How we ran into a problem that turned out to be the solution
DR (the Danish broadcasting company) contacted us because they were looking to launch a new online radio for kids, and wanted to know their target group better. Traditionally DR categorizes their content either as TV, radio or web. So naturally they asked us to look into the radio-habits of the kids. However, as we started talking with the 10-12 year olds, we ran into a bit of a problem; the kids couldn’t relate to the radio. One boy told us that radio was something that the Queen, and maybe the Prime Minister would listen to, not something for children. A young girl told us that her mother listened to the radio in the morning “I think it is a sort of black box in the kitchen.” She told us.
So instead of focusing on the radio habits, we broadened our scope, and looked at how the kids use media in their everyday lives. We conducted a number of ethnographic interviews with two good friends at a time, and participated in a school day as well as an evening at home with the family of a young boy. Through the combination of the indebt knowledge we gained from the interviews, and the observations in ‘real life’, we began to se a clear picture of a different way of engaging with media-content.
It’s about creating context-flexible content
The kids did in fact listen to radio and other sound-based content, such as music, quite a lot during the day. But they mixed this content with other stuff such as games, film-clips on YouTube, or social media such as Snapchat and Instagram. They didn’t care whether they were listening to the radio, a music video on YouTube, or the soundtrack of a videogame, as long as it was a song they liked. Their use was driven, not by categories of radio, TV or Internet, but rather by content themes such as horses, football, or hockey.
In school, whilst working on a project, two girls would use YouTube to listen to music. But they flipped the screen because the images were bothering their concentration. In this way, the kids would adapt various medias to suit their immediate need, and they would use many platforms at once in order to customize the experience, such as using a tablet to Skype with friends whilst playing games on the computer. In this way, they designed their experience-context by mixing and customizing content.
It’s about learning and teaching
Many of the kids we spoke with were heavy users of the various digital medias. They were however, also novices that, although enjoying music, had a very small repertoire. They were therefore constantly seeking more knowledge and knowhow. They learned by sharing newfound games, videos and books with each other. Their use of media had an important social aspect, and there were clear values linked to being the one who introduced the new big hit, be that a new game, a viral video or a hit-song. This strive towards concurring new territories and urge to learn and experience new things, was something DR could tab into.
By placing the radio habits within a broader scope we began to understand what values were imbedded in the use of various media. And rather than just understanding how kids (don’t) use radio, we began to understand what part digital media play in the life-world of a 10-12 year old kid. And that’s when things got really interesting. Dennis Glintborg, editor at DR Ultra said about the project:
“The project was a real eye-opener for us. We just wanted to know a bit more about the kids, but now we can see that we are standing at a crossroads and need to start doing something completely new.”
– Dennis Glintborg, editor at DR Ultra
Based on our analysis, we created a number of recommendations on how to change the way DR could think about creating media content to kids. We based these recommendations into three main topics; approach, format and content. The main idea was to create universes based on themes of content rather than media platforms, and mix sound, image and social content to give the kids a complete landscape where they can pick, choose and mix, to form a customized experience. This would give them the opportunity to both navigate according to the context they are in, and create a platform that supports their own way of learning and teaching within their group of peers.
And that’s how we turned the initial problem; that kids don’t relate to radio, into the solution; stop thinking in platform categories, and start thinking in flexible universes of content.