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The N studies teens in their natural mobile habitat

Looking for insight into 'the complex mind of the digital generation,' The N has launched a new research panel to keep in touch with 10,000 teens via their favorite medium - the cell phone. Dubbed Teens Everywhere, the initiative is a collaboration with L.A.-based online research firm OTX and mobile platform mbuzzy, and The N plans to use the teen feedback to inform business and schedule planning for various branches of MTV Networks.
January 1, 2007

Looking for insight into ‘the complex mind of the digital generation,’ The N has launched a new research panel to keep in touch with 10,000 teens via their favorite medium – the cell phone. Dubbed Teens Everywhere, the initiative is a collaboration with L.A.-based online research firm OTX and mobile platform mbuzzy, and The N plans to use the teen feedback to inform business and schedule planning for various branches of MTV Networks.

The launch group of teens has been recruited through mbuzzy’s community, which boasts 500,000 users, as well as The-N.com and MTV’s content sharing site Quizilla.com. Radha Subramanyam, VP of research and planning at The N, says the panel deliberately includes viewers and non-viewers in order to avoid fan-based bias and better understand what it will take to attract new eyeballs

Panelists can expect to be contacted about once a month to answer questions concerning their lifestyle (touching on things like fashion choices and leisure time pursuits), as well as specific TV shows and mobile programming from MTV. Screening criteria for each survey will allow researchers to send out targeted questions to specific demographics split off by gender and age.

But will thousands of teens respond to questionnaires pinged to them while they’re hanging out on a Saturday night? Subramanyam admits that’s something The N wondered about. After all, the program isn’t offering free minutes or any other financial incentive for participating. But she says an initial beta-test put those concerns to rest, and she expects a response ratio of 300 to 500 replies for every 5,000 teens reached.

More than other demos of cell phone users, teens seem to have an inherent desire to be heard and a genuine willingness to give their opinion. And if that isn’t motivation enough, then there’s the lure of free stuff, namely digital assets they can use to personalize their phones. ‘The content serves a promotional purpose for us,’ says Subramanyam. ‘And they really like free ring tones, wallpaper and screen savers.’

The project also represents an opportunity for MTV’s advertisers on a few different levels. For starters, they can access the data mined through the surveys. But they’ll also have the opportunity to send out their own questions to the panel. ‘We have many integrated marketing opportunities at The N, and this will be another marketing function,’ says Subramanyam, adding that a cost structure for this ad client service hasn’t been established yet.

As part of the campaign, the network has set up a social networking microsite on mbuzzy’s community platform where users can download, create, store and share content. The N can track content movement and should be able to glean info from what gets shared and forwarded the most. ‘Those are the interesting questions all of us have in this new space. And now we have this great laboratory to watch teens in action,’ says Subramanyam.

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