Teen hangouts on the web such as Xanga and MySpace.com have been getting a lot of press lately. Most has been of the scary headlines variety, which play up the nasty things that some kids write and do online.

BusinessWeek, however, takes a look at these social networking sites from a different perspective. This week’s cover story explains how these sites are now attracting marketers looking for a way to reach kids who don’t pay attention to standard advertising.

Companies like Coke, Sony, Apple, and Proctor and Gamble have been "experimenting with networks to launch products and to embed their brands in the minds of hard-to-reach teens". Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. recently paid $580 million for MySpace.com and venture capitalists are pouring money into similar sites.

So far, their efforts are hit and miss for a variety of reasons, especially because teens are often fickle and suspicious of adults trying to sell them on anything. But the marketers are learning their lessons and I find this as scary as anything I’ve read about MySpace to date.

With 20 million of its members logging on in October, MySpace now draws so much traffic that it accounted for 10% of all advertisements viewed online in the month. This is all the more amazing because MySpace doesn’t allow those ubiquitous pop-up ads that block your view, much less spyware, which monitors what you watch and infuses it with pop-ups. In fact, the advertising can be so subtle that kids don’t distinguish it from content.

We already do a poor job of teaching kids how to sift through and identify the good from the bad in all kinds of media, not just the web. This embedded approach to marketing only makes the job more difficult.

As a side note, in addition to posting their cover stories on the web (for free, no less), BusinessWeek also produces a short podcast to accompany the article. In the one for this article, the writer was interviewed about how she collected her information and offered some insights not included in the publication. An "old media" company that is starting to understand the new.

myspace, advertising, teenagers