The Next Generation of Listeners

I recently heard former Governor Howard Dean analyze the present political atmosphere as the establishment’s last stand.

Politics is politics and I’m going to try to put that aside in looking at something he went on to say that rings true if applied to the media business.

Dean, a Democrat and former presidential candidate, was criticizing his arch rivals the Republicans and the Tea Party movement. Again, not looking to get involved in all that for this purpose, he went on to say that the next generation would reject any attempts to restrict gay rights or attempts to impede immigration.

These are certainly two super charged issues and Dean’s comments reminded me of working with college students at USC.

We often look at the world through our own eyes and experiences. Radio people think there will always be 24/7 radio and record labels apparently think they can get the same high profits for selling music that they once earned for selling vinyl or CDs.

The generation that is now coming of age – Generation Y – is reshaping everything. It is strong in numbers at about 70 million and the last Gen Y’er has already been born but hasn’t made it to college yet.

If you’re looking for a political fight, you’re not going to get it here. My mother, a Democratic ward worker in her day, always reminded us that you’re not likely to talk anyone out of their political beliefs.

But there are some things worth considering about the next generation as it pertains to media.

They, indeed, have more open attitudes about immigration because they have likely embraced immigrants who are their friends in person and on Facebook. As a professor I can tell you that college students care very little about racial divides that talk radio obsesses over. They see the world in one color of humanity – a characteristic of which we parents should be very proud.
Sexual preferences are personal decisions that are openly supported in large part by this generation. Of course, there are exceptions. There is more lesbianism on campuses, more gay relationships. Gen Y is just fine with this. Listen to their music which is the soundtrack of their lives and “I Kissed a Girl” is more than a song, it is a marker of change.