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Greg MacSweeney
Greg MacSweeney
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Changing the Game

MTV just celebrated its 25th birthday. And the MTV Generation, as it is known, discovered that it no longer is the new kid on the block.

MTV just celebrated its 25th birthday. And the MTV Generation, as it is known, discovered that it no longer is the new kid on the block. Most members of the MTV Generation now are in their 30s or 40s. The Boomerang Generation, Gen Y and the Internet Generation all have come after the MTV Generation.

But MTV isn't done altering perceptions just yet. Since it first started, MTV has evolved beyond a single music video-only channel. Most programs on MTV today are documentaries, news programs and reality shows (it created the reality-TV genre 17 years ago with "The Real World").

But the biggest change in the vast MTV enterprise, which now includes 50 television channels globally, is how it is balancing TV programming with online content. The media pioneer has done this more successfully than traditional television networks (probably because MTV never has been traditional). MTV executives say that the media outlet has more viewers online -- today's Internet Generation -- than on its broadcast channels. Today's MTV.com viewer reads current news, downloads music and watches videos all while instant messaging and checking e-mail. It sounds a lot like the online financial user that many discount brokers envisioned in the late '90s.

Unfortunately, the MTV Generation -- one of financial services' prime targets -- is not the Internet Generation. Members of the Internet Generation spend more time online than in front of a TV; if the MTV Generation had had the same habits, more brokers may have survived the dot-com bust and the online brokerage consolidation that is continuing to this day.

Still, financial services continues to hope that its number of online users will grow. Online still is the cheapest and, sometimes, the most efficient service channel. Ameritrade bet heavily on the low-touch active trader, and it still serves that demographic well. Its acquisition of TD Waterhouse, with its customer base of longer-term investors, has helped to position the new TD Ameritrade as a player in two different market segments. Now the challenge will be to continue to serve both client bases. TD Ameritrade CIO Jerry Bartlett says that the brokerage is readying the next generation of technology for both market segments.

But as the leading edge of the Internet Generation turns 20 this year, what passes for next-gen technology may be about to change. Just as MTV changed pop culture, the expectations that MTV.com has created will change the way consumers use the Internet for a host of needs -- including financial services.

Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio
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