UPDATE MAY 2008 - there is a strongly updated and revised major article about the 7th Mass Media, entitled Deeper Insights into 7th Mass Media. You might want to read that first.
(Welcome readers of Carnival of the Mobilists. I have a welcoming posting to you to explain our blogsite, as all of this is not necessarily related to mobile phones. See the welcoming message here: [Welcome to Carnival of Mobilists] - and as to regular visitors to this blogsite, if you want to read some of the best thinking among the experts in mobile telecoms, please visit the Carnival, this week hosted at fellow author Ajit Jaokar's Open Gardens blogsite at [Carnival of Mobilists 4] )
Alan and I mention frequently that there will be no one network or media at the end, but rather that the new Generation-C (for Community) customer is becoming very adept at utilizing multiple networks and multiple media as best suited, and often simultaneously.
But the first five mass media are all very mature, over 50 years old each. Even the sixth media - the internet - is well into its teens. The least undestood of the seven media is the youngest, mobile phone, which became a media channel only six years ago when NTT DoCoMo first launched its revolutionary i-Mode service in 1999. i-Mode has in its very short life, as regular readers of this blog know, become the world's largest internet service provider, ie bigger than AOL, Yahoo, etc by paying subscribers, by revenues and by profits.
I've been thinking about the seventh media, and in particular tried to put it in context with the previous six. I've spoken about these things a lot this Autumn at my workshops and at courses, workshops and conferences. I will post this as an early thought piece on the "big picture" of comparing the seven media. You can expect this thinking still to evolve.
UPDATE February 2007: - I've written a major piece on Mobile as the 7th Mass Media
The first mass media is the printing press. At about 500 years old, it gave us first books, then pamphlets, then newspapers, and later magazines etc. Early on it was even the only mass-media for selling of music (as before recordings and radio, the only way to sell music was through the sheets of notes, that the musically inclined could then play on their pianos etc at home). Even though almost every newer mass media was predicted to destroy the print business, most of the books, newspapers and magazines printing business is still doing quite well. Print introduced the concept of advertising. And as a mass media its format was a buy-to-own model. Printed items are totally portable and even though much of the printing process has been digitized, still almost all print material (on print mass media, see recording and internet as separate media below) is "analogue" or paper based. The costs to get into printing are rather heavy, needing both page layout technology and a printing press. Much of the processing of print material now can be done on a PC but still mass-market printing (in volume) requires a printing press. Books themselves tend not to support much advertising (maybe the author mentioning his/her other books) but magazines and newspapers get much - in some cases of free newspapers, all - of their revenues from advertising.
The second mass media appeared about 1900, as recordings. The first recordings were "clay" records, eventually shifting that media to vinyl, and then digital formats. Other analogue recording materials appeared such as tape, c-cassette, cartridge, Videotape. Then digital formats appeared from the computer disks and diskettes, to CDs to DVDs. Obviously music shifted from vinyl to CD and movies similarly from videotape to DVD. Like print, recordings are also buy-to-own media. They are not as inherently portable as print, as you need a player for its given format, ie a CD player to listen to music today, or DVD player to watch the movie; the portability of the player is a constraint, but no longer a prohibitive one (ie early record players could not be played while being moved). Recordings soon cannibalized much of the music from print, but not that much from books and magazines, and nothing from news. Recordings introduced new media content options: the branded recordings of music (rather than your sister playing a song written by Madonna, now we can hear Madonna singing her own song). Recordings allowed political speeches, comedians and other shorter vocal items to be stored and sold. Eventually with more advanced storage mediums we could store movies, TV shows, computer programmes and videogames. The cost to enter the recording industry used to be big - needing a recording studio and a record production factory, but today with digital production and low-cost mass-production of CD's etc., the costs of actual recording production have diminished drastically. Looking at all recording formats (music, movies, computer software and videogaming) - the total recording business is growing at very healthy rates, even though individual elements, in particular music recordings, are shrinking. Music recordings rarely had much advertising except what an artist might advertise the other albums they had also released. But modern DVD's tend to have many ads for other videos, and videogames are increasingly incorporating advertising. Still, this media is not very strongly conducive to advertising support. Until the reaction to some very hostile lyrics in some rap records of the 1990s, the recording industry used to be very free of regulatory interests.
The third mass-media was cinema, from about 1910. This was the first "pay-per-view" format, and the first "multimedia" format, even though film went through silent black-and-white to sound black-and-white to colour sound movies (and since to cinemascope wide-screen movies, dolby sounds etc). Cinema started to migrate the long-form stories of books into the silver screen, eventually having authors write directly to screenplays that never were released as books, or that are only released as books after the movie has become a success. Cinema also cannibalized part of the newspaper news content - in the 1920s and 1930s the cinema was the weekly viewing place for "newsreels" - a kind of grandfather for what is TV news today. The cinema introduced continuing storyline films ie the cliffhangers (precursor to today's soap operas). Cinema also produced the world's first global celebrities, Charlie Chaplin etc. Cinema content was consumed in large groups (ie not privately). The advertising in cinema was shown before the main feature started. And as to costs to get into the cinema business, the production costs involved in maintaining the vast army of technical competence meant running a motion picture studio (eg Hollywood) and/or then running a chain of cinemas. Very expensive, much much more expensive than print or recordings. The height of cinema is over, so the total number of separate cinema theatres is shrinking and what are left, tend to become multiplex cinemas to further reduce operating costs per theatre. Cinema is regulated on national levels on age limits of what can be shown to what age viewers (and this varies enormously between countries)
The fourth mass media appeared also very close to that time, essentially around 1920. Radio. This was the first broadcast media, where the consumption was a "streaming" concept. You did not own the content and the listener could not replay it (until technology emerged to capture broadcasts onto tape etc). Radio was mostly personal or consumed in a small group, but almost from the start the format was mobile. Radios started to appear in cars, and after the war even in personally portable radios. Radio took the rest of the music content, and became a very serious outlet for news. Radio ran regular drama and comedy shows including continuing stories. Weather became a serious separate content category, as did live sports. In some countries the radio broadcasts were paid for by radio licenses, in other countries paid for by advertising (or a mixture). This media too went through its technical evolutions from AM broadcasts to FM broadcasts to stereo to digital. Radio started to dominate other media - a pop music artist who was favoured by a radio DJ would then become a hit on selling records. Thus for the music industry very specifically there became a close relationship between radio airplay and record sales. The costs to set up radio broadcasting were considerable but not prohibitive. The radio spectrum in most markets could support a large number of radio stations. The media is closely regulated.
The fifth mass media is the biggest and most dominant to our culture today: TV. Introduced to the mass market in about 1950, TV didn't really introduce anything new. We had multimedia in the cinema, and broadcast in radio. TV is consumed in small groups at home with a few members of our family or alone. TV is mostly not portable (yes, pocket TV have existed for 25 years but few actually carry them around). We already had the licence and advertising based payment model also with radio. But bringing the visual and multimedia experience from the cinema to the home like radio, TV was riding on the most successful elements, combining them. TV soon took over totally the news from cinema. It took over much of the drama series from radio, and the live sports broadcasts (where most of the radio sports broadcasts today are consumed in cases where the local broadcasts rules forbid the TV viewing of that given sporting event). Technically TV went through its brief format wars, then black-and-white TV moved to colour, adding stereo sound, wide screen, and now HDTV. Broadcast terrestrial added satellite, cable and digital. Like radio, TV was first only a streaming proposition - if you didn't see the episode, you missed it forever. Later videotaping and now TiVo/Sky+ type of PVRs are chaning that. TV discovered the power of the celebrity, and soon shows emerged that promoted celebrity (eg talk shows) and those that propelled normal people into temporary celebrity status (eg game shows, reality TV). TV reduced attention spans, cutting drama series durations from two hours to 90 minutes to one hour; and making the 30 minute sitcom a standard format. Continuing storyline soap operas emerged killing the serial movie concept from cinema, and removing most continuing storyline drama from radio. After the advent of MTV Music videos, suddenly the radio and music recording connection was severed, and MTV became the deciding factor to a music artist's success. In terms of costs, to run a TV station is an expensive proposition and there is a very limited amount of terrestrial radio spectrum available for TV (analogue) broadcasts. Cable, satellite and digital vastly expand this broadcast ability. The industry is strongly regulated. Today in most markets roughly half of the industry revenues are derived from advertising and another half from subscription fees.
TV has two other important effects. It displaced radio as the daily most relevant media, and pushed radio to a niche player. It is listened to in the car, or on the background. TV also started to generate content expansions into previous media - eg TV shows turned into movies; TV shows turned into recordings; TV shows into videogames; and a lot of further print content relating to TV - I believe in the UK there are seven TV related weekly magazines for example.
So enter the sixth mass media, the internet, in the 1990s. The internet is a personal media, but not very mobile (can be done with a laptop but typically restricted to hotspots; most internet surfing is done seated in a fixed place). Essentially technically moving from narrowband to broadband, this is a very young media. Its most radical innovation was the interactivity that did not exist on any of the previous media. Yes, we could write to the editor of a newspaper, but still, most of the mass media did not have any realistic mass-market interactivity ability ten years ago. For the internet this was built-in. As a mass media, the internet could deliver similar experiences to most of all of the other five previous media - we can read books, magazines and newspapers online; we can view movies; we can listen to radio; we can view TV content in clips and streaming; and yes, we can download the digital equivalents of recordings eg MP3 files, MPEG movies, computer software, videogames etc. And the internet has in its short life already very dramatically moved into each of those other established media, and often with cannibalizing and even arguably illegal ways (eg Napster and music, or Google and currently still copyrighted books). The internet is based on philosophies of freedom and shareware and collaboration. Much of the content and applications are free or shareware etc. There is subscription and advertising revenues also. In terms of content "ownership" it is a total hodgepodge, some stuff you can own, others you shouldn't and still others are very difficult to capture to own. But with interactivity the internet has introduced numerous new content/service propositions. Search, as a replacement to reading encyclopedias and visiting the library. The MMOG massively multiplayer online game - virtual environments with literally millions of users co-creating the entertainment experience. Blogging, wikis, chat and obviously e-mail. Citizen journalism etc. The other truly dramatic relevance of the internet is its cost. Almost nothing. You can become an internet service provider at trivial costs compared to any of the previous mass media; and to become a website or blogsite, you don't really need more than your connection. If you have free access say through the local library, you can become a web publisher for totally free. And in most countries the internet is very lightly regulated or not at all.
So how of the 7th mass media? The mobile phone was realistically only a voice device for the masses through the 1990s and only emerged as a mass media outlet with WAP, i-Mode and premium SMS from about 2000. The youngest of the seven mass media, it is by far the least understood. With the overall trends and evolution in mobile telecoms, this media in its very short life has gone through several major technical evolutions from monochrome to colour, to MMS, to 2.5G and 3G, etc. The mobile phone is the second interactive mass media. But differing from the internet, the mobile phone introduces a built-in payment mechanism. In fact users on mobile phones assume all content is paid, whereas on the internet the assumption is the opposite: that content is free. Thus all payment models, subscription, pay-per-view and advertising are widely used. Also differing from the fixed internet, the mobile phone is always carried upon the person, ie mobile content is always with us. As to content migration, music (especially with ringing tones) and videogames are already strongly migrating to the mobile phone. News and search are showing strong signs of moving that way as well. But its too early to tell. The mobile phone is very personal as a device, and its sharing is typically no more than between two people if listening to a song eg. And at 2 billion users worldwide, the mobile phone is the most widely spread mass media of them all. Yes, there are more radios than mobile phones, but those radios are in North America and Western Europe, built into our cars etc. In Asia, Africa and Latin America many more mobile phones exist than radios. 30% of the total population on the planet carries a mobile phone. Every one of them can do basic texting, basic mobile commerce, receive basic news, etc. The cannibalising effect to the previous media seem very strong, with magazines and newspapers recruiting content - pictures, and SMS text messages from readers; radio inviting texts; TV reality shows using SMS voting; and even internet content being paid for by premium SMS. Even bloggers on the fixed internet - whose content is not paid per view - are now seeing the emergence of mobile blogs where each view of the blog page is paid for, like recently introduced by Hutchison/Three in Italy and the UK. The costs to enter mobile telecoms are extremely high - highest of all mass media in terms of network build-up costs, and also in terms of license fees. The total available radio spectrum is very limited so typically only a few network operators can be sustained in any given market, keeping competing players limited and helping maintain profits.
Thats my first take on the seven media, and whats new. I do want to remind all that even though we have six new rivals, the first mass media - print - is still very healthy, and none of the seven are seriously at risk of ending as a commercial opportunity. So while the internet and the mobile phone show very powerful strengths to cannibalize areas of the established five media, we believe that all seven will co-exist for a long time to come.
More thinking to come as these thoughts evolve. Any comments are most welcome. I will also bring this discussion to the panel at Forum Oxford - remember if you are interested in advanced mobile telecoms, please join us at the free discussion boards there. If you are new to Forum Oxford, you will need a first-time sign-up code, which is "ForumOxford" ha-ha. And yes, that website is very easy to remember: www.ForumOxford.com
Tomi Ahonen :-)
UPDATE June 2007 - Alan's company SMLXL has written a White Paper explaining the differences between the 6 legacy media and mobile as 7th mass media. Write to him and ask for the free White Paper at alanm (AT) smlxtralarge (DOT) com
PS - so Feb 2007 is the latest update on this thinking, read the blog at Mobile as the 7th Mass Media