Sweet Thoughts



5 ways millennials are “futuring” the media

By Serene Goh

I love millennials. I am not one, but as a fangirl, I borrow their lens from time to time.

I picked up the habit in my former life, as founding editor driving The Straits Times’ young reader efforts. For 12 years I watched them grow up; I listened to their concerns, gripes, worries. At first, it was all in the name of work. Then I became smitten.

What captivated me was their instinctive exploitation of digital tools. At first, it was just them fiddling with code, chatting on messenger, blogging — to my mind, like witnessing the first hominids use tools. But it didn’t take a genius to know you were watching the evolution of our kind.

They soon set up e-shops to peddle stuff bought on family holidays, and portals to freely share assessment papers (and correct answers). For the past 16 years, millennials have been shattering traditional media models — and advancing them to a new frontier.

They shed the shyness of previous generations, and altered how we propagate messages, opening up constant dialogues between tribes. They engineered a tectonic shift in culture.

Making friends across oceans through gaming became a thing. What started with “cam-whoring” soon became Youtube channels through which they took requests from followers. They spawned this other thing called influencer marketing. They even changed language. What Gen X called rejection, they call “swipe left” or “blue-ticking” — terms bred by the media they used. And if there’s a glimpse of how the future of marketing will look, it’s this:

  1. Their talent will take us to the next level. On a recent Friday evening at Singapore Polytechnic (SP), I marvelled at a media showcase called “Holler”. They called it that, but it was really more like a parade of mind-blowing talent. There was: a miniature horror movie. An animated short. A rapper and a guzheng player playing original music. There were virtual-reality game creators. No limits.
  2. They are self-aware. Perhaps, more than most (non-millennial) people give them credit for. Underpinning all the promise they expressed, was trepidation. In a lot of the SP projects, they openly grappled with their fears: getting a grip on finances. Whether they were slaves to social media. Wanting to be taken seriously. Worries about how to adult.
  3. They play well with other kids. Each spoke about their teams “sticking together”, each playing their part leading up to project completion. Refrains such as “our team discussed”, “we’d meet to help” or “everyone pulled through for deadlines”. In a creative setting, this turn-taking lessens conflict, and the value they placed on maintaining positive work relationships will make them desirable team players and managers.
  4. They lead more, dictate less. Rather than being primarily focused on material rewards, they paid more attention to relationship dynamics. More than a few of their team leaders were keen to shout out for everyone else. I’d witnessed far less of this style of leadership in my youth, when supervisors measured their worth by how much of an entire project they could manage, right down to minute details. Instead, millennials at SP’s Holler acted more like facilitators of talent. They struck me as people who could rally and appreciate a spectrum of skill sets and diverse attitudes, rather than feeling the need to do everything themselves.
  5. They are impact driven. Rather than being driven by bread-and-butter concerns. More than a few of them, despite having completed media diplomas, also had their sights set on degrees in early childhood education and international business. They felt that a command of media made them highly literate in other disciplines too, even disciplines that traditionally did not pay as well as top jobs in media.

When they come into their own as next-generation employees, entrepreneurs and eventually, disruptors, they are likely to redefine what they need from their media. Best keep an eye peering through that lens, and be ready to roll with it.


Serene Goh

Serene is the Head of Editorial Content at Sweet. She believes in the power of stories and their tellers.