Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Aging of the Media Audience

Ever wonder why the up-and-coming stars and contestants on American Idol (age 15 – 29 roughly) sing songs that were famous in the 1960s and 1970s?   I mean, come on, shouldn’t they be singing Lady Gaga and Ke$ha… (Not Motown and the Beatles)?  Well, the answer may be rather obvious to you.  Or maybe not.  The median age of the people watching American Idol is around 45.  Median means half below and half above

An recent article in The Economist on April 7th laid it out pretty clearly.  For those in the media business, it is not surprising that the median age of each of the major networks (except Fox) is now 50.  That is not all because TV is a bygone appliance. It is more to do with the fact that the population itself is getting older. 

imageI do remember the days that marketers looked at all demographics as male and female 18 – 49.  It was assumed that after that point, (known as “50+…. and irrelevant”) people were just elderly and unable to purchase things as they were likely in a wheelchair and homebound.   Really, that was the media and marketing thinking 15 years ago.  I was there.  Over the past years, however, marketers grew a little more wise and agreed that 50+ happens to have far more disposable income than the younger group, tends to shop more, and make bigger purchases (and likely not in a wheelchair until the early 80s). 

Now it seems that this viewer is a hot commodity – they tend to value brands, go online more than ever – even  pay for downloaded music (who does that anymore?) and trust advertising quite a bit more than the younger cohort.  Youth may still be enviable, but they are hard to pin down and are notoriously fickle as to paying for anything online. TV has become a friend to the 50-something consumer.  Networks proudly pitch their older viewership age demographics to the advertisers who seek this desirable target. 

So the next time you see Viagra ads on American Idol, realize that is why the artists are singing Beatles songs.

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