Homer Simpson understands children.
Well, his children. All right, maybe just Maggie because she rarely speaks.
But he knows enough about the relative predictability of kids to have once uttered, “You couldn’t fool your mother on the foolingest day of your life if you had an electrified fooling machine.”
Bravo, Homer. This is why you remain a parental guidepost for millions and a scary pop-culture balloon of Duff-swilling horror for millions of other humorless drones the world over.
It’s fitting that Homer Simpson’s wisdom serves as my foundational retort to a recent CNET video post that showed a baby in fits of frustration when trying to figure out how a magazine works. The child’s exasperation apparently came after having regularly used her mother’s iPad.
The baby’s mother, Jean-Louis Costanza, is the CEO of Orange-Vallee, a subsidiary of French telecom mega-brand Orange.
In her homemade video, Costanza shows how frustrated her baby gets when trying to swipe images in a print magazine in the same fashion she would on a tablet. Look! The images don’t move! Swiping only produces a crumpled page! Amazing! Startling! And my little baby has learned something—indeed, print doesn’t go anywhere, and tablet images take babies to media-rich Promised Land!
OK, Jean-Louis Costanza, I get it.
What a profoundly simple message. Even Homer might distill some eternal media truth before uttering, “They have an Internet on computers now?”
This little video postcard from the cutting edge proves what every parent knows: Children respond to stimuli as they learn new motor skills used for things other than nose picking.
Kids mimic these learned behaviors, such as iPad use (i.e., the electrified fooling machine), on everything they encounter—print magazines, the toilet seat and the hapless family dog. It’s what they do. Frankly, my biggest concern would be having my baby barf on my $700 iPad.
Despite this ham-handed approach to conveying her print-is-dead message, Costanza at least addresses what’s on the minds of every communicator. What habits will children form over the next decade, and how will it impact print, digital and video for adults?
First, don’t look at babies for predictive litmus tests, but instead teenagers. They have easier access to new and old media than younger kids whose parents, much like Madame Costanza, can control the device and the message—a dictatorship born of good intentions, but it gets you nowhere when trying to predict the next media wave.
Teens identify a shoddy or glorious medium and message and do what they’ve always done: shun it or embrace it and summarily tell the world. (See: Beatles, Stones, Madonna, Gaga.)
I’ve said it in this space before: Content remains the driver, and children and adults gravitate to vetted stories, amazing images and compelling video.
However, what does differentiate children from adults—at least right now—is the younger set’s willingness to gobble up content from any medium. New media is their god: 45% of their time is spent on mobile devices and computers, and it goes up to 77% if you factor in an old-school medium, TV.
I couldn’t imagine watching a 90-minute movie on an iPod Touch, but my teenage son routinely does. But he’ll also turn around and read a four-page profile of a kid shredding it in Transworld Skateboarder.
Is the latter my influence? Partially. But what my son does beyond print—skating chats, watching streaming video of Cali skaters and checking out related photo blogs on his smart phone—is what makes him a typical media consumer, circa 2015.
It’s value-added content. And no matter where it appears, if it’s good, it will be consumed.
Just not by a baby.
[Image: Jay Tamboli]