The Final Demographic

from Docs Searls Weblog

I worked in retailing, wholesaling, journalism and radio when I was 18-24.

I co-founded an advertising agency when I was 25-34. Among the things I studied while working in that age bracket were Nielsen and Arbitron ratings for radio and TV. Everything those companies had to say was fractioned into age brackets.

The radio station I did most of that work for was WQDR in Raleigh, one of the world’s first album rock stations. Its target demographic was 18-34. It’s a country station now, aimed at 25-54.

Other “desirable” demographics for commercial media are 18-49 and 25-49.

The demographic I entered between the last sentence and this one, 65+, is the last in the usual demographic series and the least desirable to marketers, regardless of the size of the population in it, and the disposable wealth it is ready to spend.

Thus I have now fallen over the edge of a demographic cliff, at the bottom of which is little of major interest to marketers, unless they’re hawking the cushy human equivalent of parking lots. You know: cruises, golf, “lifestyle communities,” “erectile dsyfunction,” adult diapers, geriatric drugs, sensible cars, dementia onset warnings…

For individuals, demographics are absurd. None of us are an age, much less a range of them. We’re animals who live and work and have fun and do stuff. Eventually we croak, but if we stay healthy we acquire wisdom and experience, and find ourselves more valuable over time.

Yet we become less employable as we climb the high end of the demographic ladder, but not because we can’t do the work. It’s mostly because we look old and our tolerance for bullshit is low. Even our own, which is another bonus.

More here.

Posted in Ideas and tagged .


  1. In this article, the author, Doc Searls, writes about how all these different companies operate on different target demographics, especially when it comes to who they are hiring for specific jobs and who they are marketing to when selling different products. He mainly dives into how after the age of sixty-five, individuals tend to “fallout” of the target demographic bracket for most companies. After reading this article, my take is that people should not solely be targeted just off their age, especially when it comes to filling certain job positions. Assuming that individuals over the age of sixty-five cannot fulfil a job or do not want to purchase something just because of their age does not tell anyone anything. While statistics might show that people over the age of sixty-five tend to not be technologically inclined, which is what most office jobs require in today’s world, it does not mean they should not be considered. It can’t hurt to at least interview someone who is over the age of sixty-five for the job because there is still a good chance they can handle the workload and if anything, they might be able to do it better than the younger workers due to their wisdom and experience. It simply does not make any sense to assume that everyone over the age of sixty-five is old, crippled grandparents who are no longer capable of pulling their weight out in the work field. I would even go as far to say that as long as the individuals from that demographic know how to operate a computer, they are way more likely to be better workers than employees who are in the younger age bracket. That generation of people might not be the best when it comes to technology, but they definitely have a far better work ethic than the majority of the younger generation, and that is coming from a person who is from the younger generation. If a job applicant over the age of sixty-five is somewhat technologically inclined, I would call that a “home run”. Not only will that person be able to do the job, but they will also probably be able to do it better than most younger employees due to the work skill-set that comes from their generation.

  2. This article struck a chord when it comes to my older peers or family because when it came to my grandma turning sixty it was harder for her to get a job. Sometimes individuals would see age as a big factor when it comes to the job field, fun activities, and adopting children. As I read more of the article I started to feel that society will not ever take age out when it comes to demographics. For instance, Doc Searls Weblog states “Other ‘desirable’ demographic for commercial media 18- 49 and 25- 49”. An important question that I believe no one has given a valid answer to is who made up these demographics? Why didn’t the fifties and sixties not make the cutout? This article describes the effects of becoming sixty-five plus in the age bracket or what society has labeled as old. In the article, we also see the author’s point of view when it comes to his opinions on the subject matter at hand. As I read more into the article I love that he stated that he didn’t care about working with individuals that were two generations. In that paragraph, you can sense that he not only wanted to learn from younger individuals then but Doc Searls Weblog was able to see the progress of different things such as computers, the internet, smartphones. When I read this paragraph I felt the sense he wanted the reader to understand. Yes, he is old but can still function in his job field and be able to make adjustments to the new advancements. It was also great in my opinion that he didn’t like demographics because I believe that we can learn from older adults. As a society, we have to learn that life is not just about social class or the different age brackets in this case. We should focus on how we can use the seniors’ knowledge and values even in the business. Society hasn’t changed its ways but evolve into the era we now know as technology. Reading this article has made me have a better output on the way I view things. Youth creates while older adults give the footnotes to these creations.

  3. I believe that demographics can be logical for specific situations. For instance, the article stated that the target demographic for one of the world’s first album rock stations was 18-34; since it has become a country station, the target demographic is now 25-54. I feel like these demographics make sense because facts show that the majority of rock music listeners are younger, and the majority of country music listeners are older, so in situations like this, demographics can be helpful. However, I do not believe that age should play into the hiring process. I remember reading that the majority of companies thought that older age is considered a competitive disadvantage. This would obviously make companies more inclined to hire youth. Employers do not prefer to hire older individuals because the older age range is discredited to being slow workers, unmotivated, less adaptable, and not comfortable with technology. While that can be true for many older people, many people in that age range still dispute those claims. I think that a candidate for a job should not be automatically dismissed because of their age. Employers should hire an individual based on who is the most qualified and skilled, and that can be a person of any age. While I firmly believe that age should not play a factor in the hiring process, it poses the question, what needs to be done to stop this from happening? There seems to be already much talk about gender and racial biases in the workplace, but not as much about age discrimination. I believe that shining a brighter light on it will increase the conversation and could result in change for the better. For example, the firing of two black head coaches in the NFL sparked much debate because many believed that they did not deserve to be fired and thought that white head coaches had a lot more leeway. This incident eventually led to the creation of the Rooney Rule. This rule required NFL teams to interview minority head coaching candidates for head coaching jobs. This proves that increasing the discussion and spotlighting a particular issue can lead to change, which can also be the case for age discrimination in the workplace.

  4. I believe that demographics should only be used in certain situations. The article talks about how companies use demographics to find their based audiences in certain situations. Demographics are absurd because it doesn’t mean all people necessarily act their specific age. For a radio station or a television network, there might be a demographic that you are trying to reach. Demographics don’t work in all forms of life though and shouldn’t make assumptions on a person.

  5. The author of this article, referred to as Doc Searls, goes into depth about his personal experiences with the concept of demographics, and what demographics are supposed to do. For instance, the purpose of a demographic, weather its for a television advertisement, a radio station, or a store product, is to appeal to a specific audience, usually defined by a characteristic like age. Now for Doc Seals, he does not like the idea of a demographic because as he states, “None of us are an age, much less a range of them. We’re animals who live and work and have fun and do stuff.” I agree with this idea that an age defines what we as humans are supposed to like and dislike. Now in some instances it makes sense to use demographics; we shouldn’t put ads for alcohol on Disney Channel instead of Star Wars ads, yet considering everybody has a different personality, different likes and dislikes if you will, the concept of demographics becomes not effective. I believe this is true later in life more than earlier in life, as kids are still not sure who they are and even who they want to be. Adults on the other hand are pretty set in stone on what they like and don’t like by a certain age. Later in the article, Searls goes in a different direction in discussing the rise of technology and its effects on the economy. The three key inventions he brings up are the personal computer, the internet, and smartphones, and he mentions how these inventions have brought so much power to individuals, and how we take this power for granted. Now, in mentioning the rise of the three inventions (personal computer, the internet, and smartphones) I couldn’t help but think that demographics have been implemented in these things as well. For instance, cheaper and easier to use phones/computers are catered towards the 65+ audience and the flashier, modern versions would be catered towards the 18-49 audience. Going even further, there are demographics to break down what content we see on these devices, what ads we see on google, etc. Most times this content is from left field and make no sense, yet every once and a while, the perfect ad, or the perfect video pops up and grabs the attention of the user. It all goes to show that demographics may be inefficient, yet in certain cases do work.

  6. In the very beginning of “The final demographic” the author talks about various jobs he has worked at. He explains that with each new company he highlights, they appeal to a much smaller or less profitable demographic than the companies he previously worked for. He emphasizes this to make a comparison to how as he has gotten older and searched for different positions, he has become less desirable to successful and desirable companies. There are multiple arguments that could be made on why individuals should not be discriminated against from getting positions due to their age. Older people, especially those that have worked proficiently in the same field for several years, can be very great assets to various businesses. Due to their experience, they should be able to help companies in various aspects more than younger candidates who have little to no experience in that field yet, they have an edge in getting hired by that company due to their age. In addition, one could make the argument that an establishment not hiring someone because of their age is equally as bad as not hiring someone due to their religious beliefs or their gender. While one might not agree with that perspective, older people are supposed to be protected from age discrimination and unfortunately, in competitive industries, most times they are not.
    Even though there are many reasons why one could argue against companies not wanting to hire older candidates, there are a couple of reasons why it makes sense for companies to not want to hire people that are in the same age bracket as the author. First of all, companies may seek people that are younger due to them desiring people that will work for the establishment for a long period of time. Hiring a candidate for a job that would presumably be with the company for a long period of time would save the establishment both money and time in the long run. Secondly, the author talks about how he held various job positions throughout his life. While having a lot of different positions can show one’s work experience and job qualifications, it can also show that they are not willing to stay in one place for long periods of time which is undesirable to many employers. Finally, the advancement of technology has given younger people a comparative advantage over people in the author’s age bracket. Due to the knowledge that younger people have about technology, this makes them more desirable to hire in those fields over older people. These three issues unfortunately leave many older people who need jobs to work in professions that are not desirable to them or even worse, cause them to struggle financially.

  7. Becoming old in this society can be incredibly difficult. Many lose their jobs as the markets demand younger and brighter ideas. Some lose their various capacities, needing assistance in everyday tasks. Some persevere, having risen to the top of their hierarchy and remaining the top dog, employing or otherwise managing the younger generations. The article sheds light on how this odd age, where society no longer sees you as an asset, can become burdensome and stressful. The author speaks about how the markets no longer care to cater to his demographic, how the world is evolving so fast as he watches innovation after innovation pass him by. The inventions of the mobile phone, the personal computer, and the internet were, at least according to the author, the most important technologies developed during his lifetime. I wholeheartedly agree. The internet has become a digital library of all of humanity’s information, bringing the world together to exponentially improve the rate of innovation. It has allowed us to know exactly what was going on in the world, at any time we wanted. How are your relatives living in Azerbaijan? They are quite literally a Facebook message or Instagram scroll away. This amazing piece of tech is accessible through a small pocket device that almost every human living in a developed nation has access to. The mobile phone lets us do everything the internet does, from anywhere in the world–provided the area has service, of course. The wonderful point he makes is that this tech can be improved by anyone. Hundreds of companies and individuals can share their ideas, work off of each other’s innovations, and almost infinitely improve every facet of this technology. The 65+ age bracket may be falling out of the proverbial market loop, becoming outsiders to much of western life, but they can still witness the amazing, and nearly exponential, improvements the world is going through. As humanity continues to advance and develop, people will age out of the demographics that can acutely take advantage of the ever-improving technology of the 21st century. Out-of-touch boomers are a prime example of people cut off from today’s advancements, either due to age or sheer ignorance of the changing world around them. How long my generation will take to reach that point? I have no clue. Perhaps around the same age, I too will be unable to keep up with the coming tide of innovation, although I feel my generation will fare much better, as we are already living in an ever-changing world.

  8. I really enjoyed reading the honest perspective that this blog was written with and the casualty of the author’s statement. Addressing an often-neglected element, “the final demographic,” this blog was written by Doc Searls, someone who knows first-hand how advertisements and marketing campaigns are conducted and who they are directed at. Searls points out that the “desirable” demographics for commercial media are 18-49 and 25-49 years old. And, as the title suggests, the “least desirable” demographic includes those who are 65+ years old. One thing that I especially enjoyed about this blog was Searls’ opinion that demographics are nonsense. No single person is the same as another and therefore it is unfair to clump a bunch of people who are similar in age and assume they have similar interest and/or skills. A human being is not equivalent to a demographic in a marketing campaign and should instead be appreciated by the quality of their work, what they do outside of work for fun, and everything else that makes every person unique. While Searls might not have seen this demographic system as wrong while he was the person creating the advertisements, now that he has reached that final demographic, he understands that the two ideas are entirely separate.
    He goes on to say that the people he works with are all younger than him, yet he never really feels different from them. He has come to realize that the most important factor in the workforce and in life is experience. Looks can be deceiving and all old people should not be generalized to be incapable or be overlooked in demographics. Just because people above 65 years old might be less physically capable, that says nothing about their ambitions, ideas, and strive to be their best selves in any aspect of life. Demographics are based on statistical data and trends over time and are not meant to discriminate against older people but to highlight their differences when compared to those from younger demographics. I think the overall message of this blog is to never put a limit on a person’s capability based on their age because we are all so much more than a number.

  9. To briefly summarize, society tends to put people 65 years or older under the radar and it’s harder for this demographic to find a job. We do not take them as seriously. We think they are weak and fragile, the ageism in our society is unbelievable. Millennials who only acquire knowledge and don’t know very much about wisdom tend to be oblivious to the fact that they do not know better than everyone else. Society ignores the fact that qualification is not based on looks but rather experiences. Instead of including and accepting older people in the workplace in order to have a good and better working environment, we just assume and conclude that the elderly are not of any use.
    Some use the excuse of technology to support their shameful behavior but the truth is that it also takes as much time teaching a younger person and an older person. The technology nowadays is not even made to help or support older people. They are left in the shadow when it comes to most things. This kind of behavior convinces them that they actually cannot do anything and that can take a toll on their mental health. For those who do not also have any “fancy pension” and still have to work a day job struggle financially because Of these acts. People forget to think about the fact that one day, they will be old themselves and wouldn’t like it when someone treated them like that.

  10. I agree with what the author is describing in the blog. The 65+ year old demographic is very commonly overlooked, even though they bring phenomenal value and insight to the table. I agree with the writer that demographics should not be as weighed as they are in society. We are natural humans and animals, so the age difference from 20-65+ will not have a significant impact on many industries’ performance. For instance, our last two presidents have been 65+, so it proves people in positions in industries can carry a workload at 65+. They also are usually thicker skin, as the author mentioned. They have more experience and are hard-nosed, compared to new and inexperienced 18-35 year old’s. It is valuable to have a good mix and variation in the workplace because it will lead to different ideas and results. I can see a reason to not include this demographic when it comes to technology because many 65-year-old workers are not as experienced with the technology as the younger demographics. The most qualified employees should be the ones allowed to execute the job, whether they are 20 or 65, but the experience and change of tone that a 65+ worker brings to the table can be a great addition to a business. We should not differentiate one by a number, but the qualification and ability of the individual, which is where I agree with the author and his justification of the 65 and older demographic in the workplace.

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