Alan and I have done a lot of evangelizing and writing and blogging about the 7th mass media channel (mobile) and to put it in context of the six legacy mass media, in particular TV (5th) and of course the internet (6th mass medium). Its been a while since we last wrote a major overview of the 7th Mass Media space but now, in a post iPhone and post Obama SMS campaigning age, in the time of Twitter, it is time to do a major update posting.
THERE ARE SEVEN MASS MEDIA
The mass media are by order of commercial launch - 1st print (including books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, posters, billboards etc) about 500 years ago. 2nd recordings (music records, tapes, CDs and MP3 files; videogames; video cassettes and DVDs etc) from 120 years ago. 3d Cinema 100 years ago. 4th radio 90 years ago. 5th TV 50 years ago and 6th mass medium the interrnet about 20 years ago. Now mobile became a mass media ten and a half years ago with the launch of the first commercial media content for mobile phones - the downloadable ringing tone - launched in Finland in the autumn of 1998.
Each mass medium has its own formats, its own business models; its own distinct audiences, its own technical requirements, and its own legal and regulatory requirements. Each mass medium, when launched, introduced techncial and creative talent opportunities for new skills and competences. Each media supports a global industry worth dozens or up to many hundreds of billions of dollars.
So, first major observation. None of the six legacy mass media is used with all others. We can consume many of the media together for example we may read the newspaper with the radio on. Or we may surf the web while listening to some music on the CD player or the iPod. But we don't do it with every possible combination. You don't listen to radio while watching TV. You don't read a newspaper while sitting in the movie theatre. And you don't carry your laptop to the cinema to do some Google surfing while James Bond seeks a Quantum of Solace..
That all changed with the mobile. Mobile is the first mass media that is always present when we consume other mass media. We have the phone within arm's reach when we watch TV - we vote on Big Brother and American Idol - we interrupt our iPod listening when the SMS text message arrives. The youth even have their phones on but silent in the movies and send updates to friends outside the cinema, on whether the new movie is good or bad - while the movie is still playing. For the first time ever we have a "parallel" mass medium - that mobile is with us always when we consume any other media content. Habbo Hotel was the first to capitalize on this, and enabled its youth customers who did not have credit cards to go online into the Habbo Hotel internet virtual world and make simultaneous payments using the mobile phone.
Mobile is different from the six legacy mass media channels.
WHAT IS THE ULTIMATE DIRECTION OF DIGITAL CONVERGENCE
We see digital convergence and the related media content cannibalization all over. This is nothing new. It happened with radio and TV and the internet in the past, cannibalizing older media content and formats from print, recordings and cinema. But lets examine today. Print? Where is it headed? Not to 2nd media recordings or 3rd media cinema or 4th media radio or 5th media TV. Print is headed to the internet (6th) and mobile (7th mass medium).
How about recordings. Consider music. With digitalization we got CDs and DVDs and iTunes. Today major record shops like Virgin superstores are shutting down and where is the content migrating? Not to print, or cinema or radio (well yes, some to radio) or TV (also yes a part to MTV) but mostly to the internet and to mobile. What of other recordings ie movies on VHS and DVD or videogames? They too are migrating, but more slowly to the internet and also, slightly, initially, to mobile.
Cinema. Same story. Not going to print or rado. Yes, going to recordings (DVDs) and to TV. But the big new direction is the internet and also, starting to happen - also to mobile. Don't think of your old phone. Think of the iPhone. Yes, of course soon movies will be as common on phones as they now are on PSPs and video iPods.
Radio? Not migrating to print, cinema or recordings. Yes, some radio content was cannibalized by TV but that happened in the 1960s and 1970s and is pretty well completed. No, the new migration is to the internet and to mobile.
TV - not going to print, radio, cinema (well, except the occasional TV franchise like Charliie's Angels or Sex in the City etc) but yes, going to recordings (DVDs). And yes going to the internet and yes, going to mobile. MTV already shoots all of its content like shows like Jackass with two camera crews, one specializing on content for the TV screen and the other for the mobile phone screen.
Then the internet. It is not migrating to the legacy mass media for the most part. Yes, a bit of YouTube will occasionally find itself on TV but no nobody is trying to recreate Google search on a magazine or eBay in the cinema or Wikipedia over radio or Amazon on a DVD. The internet is only headed to one other mass media - to mobile. In fact the CEO's of the biggest internet companies from Yahoo to Google have said that the future of the internet is mobile. Not a possible future. The definite future. This is not some hyped up blogger with a silly idea. CEOs of the biggest internet brands have said in public, repeatedly that their industry is heading to mobile............
Do you see the pattern? All media are migrating. Some have other legacy media migrations too but all five legacy media migrate to both the intenet and to mobile. And the sixth, the internet, is migrating to mobile.
What of mobile? It is NOT migrating backwards. We don't see mobile calls handled via the cinema screen or SMS text messages delivered via DVDs or rining tones installed to our TV sets. And while the world consumes over 2 billion dollars worth of "ringback tones" as background music when we call people on mobile phones - this is more than the total dgital music sold by Apple iTunes for all iPods annually - we stll don't sell ringback tones to use on our laptops when we access the internet.
The global trend leads either directly to mobile, or first to the internet, and then to mobile.
AUDIENCE IS BIGGEST ON MOBILE
This is the easy part. The numbers game. It is now so enormous its no longer even funny. The world has 4 billion mobile phone subscribers. That compares with 1.5 billion TV sets or 1.4 billion internet users or 480 million daily newspapers by circulation. While in the West if you have a media audience, you can be sure that the audience will also have a mobile phone when they consume your content. But in the Developing World, there is no other total mass media except for mobile. People do not have TV sets, PCs and internet access. Many can't afford to buy a newspaper. But every economically viable person on the planet has a mobile phone. Even in the poorest countries now. Brazil is already at 75% mobile phone penetration per capita. China is at 45%. India is at 25%. Even Africa is at 25%. So one in four Africans walks around with a phone. That number may seem small until you remember that one quarter of the planet has no electricity and almost half of Africa is so young that they are still children or teenagers. Makes you think.
But clearly mobile is by far the most widely reaching mass medium of them all.
BUT THE SCREEN IS SO TINY
So this is the standard hasty generalization that most PC and internet based experts make. They see what seems like a smaller PC or laptop and think the small screen size is a serious defect of mobile as a mass medium. Lets get past that myth. There are 7 mass media. Radio has no screen. So even in an absolute sense, mobile is better at least than one of the legacy media. A tiny screen is better than no screen.
But why is screen size a myth? Because bigger is not inherently better. Else cinema would still today tower over the TV industry (while in reality the TV industry is over 10 times as large as cinema) and if screen size was the key, then television would have nothing to worry about the internet.
No. There are many issues about the output of a media device. If we look at the visual display there are four options - no visual output like radio. A static image like print. A moving image like TV. And an interactive screen like on the internet. Each is progressively better. And mobile? Has an interactive screen. It is better than 5 other established mass media.
Then to counter the size - the phone screen can be easily reoriented. Think of looking at a map. On the PC you have to click on a link to rotate the map to the left or rotate to the right. On a phone you can rotate the phone itself. Not all video services can benefit from this but it is an advantage over the cinema screen, the TV and the internet/PC screen.
Furthermore, we tend to have two phones. Two phones equals two screens. One in each hand. Both interactive.
And yes there are all the other output options as well, such as TV-out, and sound, and vibration (think of videogames for example) etc. Screen size is not a barrier to mass media success on mobile.
AND THE KEYPAD IS SO SMALL
Same goes for the keypad. Again, yes, mobile has less keys than a laptop. But the newspaper or magazine has no buttons to press. A radio has less controls than our phone. So there are mass media with less than the phone.
But then we have interactive keys combined with an iteractive screen. We can have soft buttons - ie buttons which change function and that is written on the phone screen. This helps compensate for less keys.
But mobile has the super-button that trumps all 101 keys and the mouse of a fully fledged desktop PC even. We have 2D barcodes and the camera! We don't need to do ANY typing. We just point the phone at the square squibble and hit one key and voila - the intended text appears on our screen. Magic ! just like the mouse helped PCs move past having to type every internet address, but rather navigate rapidly by mouse-click, now we can do even better via 2D barcodes. But only on a cameraphone not on the PC..
And then the top end phone rushes far beyond the best of the laptops with its variety of more inputs. Pictures direct from the inbuilt camera. Sound directly from the microphone (think podcasts). Video direct from the inbuilt camera. Touch screens like the iPhone. Motion sensors like the iPhone. Even better than that - automated data inputs - GPS inputs and location data from the network. The mobile can do far more inputs than the typical laptop or PC.
No, screen size and keypad are not barriers to mobile success. They are factors, of course, but mobile is the most versatile input and output media device ever created. Most versatile. Not the dumb crippled cousin of the laptop..
And the icing on the cake. Industry size and growth rate. Cinema is the smallest of the seven mass media roughly speaking worth 50 billion dollars. Recordings are second, worth in round terms 100 bilion. Then come three of nearly same size, at roughly 200 billion - radio, internet and mobile. The two giants are print and TV at about half a trillion dollars in annual revenues.
Print is in decline. TV, recordings, radio and cinema are relatively stable. The internet is growing. But mobile is growing the fastest. In fact Informa just reported in the Netsize Guide 2009 that the mobile data industry has been growing at a breathtaking speed of 35% per year for the past several years. The internet has been doing only half that growth rate at about 14%-18% annually.
It is already bigger than cinema and recordings. Mobile is the fastest growing mass media channel. And it will become bigger than radio and the internet this year. And in only four years mobile will be bigger than the global print industry. I don't mean newspapers or magazines or books. I mean all print, newspapers, magazines, books, pamphlets, junkmail, posters, billboards - combined. And in 5 years mobile data will become the biggest mass media of them all by annual revenues, bigger even than TV.
Yes, it has the biggest reach. Yes it is always with us when we consume any other media content. Yes it can cannibalize any other mass media. Yes it is the natural end-state of all media convergence. And yes it is growing fastest and will in only a few years become the biggest mass media channel on the planet.
This is the biggest economic opportunity of your professional career no matter how old or young you are. If you are currently in the media, adertising, IT or telecoms indsutries, you should get yourself into the fastest growing and most profitable sector teh fastest you possibly can. It is the best career with the best salaries and best promotions and best career achievements than any other option. The more you wait, the more your peers move ahead of you. Remember ALL trends point to mobile. ALL of them.
MORE COMPLEX THAN ROCKET SCIENCE
But it is not easy. Mobile is far more complex than rocket science. That is why there are such big opportunities in it. The old legacy mass media are well known. There are not many new exciting opportunities in those. Most of the legacy media is copying and doing again the old tired ideas. The internet still has a lot of growth and opportunity for invention and innovation. But the internet is very weak at monetizing its medium.
Mobile is the opposite. Mobile is so powerful at monetizing content, that it is used to generate content to all other mass media. Yes, even books. 82 million dollars worth of books were sold directly to be consumed on mobile phones in Japan alone - and that was two years ago.
Mobile is the newest mass media. It is the most complex mass media. It is the least understood mass media.
That is why Alan and I are so passionate about evangelizing about it. That is why we write books about it. That is also why we have created the world's first university course on the 7th Mass Media together with our author friend David Cushman - that will run at Oxford University in one month, on 22-23 April. Shouldn't you attend that course? Or if not, then shouldn't you send someone from your team to Oxford to take this, the world's first short course on the 7th mass media opportunity? That course is the fastest short-cut to making money out of the biggest media opportunity on the planet. Check out the course info at Oxford University 7th Mass Media Course.
And those who can't attend the courrse, the book to read is obviously my latest hardcover book, Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media, the definitive guide of 322 pages to media success on mobile, with 16 case studies of the most innovative success stories now, in the age of the iPhone..