On Gen Z Frequency with Otter_ai

I’m learning how smart people think. I’m deeply intrigued by busy people and how they focus attention on writing books about subjects I need to read. These 1600 words share two major discoveries. One is about getting thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Another is about connecting to young people from Generation Z.

I used Otter’s speech-to-text AI while I rambled for 15 minutes about what I’ve learned from the co-author of the latest book I’ve purchased. Just to be clear — this post was produced from text delivered to me by Otter.ai after two sessions about The Gen Z Frequency. During the first recorded session, I talked to co-author Gregg Witt using Zoom.us and during the second recorded session, I talked into the Otter.ai app on my Sony Xperia Z5 phone while reflecting on how The Gen Z Frequency slots into my work. Otter’s free speech to text service did the grunt work by cranking out words you are reading in this post. I just patched together the segments from Otter, added some segues, and then embedded some images.

Let’s start upstairs in my attic.

A few of the 320 copy books and Moleskines awaiting review.

I am very interested in harvesting part of my attic — the part containing several hundred Moleskine journals — and writing a 300 page book from what I’ve already written in the journals. I index all of those little journals with a year and a sequential number. Currently, I’m on journal number 1805. Occasionally I will go back ten years to see what I was doing, thinking, and writing back then. On many occasions, I page through and see my goals are still the same. One of those goals is getting into print. In my case, getting published has evolved into an elusive lifelong goal.

So I decided to ask Gregg Witt, the co-author of the most recent book I’ve purchased, about his writing method. Gregg Witt and Derek Baird wrote The Gen Z Frequency (affiliate link), an excellent compilation of ideas that directly relates to work I do with Ireland’s Youth Media Team. I’ve helped these high-spirited teens during the past five years channel their confidence of expression into syndicated podcast interviews. And I’ve noticed that during the past five years, the persona of the average young teen has changed a little. My observations are reinforced while reading The Gen Z Frequency in my sitting room.

Reading Two Ways

I have the The Gen Z Frequency on my book shelf as well as the Kindle edition in my briefcase. I like marking up printed pages with different colours and little notes. I do the same sort of thing with the Kindle edition — make highlights and notes. But there’s an added feature with Kindle in that I can see highlights other Kindle owners have left on pages when they read and annotated.

Bernie’s faithful Kindle Voyage

These annotations are very helpful for me because Kindle highlights and Kindle notes can be extracted as a text file. This means I can extract both the original text as well as the notes surrounding key parts of the book. By learning how to extract highlights I’ve made, I can often quickly create a PowerPoint deck on what I’ve written just editing the electronic annotations.

That Yellow Cover

My Kindle Voyage is an e-ink device. It does not show the compelling features of the very clever cover seen in the print edition. The Gen Z Frequency is yellow and that is an important colour choice. It’s not the same shade as Snapchat yellow but its burnt yellow shade makes the book stand out. The Kogan Page design studio deserves great credit for their compelling cover design.

The Gen Z Frequency underneath

The Gen Z Frequency includes some subtle formatting such as TL;DR summaries. On Kindle, I can search for the term and quickly flick through each of the chapter summaries. This easy summary style is made to order for Gen Z students who are on college campuses today.

Hand-drawn illustrations by Mike Carnevale

Hand-drawn graphics

Mike Carnevale produced several very nice hand-drawn illustrations inside The Gen Z Frequency. They are playful and authentic. Several would be welcome additions to the slide decks I use with community youth groups and academic staff.

Kogan Page and the Writing Process

The university lecturers in my professional circle accord respect to Kogan Page, publisher of The Gen Z Frequency. I was curious to hear how Gregg Witt got together with his publisher.

“I put this goal on my wall,” Gregg told me. “My company was just acquired and I had to make some moves. So I put my goals on the wall before the New Year. I wanted to write a book. I had no idea what I would write in this book.

Books give you credibility.

“But I needed to write a book because you need to write a book to get more credibility. It should be about youth culture.

“Over the two week period during the Christmas holidays I got this call from Kogan Page. ‘We want to do a book on Gen Z. And people told us that you’re the guy. We’re interviewing a couple of people. Do you want to do an interview?’

“Are you kidding?

“So I do the interview and they say, ‘You probably would be a good fit but we gotta finish these other interviews. It’s really important that we do this Gen Z, the trends and all this stuff.’

“And I think that I had already given them an outline. And I said, it’s important to me that it is not Gen Z. What’s important to me is connecting and engaging with youth culture, because people don’t get the difference. They don’t know what they really need, the way we engage them.

“It can’t just be about Gen Z. It has to be about engagement.

“They say, ’Okay, we’re good with that. You want to do it?’

“I was like, well, yeah!” So they said, ‘Okay, well, then you’ve got the deal. Let’s do it.’

“Oh, shit! I gotta do it now. I really have to it figure out.”

So Gregg’s book writing strategy started with a narrative. Then as he pulled together pieces, he realised he needed some help to ensure he didn’t simply rant about a bunch of topics.

“I needed to make sure that we compressed this down” and that’s what happened.

Gregg needed to “type it, type it, type it” to get it out of his head. As he describes it, his “entire house was the book on the wall”.

The Editing Process

I was surprised to hear Gregg Witt had an editor because nearly everyone I know has to rely on the self-publishing pathway. And from the look of the references, the glossary, and the structure of the chapters in The Gen Z Frequency (iBooks link), it appears that Kogan Page put a subeditor onto the project as well.

“These were my stories from the trenches. I had to transcribe those on my way to work and send them to the publisher. It got to the point where I could not write another chapter on the tight timeline. But I realised we had to have it so I would transcribe them. I would email them to New York by the time I got to work and then we would go back and forth”.

I told Gregg that the quality of his Zoom teleconference connection we shared resulted in better than 80% accuracy when transcribing the interview. When I train apps like Otter.ai or Rev.com on my handset, I get better than 95% accuracy most of the time.

Otter.ai offers free rolling minutes every month. Rev.com costs me one dollar for every minute of spoken content. Where I work in the Limerick Institute of Technology, I can use Cognitive Services from Microsoft and have Cortana produce transcripts. I’m looking at each of these three avenues as I piece together structured conversations with colleagues. I’m convinced the AI can crank out the first collaborative draft. From what Gregg Witt told me, that sort of workflow might have made his writing tasks so much easier.

Why I Bought the Book

I saw the book evolve through one of my newsfeeds. The information originated on Derek Baird’s blog. I’ve read Derek’s blog since 2004 and I’ve adopted many of Derek’s recommendations.

Buy the book if you want everything about youth culture glued together.

This is a well-written book with a very effective Gen Z Playbook inside. I respect the quality of the case studies and the depth of current research citations. Both the playbook and the case studies will be excellent points of reference for inexperienced staff members and for students who create multimedia material for Gen Z consumption.

For all the marketing majors that I meet, I know it’s a difficult pill to swallow once they realise that their jobs are no longer merely counting money spent for display advertising or for online advertisements. To reach Gen Z, you have to offer an engaging story that culminates in an immersive experience. The Gen Z Frequency explains how to be relevant.

One More Thing: The Bullshit List

Both Gregg Witt and Derek Baird know youth culture. They can tell you all about the joy of a pre-teen who likes to ride a bike. They have worked with skateboard girls who like to dance. They connect these young people with immersive experiences and effective storytelling. They know the Gen Z Frequency and they know imposters.

Gregg Witt and The Bullshit List

“I went on a mission and I went out and looked at every Gen Z article I could find,” Gregg said. “I think I went 30 Google pages back. I made a list of everything I read that I personally felt was complete and utter bullshit. I said, ‘This is going to be fun!’ Now I go to groups of salespeople specifically to present The Bullshit List.”

So now, as I extract lecture material from The Gen Z Frequency I expect to reinforce my notes with information about the Youth Culture Bullshit List when it starts to appear in my newsfeed. I’m sure Gregg Witt and Derek Baird will continue to share The Bullshit List as we tune into the Gen Z frequency.

Bernie Goldbach is @topgold on good social networks. Derek Baird is @derekeb. Gregg Witt is @thinkwithwitt.