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Demographic Walls


(September 13, 2007) Demographics is destiny goes the old saw. There are 78 million baby boomers. Most of them are Internet users who learned computer skills in the workplace. The number of Internet users who are older than 55 is roughly the same as those who are aged 18 to 34.  Both groups contain three times the number of teenagers

These are the numbers that drive the labor shortage concern. There are barely enough workers to replace retiring boomers let alone handle growth. The teen population is smaller still.

They also define opportunity. Veterans of our industry are behind two market makers, Eons and RetirementJobs. The New York Times is reporting a goldrush in new sites designed for "seniors". Apparently, Eons and RetirementJobs were right and aging boomers hold the key to riches for web entrepreneurs.

"Teens are tire kickers they hang around, cost you money and then leave," said Paul Kedrosky, a venture capitalist and author of the blog "Infectious Greed." Where Friendster was once the hot spot, Facebook and MySpace now draw the crowds of young people online.

"The older demographic has a bunch of interesting characteristics," Mr. Kedrosky added, "not the least of which is that they hang around." (New York Times)

Not everyone is overjoyed

Connection transcends demographics. We have to hope it does, or else the bullshit line that the old media idiots used to throw out as a condemnation of the blogosphere -- just an echo chamber where people can find people with exactly the same parochial viewpoints to agree with -- may become the basis of sound business models. I don't buy it.

While some cultural boundaries have real meaning on the Web (like language-oriented, cultural, and religious sites, for example) the fact is that everything we have learned about the web suggests that attempts to create demographic walls based on age will fail. (Stowe Boyd)

 Stowe Boyd would know. He's got his fingers wrapped squarely around the pulse of social networking.

The problem, for both sides of this question, is that age related demographics do indicate cultural differences. Collaboration is taught in the schools for our young people. It's often seen as cheating by the older groups. With limited facilitation, people will cluster by age.

That may be good for old style media targeting. It's bad for workplaces and markets.

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