Tweens Rule: TV & Web

Tweens leading
No wonder tweens are in demand. Despite widely reported jumps in Internet usage, video games and other distractions for tweens ages 9-14, ratings are up 8% last year from 2002; among kids ages 2-11, they rose 7%, according to a Magna Global USA analysis of Nielsen data. So far this year, the 6-to-14 crowd watches on average 23 hours of TV a week, less than the overall population, Nielsen reports.

“Tweens are a hard-to-reach audience for (broadcast) networks, and therefore cable networks have been making it their sweet spot,” says Rachel Geller of youth-marketing firm Geppetto Group, which estimates the 8-to-12 set spends $51 billion. “Tweens are more like children” than teens: “They hold onto their loyalties much longer.

Though Fox’s American Idol is tops among tweens (10% of its audience), the kid-focused networks increasingly are seeking older fans.

Some of the networks want to grow along with their audience,” says Magna analyst Lisa Quan. “It’s the next step for them to try to keep loyal viewers from their younger years.”

Says youth-market researcher Irma Zandl: “Disney hit pay dirt with their tween programming,” even as “tween boys share many of the same TV tastes as their older brothers,” from MTV to ESPN and The Simpsons.

Networks “want to ingrain their brand name in (kids’) heads early on or risk losing them altogether,” says Kagan Media analyst Derek Baine. Programmers must figure out “how to use the online world to make sure their audience base isn’t eroded dramatically.”

That explains why their websites are among the most-visited., with its TurboNick broadband channel, drew 18 million visitors last month; Disney’s expanded online home, which includes movies and other properties, drew more than 19 million, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

Cable TV rides the tween wave –

What an AWESOME article!!! There’s MUCH more to it– so I suggest you take a wee gander. (Thanks to Anastasia from for locating this gem)

It’s so true! Tweens have the time to become Evangelists– they don’t have cars and they’re too old to beg for daily play-dates. Where else could they go to talk but online? The web gives them the opportunity to “own” something… feel acknowledged and empowered (even if that means lying and saying they’re a certain age to participate in social networking functions they shouldn’t be using).

They also crave acceptance– for someone to say it’s “okay” to be an awkward tween is HUGE (they’re like the middle child… the older kids get to do everything and the younger ones get all the attention). Do you remember your tweens? Mine were wretched– ugly ducklings everywhere, and weird school politics too! That’s why i LOVE Ned’s Declassified… gives tweens role models, and shows them that there are ways around problems.

There is a huge jump kids make the summer they leave junior high and head into high school. Freshman year is so tough for kids emotionally & physically– everything they know & understand is challenged. They are ushered into a confusing, harsh peer-ruled world of high school where they’ll be pushing limits & making decisions without their parents.

Granted, Junior High is tough on tweens too. It’s like a Caterpillar/butterfly scenario. Kids = Caterpillar– crawling around, playing in nature, exploring the world. Tweens = in cocoon, body changing/life changing/caged & anxious. 8th grade/summer before H.S. = slowly squishing & scrunching out of the cocoon. Freshman year of high school = wet wings/trying to fly.

It’s that cocoon that I find so interesting. Most tweens are caged in by school, parents, and a lack of freedom. They’re stuck in preparation for something big. Going to the movies with friends still sometimes means parents tag along, any free time at a mall is exciting.

They’re not kids anymore, and they’re not teens. They are the age group that REALLY look to peers for visual guidance, but in a very sincere/insecure way. They still want to trust their parents, and believe in magic (even if they won’t always openly admit it)… but they are starting to see the truth of both.

The sun is just below the horizon, it’s golden fingers stretching to the sky, shedding uncertain light on the structures of life that once seemed soooo sturdy & big. That’s quite exciting and scary… There is still enough time before the sun scars the sky for a tween to close his/her eyes and allow him/herself to believe– if not for a moment, that there are no shadows, and life’s structures are indestructible. You can’t blame a tween for wanting to believe. I still want to.

  1. John
    March 29, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    you used a phrase i find interesting — “It’s so true! Tweens have the time to become Evangelists– they don’t have cars and they’re too old to beg for daily play-dates.”

    what do you mean by the term evangelists here?

  2. March 29, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    Hi, John!!

    Adults generally still consider tweens “kids”. They’re not quite ready for the independence that comes with high school & teendom. They’re stuck in this limbo– a transition of wanting someone to help acknowledge the fact they exist… yet a freedom & independence that can appeal to their sense of worth.

    Branding can appeal to this. Life becomes a collage of ideas– elements that can represent a confused, needy tween. Take twelve year old Sammy (a friend). She is OBSESSED with “Nightmare Before Christmas” and Tim Burton (director of NBC). Last year she was this pigtailed girl wearing pink sparkles, making necklaces and fairies. This year she’s wearing darker clothing and COVERED in “Nightmare Before Christmas.” She’s in love with Jack Skellington. She relates a lot of the storyline to herself– and no matter what Tim Burton does, she loves it. Tim Burton has become a “disney” to her. She hasn’t even seen “Big Fish” but she says she loves it. One movie appealed to her, she got something emotional from it– and puts logos all over everything. To her friends she “owns” loving “Nightmare Before Christmas”… They each have a favorite Tim Burton element, and share that common bond.

    Sammy is now a walking billboard for “Nightmare Before Christmas” accessories from “Hot Topic.” By becoming a billboard– she has transcended to the “Brand Evangelist” behavior. Preachin’ it from the rafters.

    The tweens I deal with daily on the website are fans of Edgar & Ellen (and the manga “Naruto” which is the bane of my existence– too much adult content involved with the graphic novels). But maybe one or two of them have achieved “Brand Evangelist” titles. We’re a tiny brand, a blimp on the tween-world, but we’re working on making that better by actually giving the fans a voice.

    If there is anything a tween wants, it’s a voice (and who couldn’t blame them?). Many of them have shown total brand evangelism for “Naruto” on our site– spreading the love for the series. They use our message board as a place to obsess & role play for “Naruto” and it’s very hard to keep this in track (we are, after all, based around our own brand).

    Tweens want things that represent them– something to wave as a cool banner… taking attention off their insecurities that go with tween-hood, and putting them on things that are generally considered cool or different or unique– or worthy of noticing. Thus giving them the attention they desire while protecting their insecurities.

    Hmm. I’ve started rambling again. Let me know if that makes any sense, or if you have any differing opinions! I love chatting about these things. 🙂

  3. March 29, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    Also… to be crystal clear– “Brand Evangelism” is another term for uber-brand loyalty. 🙂

  4. March 30, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    Brilliant post Izzy! Thanks for sharing your ideas with the world.

    As a parent of two children and educator/coach to a few thousand more over the years, I can honestly say that sharing experiences during these years comes as great relief to many of us. I think we may have something to share with each other.

    I am currently writing a book, The Start Smart Guide to Middle School for Parents and Kids (working title). Essentially the book is organized into three parts: 3 weeks leading up to the start of the school year, the first 6 weeks of school from day 1 to progress reports, and finally, the 3 weeks from progress report to the first quarter report card.

    Although I am the primary author driving the book, many of the contributions come from both parents and kids currently in middle school as well as questions from both groups who are making the leap this coming year.

    If you would like to talk more about sharing your ideas we would love to hear them. You can contact me either via email, or by phone 805-889-2142.
    One final contact point is our blog, located at We introduced the book project on our blog and have received incredible response from parents, kids, and educators who want to contribute.



  1. May 4, 2007 at 7:07 am
  2. July 13, 2007 at 4:10 pm

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