School Kid,15, Has London All Atwitter With Media Memo

Morgan Stanley intern causes stir with note on teen media habits.

July 14, 2009— -- He's only 15, but London teenager Matthew Robson already has the financial world buzzing about his insights.

A report he wrote for investment bank Morgan Stanley on teens' media consumption has made the summer intern something of an overnight sensation. (To read the whole report, click here.)

At the behest of the bank's research team in London, Robson described how he and his friends interact with all kinds of media, from television and movies to Twitter and Internet radio.

"Without claiming representation or statistical accuracy, his piece provides one of the clearest and most thought-provoking insights we have seen. So we published it," the introduction to the report says.

CEOs and Fund Managers Respond to the Report

Edward Hill-Wood, the head of Morgan Stanley's London research team, told the Financial Times that the report generated five or six times more feedback than their usual reports.

"We've had dozens and dozens of fund managers, and several CEOs, e-mailing and calling all day," Hill-Wood told the Financial Times.

A spokesman for Morgan Stanley gave a copy of the report but declined to provide further comment or arrange an interview with Robson.

Robson wrote that teens devour all kinds of media but are reluctant to pay for it. They listen to music, but prefer online sites, such as over the radio. They watch TV, but only when their favorite programs are in season. And they view ads on Web sites as "extremely annoying and pointless."

The Internet and social networking sites are popular among teenagers, he said, but proceeded to give the micro-blogging service Twitter the thumbs down.

Teenager: Thumbs Down for Twitter and Printed Newspapers

"Most have signed up to the service, but then just leave it as they release [sic] that they are not going to update it," he wrote. "They realise that no one is viewing their profile, so their 'tweets' are pointless."

Robson also had few positive comments for the newspaper industry.

"No teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper," he said, adding that they lacked the time and would rather watch a synopsis on the TV or Internet.

Movie theaters, however, remain teen favorites. Even though they'll target specific movies, teens will sometimes just go to a movie to be with friends, Robson said.

The report has even found favor stateside.

Nic Covey, director of insight for marketing and media information company Nielsen, said Robson's piece was in alignment with his own research on teens' media habits. In June, he published a Nielsen report on the myths and realities of teen media trends.

Teens More Like Adults Than Many Think

"It's, obviously, a different methodology," he said, commending the analysts for their creative approach. But "overall, their first-hand teen commentary on media use and our global research demonstrate the same thing," he said.

A misperception exists, Covey said, that teens differ substantially from adults in how they consume media. But, as Robson observed, "Teens are not as alien as some people in the industry think."

Like adults, he continued, they use Google to search online, go the movies, rely on hit TV shows and listen to music on the radio.

But there are still differences among the age groups. Covey said teens haven't embraced Twitter as quickly as adults because they find the same functionality in social networking sites, like Facebook. He also said that though teens and adults may voice opposition to advertising, Nielsen research shows that teens are more likely to like ads than adults.

One area of difference Covey identified, however, was in newspaper consumption. Although younger teens, like Robson and his friends, might totally shun printed newspapers, he said his research found that 29 percent of 18-to-20-year-olds say they read a newspaper every day.