I've been involved in a lot of discussion about concepts near the theme of the 7th mass media channel. A recurring theme is the "one web or two webs" thinking; and very closely involved with that is the iPhone and how it is changing perceptions of pocket sized, permanently connected internet devices.
Let me start with a quick note about the Mallard. I don't mean the bird ie one in the family of ducks. I mean the train engine.
In the early 1800s, railroads appeared. Stephenson's Rocket was the first widely known railroad engine for its speed and was powered by a steam engine. Then Isambard Kingdom Brunel's impressive railroad, The Great Western, was the first man-made vehicle to achieve speeds faster than in nature, when his steam powered trains were able to travel at speeds faster than the top speed of a cheetah, the fastest animal in nature. There was steady progress in steam engine design and around the turn of the century over a hundred years ago, broke the 100 miles per hour barrier.
Then there was the diesel engine, and the electric engine. Both were developed after steam engines. Scientists and railroad engineers argued about what was the best form of powering engines for decades, but eventually electric, diesel, and diesel-electric engines won out. Today no mass transit train systems in the developed world use steam power (obviously some museum railroads still use, and steam is still used in some parts of the developing world).
So there was a technological transition that occurred in the first half of the last century, as more electric trains and electric locomotives appeared, and many train lines were converted to electricity; as diesel engines became increasingly more competitive than steam engines; and as the "best-of-both-worlds" diesel-electric engines were being made.
By the early 1930s it was quite clear for most in the railroads business to see that diesels and electrics (and diesel-electrics) would be the future and steam was set to decline; much like we'd see in the airline business a couple of decades later when jet engines replaced propeller-driven aircraft in the big commercial airplane travel.
But yes, the Mallard? Well past the point of the peak in steam engine dominance, the Mallard appeared in 1936 and was heralded as the fastest train in the world (some dispute this today) and was celebrated as the first British train engine to pass 200 km per hour speeds (136 miles per hour). So while most railroad design was shifting to newer technologies, steam engines had their one final moment of glory.
My point - even as one technology may supercede another, it does not mean the end of the development for the older technology, and truly great advances may still come in the older technology.
Now fast forward 71 years and lets look at the iPhone. I don't mean to suggest the iPhone is the Mallard, please do not misunderstand me. And I do not suggest that it is about to be obsolete. But the iPhone may be giving false hope to those who argue for the "one net" and much more for those who argue for "the internet taking over mobile telecoms". All evidence - inspite of the hoopla around the iPhone - suggest otherwise.
The internet as we know it, based on PCs and dedicated access methods and a free model of the internet protocol with all the implied sharing and lack of control; is the sixth of the mass media (regular readers know we classify them as print first, recordings second, cinema third, radio fourth, TV fifth, internet sixth, and mobile as seventh of the mass media).
The internet is a robust giant business today and sustains media industries worth 60 billion dollars in advertising revenues, and a further 20 billion dollars or so of content revenues (which is mostly adult entertainment and gambling revenues by the way, with gaming and social networking in the 2-3 billion dollar ranges, and total internet music worth well under 2 billion dollars in content revenues). The internet hit the mass market as a media platform in 1994 when Newsweek and Time put the internet on its cover. The Internet industry is strongly centered in California and has produced several household names in new tech companies built on an internet presence - Google, Ebay, Amazon, Yahoo, none of which existed prior to the internet, so these were not older media houses or other businesses moving in the internet, these were start-ups that learned to thrive in what was then the newest mass media platform, and made billions of dollars there. Its still a long way to getting into the Fortune Global 500, where you need about 17 billion dollars of annual sales to hit the bottom rung of that prestigious ladder.
(And funnily enough, still 3 railroads are there in the Fortune Global 500, half a century after the airlines superceded railroads as the preferred form of long-distance travel. For contrast there are 7 airlines and 12 airplane manufacturers in the newest Fortune Global 500, and no more any train manufacturers fit in the 500 biggest companies of the world today. Bear this in mind, when remembering the Mallard and thinking about the 6th and 7th Mass Media opportunities.)
Ok, I'm rambling in this blog. Lets get back to the point. Will there be one web. Will the internet take mobile. Isn't the iPhone the obvious way of the future?
No. Clearly not. The internet as a mass media channel, is crippled by severe problems. It is great, do not misunderstand me, and the internet will grow much for at least a decade to come. But it is fatally flawed when contrasted with its younger sibling, mobile as the 7th of the mass media.
Mobile appeared as a mass media in tiny Finland four years after the internet was on the covers of Newsweek and Time. The "mobile internet" was invented in Japan a year later by NTT DoCoMo when it launched its innovative i-Mode. So the ability for us to consume (media) content on our mobile phones is literally ten years old this year, and while some uber-geeky gadgets did exist earlier for internet consumption on a phone (the Nokia Communicator 9000 from 1996), the true mass market for the mobile internet is nine years old this year.
The seventh mass media channel is the younger brother of the internet. It is not the same. And mobile is proving to be far superior as a media channel than the internet.
So - lets be clear again. I am arguing not for the overall benefit of the internet - there are countless benefits beyond the internet being a media channel. Ebay and Amazon are hits because of the ability of the internet in being a sales channel - not because of it being a media channel (even as there is some overlap, I love doing "book research" on Amazon, so I am using it as a reference resource, so in a secondary ability, Amazon is also a media play, but obviously they are primarily a sales channel today)
But yes, media. Why mobile? There are seven reasons why mobile trumps the internet (or any of the previous five legacy mass media channels). I won't go through them all here now, let me pick three that the internet cannot touch in its power.
First is reach. The internet reaches 1.3 billion people (of which an increasing proportion are already using their mobile phones as their primary - or often only - internet access device.). But there are over 3.5 billion mobile phone subscribers today. Every one of those mobile phone users can be reached with a basic SMS text message (and 74% of us are active users of SMS, so they will be able to respond to your communication). Out of the internet's 1.3 billion users, only 1.2 billion are active users of email. So the most powerful communciation method on the internet - email - has a possible maximum reach today of 1.2 billion. If we take only the active users of SMS - remember the reach via mobile can reach essentially every mobile phone subscriber on the planet - the 74% of 3.5 billion - is 2.6 billion. So today - the active users of the most prevalent interactive media method - SMS text messaging - is over twice the size of the user base of email.
This from the younger media? In a little more than half the time they have reached more than twice the audience. This is NO CONTEST. The mobile subscriber base is growing faster than the internet user base. The mobile phones are cheaper than PCs. The email user numbers are stagnating while SMS user numbers are skyrocketing. Young people prefer mobiles to PCs, and SMS to email. Hello....???
Then lets look at the audience data. How much media reach is wasted, if we don't know our audience. That is why giant research companies like Nielsen and Gallup and others do media surveys and research at very high costs in all the legacy media. How many listen to a radio show or channel. How many view a TV show or cable TV channel, etc. On the internet, how many eyeballs.
The internet promised - but failed to deliver - totally accurate audience measurements. The primary weapon of choice was the "digital spy" that internet companies routinely insert - without our permissions - onto our computers; which they then call by the sweet-sounding name of a cookie. Its just a cookie, nothing to worry about.
But yes, cookies were meant to spy on our use of our computers. So, of course there were swings and balances in it. Firewalls appeared. All kinds of cookie-remover software appeared. Some users regularly delete all or some cookies. Beyond that, all kinds of faults exist in the internet ecosystem to prevent accurate audience measurements. Many computers are shared. Many internet users use fake names or don't sign up, or use multiple identities, etc. In some services and networks, the users are identfied on dynamic IP addresses so the individual computer is never the same digital identity, etc etc etc.
The internet promised a false hope of perfect audience information. It is far better than on TV, and still today, much can be done to improve the audience information gathering, but it is not the digital audience nirvana as promised by the gurus over a decade ago. The only reasonable way of knowing who is your customer every time - and thus collect meaningfully accurate information on that one user - is to force the customers to register to your service. This allows Amazon to build its recommendation engine, for example, and is a key to most modern services from Facebook on down. To try to collect accurate info on our behaviour as an audience.
The internet is far better than anything that went before it; but like the steam engines, is now about to be totally superceded by an inherently superior media technology, mobile.
On mobile - by design and by necessity - every individual user is always identified perfectly. By perfecty, I do not mean we know the name of every user - more than half of the world's mobile phones are so-called prepaid (pay-as-you-go) accounts which typically do not need registration of the name of the user. The name is irrelevant. We know every user by a globally unique phone number. Doesn't matter if it is Tomi Ahonen or Donald Duck or Mr X who is assigned to that phone number. We know the total composition of our audience, uniquely, completely, accurately, perfectly. Does this one phone number make repeated access to our mobile service site, and download our content. We know perfectly.
And yes yes yes, there are fudgy bits on the edges, it is not "engineering degree perfection" so please don't jump on my words. I mean for ANY existing MEDIA company, this means as close to perfect info about our users, as is practical and usable. AMF ventures compared the three biggest media plafforms last year, and found that on TV only about 1% of audience data is captured. On the internet, a far better number is achieved, with 10% of the audience information is captured. This is night-and-day compared to TV, ten times better. Note it still leaves the vast majority of all internet users - and our audience - unknown. For every one identified, another nine go unidentified..
But then, on mobile, 90% of the audience data is captured. Wow. Now the world is turned upside-down. Not only is this nine times better than on the internet - and 90 times better than on TV - but it means a near-perfect picture of our audience. Out of every 10 audience members, wholly nine are accurately identfied, and only one out of ten is lost in the process.
Compared to ANY existing media, this is digital nirvana, the holy grail. If you are involved in media today, think about these two issues and understand - mobile reaches a FAR greater audience, and only on mobile can the audience be accurately identified..
So the third and last of the seven benefits I'll touch upon. This is the kicker for me. The true economic rationale for the certain success of mobile as a plaftorm for any media content. The money is there. This is the only media channel with a built-in payment mechanism. You cannot touch your radio when you hear an ad about a rock concert, and somehow "sign up to the event" and buy your ticket. You cannot touch a page on a magazine and somehow be teleported to the shop where you could buy that perfume for your wife (or afterhave for your husband) etc. On mobile - and only on mobile - there is a built-in payment mechanism.
Every page on mobile, every link - can be made to be billable. I don't mean they need to be. I mean that they can be.
On the internet this is not true. You cannot make the internet a money machine, as it works on a principle of best-effort and repeated transmission, by design. So if I try to send you money - and you set up a response saying you didn't receive it, my end would send it again, and again, and again - draining my bank account in milliseconds. The real money world does not work like the fairy-tale land of the internet.
That is why - first of all - we have to have Paypal on the internet. 10% of all internet users have a Paypal account. THEY can be reached for money transactions if you want. But thats a tiny fraction of a potential media audience which is already much smaller.
And even then, it is not a one-click proposition to authorize Paypal payments. And even before you start to use it, you have to sign up to Paypal.
And then there are the credit cards. Another clumsy work-around to bring the money economy to the sixth mass media channel.
On mobile - depending on your mobile operator/carrier and their policies - it is TOTALLY possible to make any link payable at any point, with no further authorizations. It is only up to the individual content providers to add any "are you sure" type of checks, or ID codes, PIN codes etc. Technically - we know every time that Hong Kong phone number 12345678 is that one phone user, and only that one phone user, and on any digital mobile network around the world - there is NO copy of that user (on the early analogue mobile networks there were multiple or cloned accounts but today over 99% of all mobile phone accounts are digital)
So - why is this important. On three levels - first - you can charge for your content. The internet media space has tried for more than a decade to build a billable content model, and except for some very specialist areas - adult entertainment, multiplayer gaming, virtual worlds - failed.
On mobile phones there is a robust, thriving and rapidly growing paid media world. Music on mobile phones, from ringing tones to MP3 files to music videos to mobile karaoke is worth over 9.3 billion dollars per year. Think about that for a moment. The global music industry is worth 30 billion dollars. Because of how easy it is to charge for content on mobile, mobile music is worth over 9 billion dollars today, less than ten years since it first appeared on mobile. For contrast, iTunes is worth a bit over a billion dollars worldwide, as the biggest internet based online music store in the world.
But payment is important also for the cross-sell and upsell opportunities. If you liked that video of Madonna, buy her album. If you visit the website for her, when she's coming to a world tour and visiting your city, it can offer you the chance to buy tickets, direct onto the phone, etc. A MASSIVE commercial opportunity, once we integrate payments to our media experiences.
And last is of course advertising and sponsorship. Previously it was not possible to align ads with activites. We had to be in proximity of sponsorship. So if we think romantic-oriented women watch Desperate Housewives and we have a new romantic perfume, it was the way to advertise it on Housewives (rather than advertising it on the TV show about wrestling for example). But we didn't know for sure. Imagine when we combine the actual customer behaviour knowledge - from the above - with ability to pay or charge - and we know THIS viewer of wrestling buys also very romantic perfumes and lingerie and all knids of romantic Valentine's Day cards etc. Maybe its a woman who also is interested in wrestling - or perhaps a guy who is also a romantic, etc. But now we can have the advertising and sponsorship based on the true behaviour of our audience - AND STILL CHARGE PER PAGE.. but in this case, we'd charge to the advertiser, not to the viewer.
Its where things like Google Adwords will evolve. Adwords only charges you if you click on the link. Beautiful. But imagine if every link had the payment engine "connected" and every link could be sponsored - not to only one provider, but potentially to any sponsor.
This is a FAR GREATER opportunity to any media player - that every link and every user can be charged, if we so desire. It does not mean every page will be charged, nor that it should be charged.
But think of a special issue of a magazine for example. Take my passion, Formula One racing. They start the season in March, so in late February or early March, the major magazines covering F1 release special editions with the season previews. But F1 is not the only topic in most car racing magazines, so not all readers are interested - but many are. Wouldn't it be interesting - to be able to charge those readers, who went for the special edition of this months' magazine - a little bit exta. Every reader gets the regular monthly coverage, but those who want to - and are willing to - pay extra for the F1 preview, would do so. Now, the magazine gets a bonus income stream. The fans get bonus coverage - and most importantly - the NON-fans are NOT charged for content they dont' want. So then the NASCAR special, or the Le Mans special - would be editions I would not pay one penny more for, I am not interested. But the F1 extra material, I'd be willing to pay more for it, provided it was by a media source I trust and regularly read..
I don't mean all of media will be like this. But remember the early launches of premium cable TV channels and later, pay-per-view channels. People said these would never fly, because similar - or even same - content was available on free-to-air and basic cable channels, but still, today they are a robust business in the TV space.
We're witnessing the birth of a far greater parallel opportunity now in media.
Ok, its a long blog. Lets get once more to the Mallard and the iPhone.
The iPhone is not the ultimate phone today (hear me out...). It is the ultimate pocket Macintosh today. It is small enough to fit your pocket, and easy enough that any Mac user can easily use all of its features. It is also supremely connected, now with the iPhone 3G having not only 2G and WiFi but also 3G speed connectivity worldwide. An amazing device - for a sixth mass media world.
It is the Mallard. The topmost model for the older generation.
It utterly fails as a 7th mass media device. If you consider 7th Mass Media opportunities - SMS, ringtones, MMS, user-generated content in picture and video sharing, etc the iPhone is stunningly BAD at it. You can't type SMS text messages blind on the phone (half of the youth do that today, eventually this will be half of the worlds' population..) but you can type SMS messages blind on essentially every rival smartphone from Nokia N-Series to SonyEricssons to Samsungs to the Blackberries. The iPhone does not SUPPORT the multimedia messaging standard - MMS - that essentially every 2.5G phone - 80% of the world's mobile phone population today - supports. If you take a picture on your phone and send it to someone else, even the person with a five year old Motorola will be able to look at it but not the couple of million people with Apple's so-called superphone. And how about that video recording? CNN advertises its i-Report on TV every day, and shows videos shot by users around the globe. But the iPhone does have a camera, it does not capture video !! This is old mindset thinking, trying to build a faster steam engine. It is beautiful and slick and fast - like the Mallard was.
But the iPhone is not optimized for the seventh mass media. A three year old Nokia mid-range cameraphone does SMS, MMS and video recording that the latest updated iPhone 3G does not.
So to my point. Mobile is a far superior mass media platform. It is not the dumb little sister of the internet; quite the contrary, mobile has seven unique benefits not even possible on any legacy media including the internet.
Mobile will yield far greater economic opportunities for media (and other services). It does not mean that the iPhone is a bad device, but it is poorly prepared for the 7th Media space. It is an excellent sixth media device. The iPhone is akin to the "ultimate PDA" with some mobile telecoms connectivity.
Now, should there be one or two webs. Well, there is some overlap - a Blackberry allows you to access your internet-based email via a smartphone. Clearly a nice solution. But remember, there is no market for ringing tones on PCs. There is no (mass market) SMS user base on PCs. The mobile in its very short life has already discovered vast markets of potential. Take SMS - text messaging earns 100 billion dollars of revenues to the telecoms industry annually. Puts that internet advertising number of 60 billion into context, doesn't it.. Just like you can copy radio content to TV - news, sports, soap operas - but you can invent richer content for TV that won't work on radio - music video, reality TV, CNN news ticker - so too mobile is inherently better as a media platform than the internet.
Well, that concludes today's lecture. I am heading to my vacation so I'll be blogging only briefly during August, but I will try to get on every week at least briefly here with you.
And for anyone who has not yet received my Thought Piece on Mobile as 7th Mass Media (like a short very intense white paper only 2 pages in length), send me an email to tomi at tomiahonen dot com and I'll send you the Thought Piece in reply. Just give me many days of time to respond with the summer vacation time...