Road Signs: Is The Romance With Cars Over?

Once again, young Americans’ romance with cars is being questioned. This time by Jack Neff in an Advertising Age piece titled: “Is digital revolution driving decline in U.S. car culture?” He points to the considerable decrease in licensed 16 and 17-year-old drivers. Once nearly 50% and 75%, respectively, of their age group were licensed. The percentages are down to 31% and 49%. And the amount of driving by the under-30 age group has diminished as well. While a number of reasons are advanced for this decline in car interest, a good number are related to the Internet. Neff cites William Draves’ belief that, “the digital age is reshaping the U.S. and world early in this century, much like the automobile reshaped American life early in the last century. Draves is president of Lern, a consulting firm that focuses mainly on higher education, and co-author of “Nine Shift.” Draves’ theory is that almost everything about digital media and technology makes cars less desirable or useful and public transportation a lot more relevant. . . . . That may not be all bad, as teenagers multitasking with computers, IPads and other digital devices could tend to function without focus and not really be there even when present, like behind the wheel of a car. It is not a phenomenon limited to youth according to a recent New York Times article by Matt Richel, titled, “Hooked On Gadgets and Paying A Mental Price.” He says, “…scientists are discovering that even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist. In other words, this is also your brain off computers.”

On a happier note, AOL is planning to hire as many as 500 writers and editors in the next year. Quoted by Michael Learmonth on Ad, David Eun, president of AOL’s Media and Studio Division, “We are going to be the largest net hirer of journalists in the world next year.” In addition, Learmonth reports, “Mr. Eun wants to quickly ramp up the number of freelancers contributing to AOL. Currently there are about 40,000 freelancers contributing to AOL, its SEED content production arm and Studio One. Mr. Eun said the company is still working on a system that measures the value of a piece of content based on the number of people that click, how long they stay, and the amount of ad revenue associated with it.” The company’s chances of building profitable subscription bases for its various content divisions are rated better than average among paywall startups. The reasoning being that building subscriptions requires direct marketing know how and AOL has spent 15 years doing that for their services.