoy reading the paper
group of participants stated that will not be alive in a few decades.”
traditionalists will always prefer to
read a printed paper.
The results identiﬁed some interesting trends for how young people get information and consume media. Teenagers
and young adults alike enjoy using mobile devices to communicate, and text messaging in particular. They are
comfortable with receiving top-line information – only the most signiﬁcant news is of interest, and they prefer it in bite-
sized chunks. Teenagers seem to expect news to come to them, rather than seek it out themselves. Friends are a
prized source of information, and highlights from online resources and television programs simply compliment
the word-of-mouth method. While traditional newspapers are viewed as somewhat archaic, they are recognized as a
signiﬁcant ritual or habit for older generations.
For participants, social networking was a signiﬁcant priority. Facebook captivates them with its “all-in-one”
package service, allowing users to keep in touch with friends while
providing personal organizing features, all for free. Facebook serves as
entertainment for younger teens, while providing university/college-aged people We may be speaking the
with an ability to keep in touch and share information, even while living away same language – but one of
from home. Even with all the media buzz, Twitter is not yet on the radar of most us will have an accent.
young people, who are content with using Facebook for the bulk of their online
While these results are not surprising, they do provide some additional insight into what young people look for and
respond to when it comes to getting information and using today’s various media options. As this generation ages,
media will undoubtedly continue to evolve with them.
With millenials (those born between 1981 and 2000) scheduled to overtake baby boomers in the workplace within the
next two years, ignorance of changing mores of communication carries signiﬁcant economic and social risk. We may
be speaking the same language – but one of us will have an accent.
Rachel Halpern is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario
(2008) where she also served as communications ofﬁcer of the
University Students’ Council, and is currently enrolled in the
Humber College post-graduate programme in Public Relations.
Research guidance and editorial support was provided by
millennials Camille DePutter and Stephanie Yack, with sponsorship
by resident boomer David Gordon, all of Cohn & Wolfe.