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Paul Smith: Crank It Up For The Oldies

Crank It Up For The Oldies

Media Comment From Paul Smith

Once upon a time older TV viewers were barely considered by those running the media Market, though occasionally a stallholder might offer glimpses into their lives. Now all that’s changing rapidly.

Just the other day a leading Auckland media director said that the ad industry was now taking what they call the ‘mature market’ seriously. But given its previous reluctance, why now? Well, he added without hesitation, they have considerable disposable income.

Fact is, they have had for some time, though neither media nor advertising took much notice, pre-occupied as they were with more trendy and youthful demographics. But the Net has altered conventional thinking and marketing forever.

In Britain, broadcast watchdog Ofcom reported that in every country in its international survey, broadband usage appears linked to a decline in conventional television viewing. On average around one-third of consumers with broadband access said they watch less television since going online.

Other research between December 2003 and December 2005, showed the demographic of older viewers is turning off TV and TV ads, according to Harris Interactive in America. Given that our de-regulated model of television is in many ways a Market model and similar to American television, that research has implications here. The study was done last year and questioned just over 4,000 people. Its findings on the older (50 plus) group's opinions on TV:

* 37% are unhappy with TV programming.

* Over 80% claim they have a hard time finding TV shows that reflect their lives.

* Over 66% believe most TV programmes and advertising is aimed at people under 40.

But here, despite some evidence to the contrary, the New Zealand Television Broadcasters’ Council maintains that people are watching television across all key age groups as much as ever. Their research shows there is a consistency about the numbers watching TV. But the trend is hardly upwards. Fact is people are now their own programmers and as much as anything the Net is decidedly helping to change their preferences.

It’s not only local admen who have woken up to the fact that TV’s most loyal watchers are beginning to vacate their armchairs. It’s industry leaders like the founder and former chairman of the online job site, Jeff Taylor. He sold up his interests in that venture, did some homework – and early this year launched a search engine – targeted specifically at babyboomers.

Cranky tries to simplify things by showing just four websites in the non-advertising section of each results page and making the sparser listings more relevant to its target audience. Google and Yahoo, by comparison, usually list at least 10 sites per results per page. As for the name, Taylor says he chose it because even at age 46 he got cranky when lost in net searches.

When we logged in at Cranky top searches were in order: sex, work from home, brain builders, jobs after retirement, body mass index, make new friends, reiki, elderhostel, arthritis, blogs. Older bodies, similar interests…?


Paul Smith is a journalist, author and founder of

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