Design, Journalism

Designing for interests, beliefs and values: how traditional demographics no longer drive the future of media

There is an upside to having your taste (and clicks) monitored by advertisers, Johanna Blakey of University of Southern California says.  It’s being respected, not presumed. Old media looked at age, gender and income to guess what you would like. You are not your demographic. You are your values, interests, beliefs and so much more. That is how you connect with people and new tools–social media–let you do the connecting with people on your own terms.

We use these tools to connect beyond gender, age and income. Now digital tools see who we are, what we like and what we want to do.

Blakely shows that women, by far, outnumber men in use and time spent on the social media space. If women control social media and social media is overtaking traditional media, will women overtake traditional media? If so, then are we going to start seeing more women in media? and more chick flicks? No! She predicts more women working in these fields will mean more interest and value driven media. No more ‘lame’ movies. Better content and smarter targeting, not for women, not for men but for all people. We cannot say whether or not women will ‘take over’ the media, but Blakely makes a good guess that they will drive the future of the industry.

Is there a future where I watch the Super Bowl and not see one car commercial unless I’m shopping for a car, which I discussed last year:

Entertainment influences our beliefs, our work, our play and values. Designers, developers and managers must consider, explore and practice this. At a newspaper, we call our users ‘readers’ and in radio they are ‘listeners’ and on tv they are ‘viewers’ which were all valid titles because the communication and content went one way. But as soon as these people could interact with content, they came ‘users’ which is a shred more respectful than reader because it at least empowers them with the ability to use and interact.

Meaning, implication and tone get tied up in our language. ‘Users’ is a firstwave HCI term from the 80s, at least, that dehumanizes the people we are talking about. The word came about when ‘interaction designers’ were concerned with usability, efficiency and  — well — use. As we consider the values, beliefs, ideas and interests of the people who use the things we design, our language needs to change too. What should we call these people? I don’t know yet. But thinking and talking about as more than users or humans, but as people will likely change the way we work.

Nina Mehta is a writer and product design leader in Brooklyn, New York. She began her design career in journalism and has been writing online for 20+ years. Nina is from outside Chicago and has since lived and worked in San Francisco, Berlin, London, and Tokyo. Learn about Nina at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *