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They Like to Watch and other things we learned at the Millennials Conference on 4/18 @ UCLA

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Remember the good old days when terms like “voyeur” and “exhibitionist” were reserved for perverts? Well nowadays people in ties are standing in front of conference rooms and using them to describe the innocent youth of today. The Millennials, as they are aptly dubbed, is the generation born from 1980-2000 that was raised on reality TV, blogging, YouTube, MySpace and countless other forums where you can watch and be watched.

This past Wednesday the fine people at Digital Media Wireput on a day-long conference to educate us on this techno savvy, attention deficient generation. As I love me a good lecture, and know very little about technology or anyone under 20, I was probably the most easily wowed person in the room.

For instance, I found it impressive that they had a screen in front of the room so anyone who had a laptop could post comments for all to see while the speakers spoke. And someone told a story about being in a bar with a huge video screen that suddenly displayed his face on it after he was unknowingly tagged by someone’s cell phone. Or at least I think that’s what he meant. And as if that didn’t blow my tiny mind enough, there was free food. And then free booze. Hello?

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Here are some of the other things I learned:

You are not cool unless they say you are. The misuse of the word “cool” by an adult to describe something that is most certainly not (as far as the kids are concerned) is suicide. If you have not heard this four letter word uttered from the mouths of babes about your product, do not use it yourself. They will find out, and they will hate you for it. And they will probably blog about it too.

They spend money on things that don't exist. Little girls spend their money on clothing and stuffed animals that are not really there. The CEO of Stardoll, a virtual doll community with over 6 million subscribers, gave a video presentation of his site where girls can rent their own suites, fill their closets with virtual outfits, buy posters, stuffed animals and other trinkets to fill their rooms. Future plans involve teaming up with actual fashion brands to sell their virtual clothes. The same type of thing goes on at the Habbo Hotel that has tens of millions subscribers (hundreds of millions?) from all over the world. There you can buy virtual furniture and have parties in your room and stuff. Apparently kids rush home from school to hang out with their real friends in their virtual worlds. Weird.

They actually can focus. Even though they have 6 IM windows open at the same time while they email and talk on their cell phones, the Millennials tend to stay put on certain sites like MySpace and YouTube as long as the features and services are constantly updated and the content is good because it's a real hassle to set up a whole new account somewhere else.

They demand self-expression the way we demanded our MTV. They love to leave comments, kudos, hits, videos - any sort of proof that they were there. They love to be noticed and part of the creative process. There was talk that song tracks will be released separately so they can mix down their favorite songs their own way.

Overall it was a very enlightening day, if not somewhat overwhelming. I felt like I was just learning about stuff that's going to be completely different next month, but at least I'm not completely covered in cobwebs anymore. And if you're feeling as Wilma Flintstoned about all this as I was you're in luck - they have a bunch of other conferences coming up on things like music, games, TV and film. And hopefully they'll serve the same cookies they did at this one.