A Helpful Hint for the Bandwidth Generation

As if being a multi-generational caregiver wasn’t enough, you and the 85 million other Americans between the ages 40 and 60 who comprise the “sandwich generation” are now also the “bandwidth generation,” straddling the communications chasm between your parents’ traditional analog universe and your children’s brave new digital world.

You see, while both generations recognize “bandwidth” as a measurement of electronic communications, the word means one thing to your kids and something entirely different to your folks.

To people over 60, bandwidth is the measure of the range of the broadcast frequencies that bring them “Murder She Wrote” reruns and “traffic and weather on the 8’s.” But for those under 40, bandwidth is the speed at which they can move digital content, like uploading duck-lip selfies and downloading full seasons of Game of Thrones.

And to you, bandwidth is the amount of mental capacity you are burning up trying to bridge the communications gap between these two very different cultures.

In your parents’ analog world, information arrives on a schedule. Content—like the evening news or their favorite songs on the radio—flows to them as a stream, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It comes scripted, edited, and saturated with “words from our sponsors.” In your parents’ 20th century world, the closest thing they have to control over content is the clicker, and they can’t even find the damned thing half the time.

But there is no regularly scheduled programming on the Internet. People watch what they want, when they want, where they want. And if they can’t find content stimulating enough to captivate that Coke-hyped hamster they call their brain, they create their own. Your kids are literally producing, directing, and starring in their own “shows”—often while watching their friends’ digital productions on their phones, their laptops, and their Surface Pro 3 tablets ... simultaneously.

And while they may occasionally binge-watch House of Cards on a PJs-only weekend, they won’t “stay tuned” for the next scheduled episode of anything. They want their content to be entertaining. They want it to be relevant to them. And they want it now.

You, meanwhile, are stuck between trying to maintain 20th century appearances for your parents’ (and your boss’s) sake while frantically trying to keep up with an ever-changing social media landscape that your kids (and your staff) play in.

There is a solution: You need to put more focus on the content itself and worry less about how it is distributed. The answer to the question “What is the best way for me to reach my target audience?” should not start with a reference to a social media platform. It should start with another question, “What does your target audience care passionately about?” and proceed from there.

That isn’t to say you should ignore how your audience finds content. That’s crucial, but it won’t solve your problem. If your content is engaging enough, your audiences will find it. If it isn’t, it doesn't matter where you post it.

To paraphrase a silly quote from a critically acclaimed 20th century feature presentation, if you write it well, they will come.