Digital from coast to coast

Youthography Skyped with teens across the country about what they’re up to online and how they feel about everything from web advertising to their favourite local URLs.

Youthography Skyped with teens across the country about what they’re up to online and how they feel about everything from web advertising to their favourite local URLs

Vancouver: Ceilidh, 16; Jeff, 16; Jose, 17

What do you typically use the internet for?
I use social networking like Twitter, Facebook, Skype, YouTube, anything where you’re able to chat with others.
eBay, Craigslist. I’m sometimes scared to shop on Craigslist, I find eBay more reliable.
Research for homework. I use YouTube for lessons on anything.
I blog on a lot, I let other people know what’s going on in Vancouver. For example we had We Day, which is a social initiative from Free the Children, and I let people know what was happening here.
I’m a mentor with the Heroes Hockey Program, and I promote it on Twitter.

Do you do any gaming or stream video?
I go to flash games like – just things that are time-killers.
I watch shows on, like Jersey Shore or The Hills.
I watch shows on

How do you use the internet differently now vs. a year ago?
I use it more often. I’m on Facebook more and I go to Ticketmaster, more purchasing online.
It’s a huge part of my life, I don’t know if that’s a good thing. I have internet on my phone; I’m constantly checking Facebook.
I used to be on MSN all the time, but not anymore.

How are you consuming content online – viewing, sharing, accessing, etc.?
For school I use Spark Notes, it’s extremely valuable to get other people’s notes. I also use YouTube for news, and local news [websites].

What types of blogs do you follow?
I follow celebrities on Twitter.
The top three I follow are [singer] Jason Mraz’s blog [Freshness Factor Five Thousand], my friend’s picture blog and Deepak Chopra has Twitter – it’s enlightening.
I love forums, when I need advice for purchasing something.

How do you feel about online advertising?
Mixed feelings, sometimes they can be helpful, for [universities] there’s a lot of ads on Facebook, local events, the things that interest me that can make my life easier, not trying to take my money away.
Some, like the ones that ask you to pay money for an avatar, are annoying.

What would make it less annoying for you?
If they’re really straight-up and not selling trash. then I would be fine with it – if it’s something that would benefit my life.
If it was a big company like Apple running a contest I’d be more willing to do it.
I trust big brands more, they’re safer because I’m not going to click on it and get a virus.
I would be willing to buy something if it’s an honest advertisement. You learn so much in school about false advertising, not to trust someone on the internet.
Don’t try to get money from me the quick way, have me coming back and build a bond
with the consumer – there needs to be that long-term feeling.
Once they ask for your address I back out immediately.

Toronto: Andrew M., 18; Andrew B.; 18, Sadi, 20

What specific websites do you visit regularly?
Andrew M:, where you can look through different start-up companies.
Andrew B: I’m a film student, so blogs like,
Sadi: Ninja Video.
Andrew B: College Humor, Today’s Big Thing, and YouTube. I don’t have a favourite YouTube channel, it’s just random, although I might go through someone’s videos if I like something they post.

How do you use the internet differently now?
I used to download video but now it’s just easier and more accessible to stream them.
Andrew M: I look for jobs online.
Andrew B: Browsing Craigslist and eBay is more serious – you’re not just looking.

How do you feel about brands on Facebook?
Andrew B:
I have absolutely no interest in adding companies as friends. I would much rather check their website if I’m interested in them.
Andrew M: I think I have tunnel vision where I just don’t see ads anymore.

Anything you do online unique to Toronto?
Andrew M:
The only site I check for news is CP24.
Andrew B: I check concert listings on Eye Weekly.
Andrew M: I look up websites that are related to theatre shows so I can see if I want to go see it.

How do you feel about ads that target you?
Andrew B:
I don’t find it threatening, more of an annoyance.
Sadi: I don’t like them but I don’t find it threatening either.
Andrew M: I find it better when companies are sponsoring something rather than just buying up space on a page.

What’s the best way to reach out to you?
Andrew B:
I want it to be my choice, so if I’m looking up McDonald’s, I want to find the information easily, but if I’m just surfing YouTube, I don’t want McDonald’s to be popping up because that doesn’t make me want it, it makes me hate it.
Andrew M: Sponsor something I’m interested in.

How can a brand look good online?
Andrew B:
Be honest and keep your integrity, say ‘this is what the company is, this what our product is, buy it if you want to.’ Not just ‘buy it, buy it, buy it’ in your face.
Andrew M: For me, good advertising is when someone sponsors a small soccer team. That kind of stuff is the kindest way of advertising while helping others out.

Montreal: Courtney, 18; Katy, 19

What sites have you recently discovered?
Katy: – I don’t really know what it is, but I want to. I notice people send each other a lot of links from there.
Courtney: The Hype Machine is new for me, I check out music blogs from there.

Do you download or stream anything online?
I stream TV shows, I don’t really watch cable TV anymore. I download a lot of music.
Katy: in the States. A lot of people use NinjaVideo, which gives you high-definition TV.
Courtney: I use Surf the Channel and it always goes to Megavideo. I watch shows off, like the Olympics.

How do you hear about events in Montreal?
Last FM. Also Facebook – you can get invited to anything happening in Montreal from a bake sale to Nuit Blanche.

Any favourite Canadian brands?
Roots is a big one because I had never heard of it before [being American].
Courtney: I like Canadian magazines more because they advertise things you can access.
Katy: My winter coat is Mackage, a Montreal brand. Canada Goose is a well-respected brand and a lot of people wear that here.

Anything not in Canada that you wish was?
I do a lot of my shopping online, a lot of that comes from the states, but they don’t have retail locations anyway. I buy a lot of Threadless t-shirts online – it’s out of Chicago. 
How do you feel about online advertising?
Courtney: I try to ignore it. I hate pop-ups, they’re annoying, although I have clicked on one – [a marketplace for handmade goods].
Katy: While I was writing an email to my lacrosse coach on Gmail, an online ad would pop up about lacrosse sticks or women’s lacrosse. It makes me feel uncomfortable. 

Any advice to marketers?
It’d be nice to have our privacy respected. American Apparel ads pop up on my Facebook, and now I have deep-seated hate for them.
Courtney: I would initially like to seek it out myself, but I do get newsletters from different websites which I like, because then I don’t have to go to their sites all the time. But I wouldn’t want them if I didn’t sign up first.
Katy: Blogs are a place where I would check things out. If people are writing about it, it will interest me, so make your product buzz-worthy.

Halifax: Rachel, 17; Lauren, 18; Andrea, 18

How is your internet use today different to a year ago?
I use it a lot more to keep in touch with family and friends.
Lauren: I started reading the newspaper online, like the Toronto Star and the Coast. I’m using Skype now, which is a new thing. I’m a music student so I use YouTube to learn songs.
Rachel: I wasn’t on Facebook last year. I didn’t know anything about online conversations.

Any new sites you’ve found in the last three or four months?
The Onion is something newer for me.
Rachel: [Fashion blog] the Sartorialist I check every day.

Any online shopping?
I buy my schoolbooks online at and

Any local brands that you like?
Just Us! It’s a chain of organic fair trade coffee shops, they’re all over Halifax. It has really good food and coffee, and the atmosphere is good. Also, used bookstore JW Doull, it’s wall-to-wall books, you could spend hours there.
Rachel: The website has a catalogue of all their books so you can search.

How do you feel about online advertising?
Facebook ads freak me out because it takes your information and personalizes the ads.
Andrea: I had a friend who was a rower, and I got an email from her on Gmail. For the next three months I got rowing ads.
Rachel: I generally don’t mind if they’re not invasive. I hate pop-ups, animations, noisy ads, etc. I often don’t notice them. I’ve learned to selectively look at things.
Lauren: I always like ModCloth. It will show pictures of the products, it’s visually interesting.

Are you fans of any products or services on Facebook?
I’m a fan of local products and groups, like a great local comedy group called Picnicface that started at our university. A lot of bands and small shops.
Rachel: I hear about a lot of local things through Facebook groups. 

What is your advice to online marketers when it comes to reaching you?
If there’s a website, I like it to be interactive. I’d like the site to tell me a lot of information, a chance to purchase online, etc. It has to be an extensive presence, because if it’s a half-hearted website, it doesn’t make me more interested in the brand.
Rachel: Make the site visually appealing, which will make it look reputable. Companies should spend more time and money on their website because I don’t listen to the radio or read the paper or watch TV. If you’re going to contact me it will be through the internet, and it has to look nice.

If you could give marketers rules about reaching you, what would they be?
Don’t contact me unless I contact you.
Rachel: The best way to get me aware of products is through my friends, like if a friend points out a Facebook page.

Are you more likely to be a fan of a brand on Facebook than click on an ad?
A thousand times more likely.


Where the teens at?
You can find our Skypers at these online hotspots
No need to be a hardcore gamer to visit this Nickelodeon-owned site. Online games are hosted here, which also links to games found elsewhere (such as the Cartoon Network). Gamers can play live, no downloading required. The largest gaming site in the U.S., it boasts 10 million unique users every month.
Founded in 1993 and inspired by New York’s Village Voice, the Coast is a free, independent Halifax newspaper and website. The site includes a Bitch section where readers can post their various frustrations (or the opposite in the Love section). The Reality Bites section talks politics…with attitude.
College Humor features videos, pictures, articles and all things funny to the high school and college crowds. The premise of sister site Today’s Big Thing is simple – the one “best thing on the internet” posted each day. Targeting the male 18-to-34 demo, the College Humor network of sites has over 10 million users who stream over 30 million videos each month.
The Hype Machine follows music blog discussions, then picks up the posts and songs for listeners to read and hear, download-free. The blog selection process is a tough one – only true music lovers who can add something new to the site are chosen, so the chances of hearing something cool are good.
Spark Notes is the online version of those study aides we all bought when we had a test on The Great Gatsby in the morning but hadn’t read the book. The 2.0 version also includes a lifestyle blog, advice columns and personality quizzes for those all-important study breaks. The 5.5 million visitors each month spend a lot of time surfing the site, which gets 79 million pages views monthly.

A Canadian music site that recommends music, videos and concerts based on what the visitor listens to. While the music spans genres and geography, there’s a Popular in Canada tab to let you know who’s rockin’ the most here at home, like current list-topper, indie band Metric, which had over 25 million plays at last count. Our teens from Montreal like to check out the Canadian concert listings section.
Known for satirizing all things youth culture, this Halifax-based sketch comedy troupe has taken their humour from the stage to the computer screen. They’ve carved out a comfortable online existence that includes hosting sketch videos as well as on a YouTube channel, enjoyed by their nearly 3,000 Facebook fans.
Based in Burnaby B.C., Push Skateboards and Stuff is a favourite among West Coast skater teens. The website boasts a blog with store info and cool skate photography, also viewable on the shop’s Facebook page, which has nearly 900 fans.
A Chicago-based online t-shirt shop with a twist – visitors can submit their own designs to be voted on, and if their idea is selected for print, they take home a paycheque. And young shoppers get a boost of individuality thanks to a unique shirt not sold at the local mall. The site pulls in 1.5 to 2.5 million visitors per month, hundreds of thousands of which are Canadian.
Owned by Toronto-based media company Youth Culture, the online offshoot of Vervegirl magazine targets girls aged 12 to 24. It offers advice, contests and the opportunity for girls to blog about whatever their hearts desire. It boasts about 150,000 monthly impressions and 40,000 registered users.

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