"There is nothing more practical, than a good theory." - Leonid Brezhnev (1977)
Welcome to this series of blogs about mobile as a mass media channel. I will use this series of blogs, to compare and contrast mobile as the newest mass media option, with older 'legacy' mass media such as print, radio, cinema, TV and yes, the internet.
In this series I will show you that mobile is truly a mass media channel today. I will show you that mobile is also far more than just a mass medium, which is partly why there is confusion about exactly what mobile is and is not. I will then explain differences and similarities of mobile in contrast to the more familiar legacy mass media such as print, TV and the internet. In this part I will discuss some benefits as a mass medium, which are unique to mobile, and also touch upon several other issues that are different with mobile, while not necessarily unique as benefits. I will also expose some widely-held myths.
Because the topic is very broad and has a lot of issues to it, I have decided to split the story into shorter blog articles, but they form a thematic series, and are intended to be read in sequence. I will show you not only that mobile is a mass medium, but plenty of innovative service examples, and how they make money.. So consider this series of blogs a masterclass of what the next generation 'new media' will be like in the next decade. Welcome to your future. (and yes, this is another in the long articles by Tomi at this blog. Get yourself a cup of coffee, this will be a journey.) Welcome to part 1, of Mobile as a Media Channel.
MOBILE IS A MASS MEDIA CHANNEL TODAY
You the reader may be unsure whether to think of all 'normal' mobile phones as mass media vehicles, similar to say radio, newspapers, TV and cinema. It does become easier to accept when one considers the Apple iPhone. So let us take some irrefutable evidence shall we. There are 4.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions on the planet. That someone owns a mobile phone does not make that phone a 'media channel', as its primary purpose, after all, is telecommunications. Voice calls and text messages. Fair enough. But we do know at least for the iPhone, that a wide array of news services, entertainment and advertising already exist for the iPhone. There are only 35 million iPhones, under 1% of all mobile phone subscriptions. What of the rest of those 4.6 Billion people.
Good, lets take advertising. For last year 2008, Juniper Research measured the total worldwide audience who had received advertisements on their mobile phones and found that to be 1.5 Billion people. That 1.5 billion out of the total mobile subscriber base of 4.6 Billion may not seem like a large percentage (its "only" one third) but that number it very realistic, as leading countries of mobile advertising, like Japan, Spain and India report that 80% of mobile phone owners have received advertising on them, and even in mainstream countries like Britain, more than half now do and in the USA more than a third of mobile phone owners receive advertising.
As we deal with mobile telecoms economics, the absolute numbers tend to be huge. Consider 1.5 Billion people. 1.5 Billion who received advertising on a mobile phone? The world total population of TV sets in 2008 was 1.5 Billion! And not all of them receive advertising. So last year already, in terms of global reach of 'eye balls', more people received an advertisement on their phone, than received an ad on their TV set. A big milestone yes.
What of newspapers? Yes, worldwide the total circulation of all daily newspapers was about 480 million last year, including the free dailies. Newspapers carry advertising yes. But mobile phones as a media channel, reached 3 times more unique users than the total circulation of all newspapers on the planet. Makes you think. Or perhaps, to re-think mobile.
Definitely mobile is a mass media channel, at least in terms of as an advertising platform. Now, please recognize, we receive very few ads on our phones - thankfully - and are not blitzed by a barrage of unwanted overload of marketing messages. The total volume of ads is miniscule compared to those on the internet, or on TV or print etc. In terms of total revenues, mobile advertising is worth roughly one tenth of internet ads, which in turn are only worth one tenth of global advertising, in round terms. So mobile advertising is only a tiny one percent of all advertising dollars sold on planet Earth.
eMarketer measured the total value of mobile advertising to be 4.2 Billion dollars for 2008. But lets be clear, while many people have received some ads on their phones, 99% of the global advertising today goes through other media like print, radio, TV and the internet. Nonetheless, at 4.2 Billion dollars in value, and reaching the pockets of 1.5 Billion people, undeniably mobile is an (advertising) medium already. Understand what I said. I did not say that mobile will become an advertising medium soon, it is one, and a very sizeable one, already today.
So lets examine what kind of mass media content thrives on this new mass medium, apart from advertising obviously. Music was the first content type to emerge as paid downloaded content to mobile phones 11 years ago. Today mobile is a giant new market opportunity for the music industry. The IFPI, the International Federation of Phonographic Industries, the global music industry body, reports on annual global music revenues and measured the worldwide music industry to be worth 18 Billion dollars now. The one part of music that the IFPI excludes from its measurements, is basic ringing tones (they do include more advanced mobile music formats like TrueTones/RealTones, Ringback Tones, MP3 sales to mobile phones, etc). But yes, the IFPI does not count basic 'ploink-ploink' sounding music because that does not produce revenues to the music artists. Now, for the average consumer, when they buy a new ringing tone of the big chart-topping hit by the Black Eyed Peas or Shakira or Amy Winehouse, they are buying the same song, whether it is technically a "true tone" - where we hear the artist singing, as a digital sample from the actual song - or its the simple 'ploink-ploink' sounds to fit a more simple phone. We the consumers still bought music for our phone.
What is the value of that basic ringing tone business? Juniper Research reported that currently we spend 5 Billion dollars on basic ringing tones. That is big, and that number is not counted by the IFPI. When we add the IFPI-measured 'official' global music industry number of 18 Billion dollars to the 5 Billion dollars more of basic ringing tones, we find that consumers worldwide spend 23 Billion dollars on music of any kind, annually. And of that, a massive 22% of their total music expenditures, is spent on a music format which is exclusive to mobile: basic ringing tones.
Exclusive to mobile. We do not install ringing tones to our laptops or to our Playstation Portables or listen to ringing tones in our home HiFi entertainment centers. Ringing tones are entertainment, and a massive 5 Billion dollars worth. And of the total global spend of consumers purchasing music, more than one out of every five dollars is now spent on basic ringing tones, a format which is exclusive to mobile phones.
Absolutely, totally irrevocably, mobile is a mass media channel, and is capable of enormous cannibalization of existing media industries. One in every five dollars is basic ringing tones. Note that there are over a dozen other music formats that are sold to mobile (and in this blog article series I will return to music at some point to give you a cool newer example) so the real impact of mobile to the music industry is more than double that, but I just want to make this point. Beyond any possible doubt, mobile is a mass media channel delivering entertainment media content, today. Five billion dollars worth in basic ringing tones, more than twice that in total music sold to mobile phones. Very relevant as a mass media channel and not just for advertising.
If you are on the information side of the mass media business, the 'serious' side of news for example, or factual books and documentaries on TV and radio etc, there is of course also a serious side to mobile media. Unfortunately I have not found any major industry analyst to calculate a global usage number for 'news consumption' on mobile phones recently, but we have a lot of individual country data from major markets. The percentage of mobile phone users who consumer news on a phone, range from the low end of Germany 5%, Spain 7%, Italy 8% and France 9% to the US 13%, UK 15% in the major Western markets (source M:Metrics); and onto significantly higher numbers in Asia China 18%, India 23%, Philippines 35% (source Asia Digital Marketing Yearbook).
I know this is by no means a total representative sampling and we miss all of Latin America for example, but if we just use very ballpark numbers, that 10% number for the Europeans and North Americans, and then use the lower end of 20% as representative for the rest of the world; then as a very rough estimate of how many people consume news on a phone, we get a ballpark number of ... 800 million people. These are almost all paying for their news on their phone. Most of those, by the way, are delivered as SMS and MMS messaging based breaking news and news headline services. So if we eliminate free newspapers from the daily circulation, the number of people on the planet who pay for news on their phone, is almost twice as big as the total number of people willing to pay for a newspaper. Paying users of mobile news is twice the number of people who pay to buy a daily newspaper. Makes you think?
And what of cable news? The total worldwide population of TV owners who use cable/satellite paid subscriptions is about 850 million. Not all of those got their cable/satellite because they wanted CNN or Sky News.. But the total willing to pay for premium TV services, including 24 hour news, is barely more than the number who already pay to consume news on a phone. It is very clear, that mobile is truly a mass media channel today.
MOBILE IS MORE THAN A MEDIA CHANNEL
Now, we have established that mobile is a mass media channel. So far so good. But mobile is more than a mass medium. It actually started as something else - an interpersonal communciation channel - a phone - and does many things beyond being a mass medium today, such as a payment technology, rivalling Mastercard and Visa - 46% of all banking accounts in Kenya are now mobile phone based m-banking accounts. And Kenya is by no means unique at this, this is quite common in countries from Japan to the Philippines to Bangladesh to Uganda to South Africa. So mobile is in addition to being a communication tool, and a mass media channel - also a rival to banking and credit cards. That is an ability that is 'something other than a media'. Mobile has more abilities than just being a media channel.
Note the similarities to radio. The original purpose for radio, as imagined by Marconi, was not to broadcast our news, music and drive time talk shows. Marconi did not think radio being suitable for broadcasting media content at all, in fact. His vision of radio was to do communications, very specifically to solve the problem of telegraph communciations not reaching ships. So he figured we could use a radio trasceiver to send beeps of sound in morse code over large bodies of water, and be able to give telecommunications connections to ships at sea. A very important contribution, considering how many people used to die in shipping disasters. His invention was later adopted for radio broadcasts. But note, that radio evolved further, and has a major use today for example as a measuring instrument. Radar. Where would the global air travel industry be today, if we did not have radar at every airport making sure the jumbo jets do not collide in mid-air. Radio started as a communication device, it evolved into a multi-purpose device, and one of is uses was as a mass media channel. And fifty years later mobile phones emerged, also first as a telecommunications technology, then a multi-purpose platform where one of its uses is mass media.
This is not always the case in mass media. Some mass media are designed for mass media from the start, and tend to stay there. Cinema and TV are like this. They were from the start conceived as (new) mass media channels and decades later, they have not evolved other uses, and are still only mass media.
Why do I make the point about mobile being more than a mass medium? So our media-oriented readers can understand the relative 'importance' of their media ideas to the mobile telecoms industry. Mobile telecoms is a giant industry, worth a Trillion dollars (1,000 Billion) in annual revenues. That is far bigger than any media industry - more than twice the size of TV and twice the size of all print including newspapers, books and magazines. Mobile telecoms is five times the size of radio or the internet, and between 20 times and 50 times bigger than recordings and hollywood movies. In terms of the global advertising industry - which spreads its revenues on all mass media obviously, mobile is more than twice as big. (and against its older sibling, the fixed landline telecoms industry, mobile is more than twice as big as the fixed telecoms industry, as well)
I do not say this to diminish the media, I say this to point out that in mobile there will often be 'other priorities', which may greatly frustrate the media brands and owners. But mobile today earns most of its revenues from voice calls, with SMS text messaging a distant second. Of its profits, mobile earns about half of its profits from SMS, and nearly all of the rest from voice calls. Together, voice and SMS account for 90% of mobile industry service revenues, and 95% of mobile industry profits. Remember that media content is but one part of many other new abilities that phones can perform for us. So the telecoms industry has to balance media interests with m-payment/m-banking needs, against 'telematics' concepts (remote metering, remote control etc) and all sorts of newer innovations and ideas. Media content in total, delivered less than 7% of mobile telecoms industry revenues last year and a tiny miniscule fraction of its profits.
As to mobile advertising? Less than half of one percent of total mobile telecoms industry income. Compare that with the internet, where advertising is often the only way to generate any kind of revenues. In its abilities to generate revenues, mobile is far more like cinema, where every movie is paid for by every audience member who walks into the theater, but the cinema industry still has a side-line business of some advertising; than like the internet, where almost all content is 'free' but sponsored by advertising. Cinema does not need advertising to survive. The internet needs advertising desperately to survive. For its ability to deliver content revenues, mobile is far more like cinema, than like the internet, and that is very good news for any media owner.
THE SEVEN MASS MEDIA
So, we know mobile is a mass medium. We also know mobile is many other things, beyond just a mass medium. Now, lets set a framework to really explore the true abilities of mobile, and compare with the other mass media. Recalling that Brezhnev quotation, lets get something really practical here, a good theory. We have a convenient methodology for the analysis of mobile as a mass medium to compare and contrast with the other mass media. It is called the "seven mass media" taxonomy (there is a Wikipedia page for it) and this theory of mine is gaining wide acceptance, and has been featured in a dozen books already. There is no significant disagreement on the classification.
The seven mass media, in chronological order of introduction, are print 500 years ago as first mass medium. Print includes major formats we know and love including books, magazines and newspapers. All produced in the same way, a writer produces the content, it is turned into printable pages by some layout method, previously manually, now by machine digitally, and then that is sent to a printing press which makes 'mass' volumes of our print output. Then the media content, books, magazines, newspapers etc are sold to readers and with magazines and newspapers we supplement the income with advertising, some free newspapers even exist on purely advertising. Print invented the subscription model in particular for magazines and newspapers.
Recordings appeared as the second mass media channel at the end of the 19th century. Recordings were the first media which required a separate media 'player' device to be used (initially a gramophone). Recordings created the performer artist, but the business model of selling the 'records' was similar to selling books and magazines.
Cinema appeared as the third mass medium a the start of the 20th century and was the first multimedia (moving pictures) medium. It was funded by a pay-per-view model. Cinema like print did not require a 'player' but rather cinema was a shared audience experience where the expense of showing movies - and the expensive projector and screen technology, was installed in specialized theaters, where hundreds would see the same movie at the same time.
Radio was the fourth mass medium just about a hundred years ago and introduced the broadcast model where all listeners heard the same content simultaneously. Radio was funded in some countries by a mandatory listening license, and in other countries by advertising, or a hybrid of these two models
Television as the fifth mass media channel appeared in the middle of the last century and did not have any true innovation in media, it simply combined the multimedia moving pictures from cinema, with the broadcast model from radio. TV also took the business model from radio.
And the internet became the sixth mass media channel when web browsers appeared two decades ago. The internet offered three new innovations, interactivity, search and social networking. Note that the internet was, like radio, initially a communication tool for the first two decades of its life from 1969 to 1989 before web browsers (remember Mosaic?) allowed us to turn the internet into a mass medium.
1st mass medium - Print from 1500
2nd mass medium - Recordings from the 1880s
3rd mass medium - Cinema from the 1900s
4th mass medium - Radio from the 1920s
5th mass medium - TV from the 1950s
6th mass medium - Internet from 1989
7th mass medium - Mobile from 1998
Yes, that is the first six of the mass media. The first five: print, recordings, cinema, radio and TV are very well known, with familiar formats, well-established business models, their own awards systems for excellence from the Nobel Prize in Literature and Pulitzers in News, to the Oscars in movies and Emmys in Television. The internet is also a mass media channel, but at under 20 years of age, it is quite young and still evolving and growing. The internet is also rapidly cannibalizing many traditional media formats and opportunities. Over the past two decades plenty of knowhow has been gathered about the web, and there are plenty of books and university courses you can take if you want to learn and build your career on this 'new media' platform. And for many years nobody has doubted the fact that the internet is indeed a media and has its own rules and competences and that it is truly different from TV or print etc.
Mobile is the newest mass medium, only 11 years old this autumn. Mobile is by far the least-well understood and known mass media channel. Mobile in the media space is still experimenting, and there are wide variances in how it performs as a mass medium comparing even neighboring countries around the world. Mobile is so young as a mass medium, that few books have been written about services and applications for it (I wrote the world's first back in 2002) and even fewer books exist to discuss mobile specifically as a mass medium (again, I wrote the first book to focus on that, in 2008). Few university courses exist today to teach mobile services, apps, content or media (again yes, I created the worlds first for Oxford University back in 2003).
BEWARE THE SNAKE-OIL SALESMEN
What does that give us? It means that today the world is full of all sorts of media pundits who can peddle any sort of snake-oil to try to convince you of the mobile media space. It is very easy, for an established 'media guru' from the older media industries to pick up an Apple iPhone, then be amazed, and start to imagine how to do his/her media experiences on that device. Then set up a blog, go on Twitter, and use older media credentials to gain visibility and then tell us all of the wonderful things that media guru can bring us, on mobile.. "Hey, we can do games on this. And video. And maps. And hey, it has GPS, so why don't we do Location-based services. Wow, that would be cool, wouldn't it, that I could find things and track my friends etc."
I do not mean to dismiss serious media experts, who have taken the time to learn and understand this mobile industry. There are plenty of those who do a great job. But then there are far more totally incompetent 'experts' who publish utter rubbish, when they imagine their world and how it might exist in mobile.
Stories like the currently again so popular revival of the myth of location-based services. Yes, if you are new to this industry - mobile media industry is 11 years old as a commercial vehicle and the iPhone is only a little over two years old - it is very easy to discover "obvious" areas, which those veterans of this industry discovered a decade ago, and tried, and found not economically viable.. I call these new pilgrims 'sheep to the slaughter' who come re-inventing stillborn ideas, investing millions into developing them (and duping investors along the way to fund these misadventures) hiring young brave hungry minds from college to join in this futile quest, while real experts in this field write volume after volume of books on what actually works, makes money, delivers profits, provides enormous growth potentials, and makes millionaires.
(Obviously I have debunked this myth countless times. If you want to know 'why' location-based services will fail as mass market services, why not read this analysis and perhaps re-consider how 'brilliant' that other expert was, after all...)
Mobile can make massive amounts of money, but you have to really understand mobile, on what is unique to it, and find where those opportuntiies area. Each of my six books has developed that understanding. Just as a case in point. In my latest book (Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media) I have 16 case studies. I just took a review of those yesterday, and found that within the past year, 13 of those 16 ideas have been copied by other companies and launched commercially; 7 of the 16 case study concepts have been expanded by their owners dramatically and internationally, and get this - ten of the 16 have reported profits in their venture into the mobile media space (obviously some of them had achieved profitability before I decided to make them a case study, not all ten became profitable within the past 12 months). How many internet media companies, twice as old, are still desperately seeking their first year of profits, while collecting big user numbers and 'eyeballs'... Mobile is a magical money-making machine, but you have to understand it, to know how to make it work for you.
Still. Of the 16 case studies, already 10 have been announced to be profitable - and bear in mind, several of those are with tiny privately-held companies who have no obligation to release any public data on their profitability. This is amazing. You would think that any entrepreneour worth his investment portfolio would buy that book and at least immediately copy those 16 ideas - or as many of them as possible which haven't yet launched in their own country. Gosh. Ten of the 16 cases are already profitable. Wow... (and haha, I do know how to pick them, eh, still picking winners, all these books later.. no wonder that when someone picks up one of my books, they soon go collect the whole series, because each is so heavily packed with original ideas to make money)
WHAT OF UNIQUE ABILITIES
Lets consider the seven mass media, and think of the power of a 'unique ability'. Print was first. Print made 'writers' (and photographers/illustrators) the creative artists, through books, newspapers (the correspondent and the columnist) etc. When Recordings came along, their first media format was the 'record' ie music. (Today Recordings also have many other media formats, ie videogames, PC apps, DVD sales and rentals of movies and TV shows etc). When Music Records, and the Phonograph offered us suddenly the ability to reproduce sound - this was a radical innovation in media content.
At that point, with the sudden introduction of sound into the silent media landscape of print, a new form of media star was born, the recording artist (pop star). It did not end the need of a 'writer' in music, we had composers who wrote the music, and then often another wordsmith who wrote the lyrics, but totally new careers were born, where the recording artist (pop music star) became popular because of 'how' they sang, not that they had written the song. Elvis's Blue Suede Shoes is a perfect example. The song very strongly associated with Elvis, was actually penned and recorded (and reached bigger sales) by Carl Perkins. But most who are not specialists in rock n roll, think that Elvis's Blue Suede Shoes, is the 'original' and the dozens of other versions are 'copies of Elvis'....
UNIQUE MEANS RADICAL NEW INDUSTRIES
Let me make one further, very important point. If a newer media has at least one unique ability, that means - as an absolute irrefutable fact - that you the media owner, can develop new media concepts for that media channel - which cannot be replicated on the older legacy media. For example moving pictures. Cinema brought us the ability to show moving pictures in a mass media for the first time. That meant totally new, revolutionary business concepts, 'movies' - that launched the careers of motion picture icons like Charlie Chaplin. Mr Chaplin was a creative fellow and a stage performer earlier in his professional career. But radio (2nd mass medium) did not offer his visual comic talents a way to shine. Neither did print (1st mass medium). Only movies (3rd mass medium) could launch Chaplin into superstardom - who then became the first globally recognized media superstar.
I go so far as to say, "mobile is as different from the internet, as TV is different from radio". Cinema and TV are similar. Radio and music recordings are similar. But TV and radio are totally different to the audience. I tell you, mobile is as different from the internet, as TV is different from radio. With as much unique media opportunities. Mobile being TV in this analogy, as the 'bigger' opportunity mind you, not radio the 'smaller' media by revenues and relevance today. That is the fate of the internet. If I can show you just one unique ability that mobile has, then it cannot - it cannot - become the same as the older mass media of the internet, no more than TV cannot somehow 'retreat' into being 'just radio' again. I will prove that to you in this series of blog stories.
MOBILE HAS SEVEN UNIQUE ABILITIES
So far by the autumn of 2009, we have discovered seven unique abilities that mobile has (as a mass media channel, it has other unique abilities in other uses; and it has dozens of non-unique benefits as well). When I say 'so far' I do mean that. The seventh unique ability of mobile was only discovered last year, so we may well find more in the years to come. But yes, the seven unique abilities are:
1 - mobile is first truly personal mass medium
2 - mobile is permanently carried by its owner
3 - mobile is always kept on and connected
4 - mobile has a built-in payment system
5 - mobile is available at the 'point of inspiration' (for user-generated content in social media)
6 - only mobile measures the audience accurately enough to be actionable
7 - only mobile captures the social context of all of our media consumption
Every one of these is at least as radical an innovation, as 'sound' was for Recordings, that launched a multi-billion dollar global music recording industry. Excepting for the latest seventh discovery ('captures social context'), the first six have all already contributed to successful commercial media applications, formats and content. And yes, obviously - any service that uses one of these seven abilities for a significant aspect of that media experience, is by definition only viable on mobile. You cannot (make business out of) launch(ing) that same concept on any other legacy mass media, not on CDs and DVDs, not on radio, not even digital radio; not on TV/cable TV/satellite TV/digital TV/IPTV; and not on the internet. And as you ponder that point, is Tomi really serious, there are mass media concepts commercially launched today, that you can only do on mobile, remember the very first media content for mobile - ringing tones. Still today, eleven years from launch, as ringing tones are a 5 billion dollar global music industry giant, we have nobody selling ringing tones to our television sets or our laptop computers or our playstation portables. Only for mobile. It is one example of a unique media format, that can only be (commerically viable) on mobile the seventh of the mass media.
UNIQUE ABILITY 1 - MOBILE IS PERSONAL
So, lets start with the unique abilities. First of all, mobile is the first personal mass medium. You can't show a personal unique storyline edition of Star Trek to each individual audience member in the same cinema audience. You can't sell tens of thousands of individually personalized versions of Harry Potter with different endings in the same bookstore. All other mass media were designed to be consumed by their intended audience in the same standard form. We share our newspapers and magazines, we share the music from our personal CD library when we play music to our guests visiting for dinner. Note how different this is. We do not have a couple over for dinner, and each visitor hearing a 'different version' of the same song? We put on the CD, and everyone hears the same song. We watch TV together as a family. If the kids don't want to watch with us, they go to another TV set and watch that, with their friends...
Even the internet is only semi-personal. We individuals often feel that the given laptop PC from the office is 'ours' or that when we go to Facebook on the family PC, it is only me and my experience. So the internet is very good at giving us an illusion of being personal. But the truth is, that for very many internet users, there is a shared element to it. We do share our family PC. At work, our IT department installs all sorts of company apps and services to our PC and our employers often retain the right to snoop inside our emails and communications etc. In many countries more internet users share a PC at an internet cafe, than own a PC at home.
But mobile is personal. So personal, that we do not share our phones with our spouces. Our kids when they reach puberty, will refuse to let their parents 'snoop' inside their phones. I am serious, there are tons of studies showing we totally refuse to let others see inside our phones. A survey in Australia revealed that its gotten so bad, that one third of Australians in long-term relationships will snoop inside their partners' phones - when the partner is in the shower.. Only mobile is truly personal as a mass medium
Because mobile is personal, it allows us to 'personalize it'. That means a big global industry of the personalization services to the phone - yes decorations - from interchangeable covers to our phones, to various phone decorations, little trinkets and toys that kids hang on their phones, to of course the ringing tones and various pop culture related screen savers.
So far so good. In total the personalization business nears ten billion dollars in total revenues. But what of 'real' media and personalization, and Tomi, please don't return to ringing tones, ok? Fine. Lets take news.
NTT DOCOMO I-CHANNEL
This is a perfect example of what I mean. Lets take a media concept that exists - the breaking news 'ticker' like the CNN news ticker we have on all 24 hour news shows, streaming at the bottom of the screen. This is of course not invented by CNN, they took the idea from the stock markets, with their 'stock ticker' that showed the dealers in stock markets the latest completed sale of given stocks, to show what is happening in that very volatile fast-moving industry of the stock markets. CNN was pretty smart to turn that into news content on their 24 hour news show nearly three decades ago.
The CNN ticker has a particular audience problem. You want to feature relevant breaking news, but you cannot have too many of the news items, because typical 24 hour news show viewers will not hang around for an hour or more. So they have to have a very short set of highlights, that rotate perhaps every 10 minutes or even every 5 minutes or so. And knowing some who watch the news want sports news, some want financial news, some want international news, some want celebrity news, etc, it means a severe compromise. Is it news that a golf star has had some family incident. If the 24 hour news channel puts that story on the news ticker, it means some other story will have to be eliminated. What of the hotel bombing in Somalia, does that qualify, etc.
The CNN news ticker is a brilliant idea, copied by all 24 hour news channels in all languages and is a 'staple' of the 24 hour TV format. Now lets use the power of mobile and make it uniquely better, using the first unique ability of mobile as a mass medium, that mobile is the first personal mass media channel.
Japan's biggest mobile telecoms operator/carrier, NTT DoCoMo about four years ago launched what they call 'i-Channel' as the their breaking news service exclusive to the mobile phone. They used a very clever technology ability, called 'idle screen' to allow news items to be delivered to your phone while it is in 'idle' mode - such as sitting on the desk or in your pocket - when it 'normally' would show the clock or your screen saver - and turn that idle screen into a 'live' ticker of news. So far so good, this is copying CNN to the mobile phone. Then the twist:
Because mobile is personal, we can then customize our news feed. Hey, wow, this gets FAR better than CNN. So if you are interested in sports, you get more sports, and if you are not interested in financial news, you say no financial news. This is totally customizable, so you can pick how many categories you want to follow, and they provide the headlines for you. Now you get more of what you really want, and none of the clutter to waste your time. Imagine you are only interested in sports, nothing else. If CNN shows six sports news headlines every 5 minutes, you have to wade through 4 minutes of other news like finance, international news, domestic news, weather reports every 5 minutes. But on i-Channel if you select only sports news - you get something like 25 separate sports headlines every 5 minutes, and nothing else. You get MORE of what you really want, with NONE of what is not interesting to you; and it means you get to see those news items of your interest, which CNN cannot show on its 'general audiences' oriented news feed.
And when there is a real breaking news item - you get it far faster, because the news ticker feed does not have to scroll through all that news content that you personally do not care about. It is like CNN news ticker, but inherently better. You can have your personal news feed. Live on your phone at all times, even as the phone is in 'sleep mode' even as it is silent in a meeting, you get your news ticker scrolling on that phone screen. If nothing new happened, the same headlines scroll just like on CNN, and the moment something new happens, the service eliminates the oldest item, and adds the newest item - except, that since this is personalized, you get only what is relevant to you. If you want just gossip about Brittney Spears and Angelina Jolie and Amy Winehouse, thats fine, just select 'celebrity news' and that is what you get 24 hours a day on your phone. No clutter.
Far far far better than CNN. And how is it doing? In its first two years, already one in six customer on the NTT DoCoMo network had subscribed to the service, paying about 2 dollars per month for it. In 2007 the service earned over 160 million dollars in news service revenues on just one network in Japan. The service is so popular that NTT DoCoMo is now exporting the technology and it was for example launched in India, to deliver news - and of course those vital cricket scores - to happily paying customers. (and yes, I loved this idea so much, I made it my first case study in my book Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media).
Note, that the NTT DoCoMo i-Channel has other abilities and features that make it compelling, not just the personalization ability. It is in our pocket all the time, it is connected all the time, we can charge our customers for it, etc. These touch on several of the other unique abilities of mobile. But those are additional abilities, that help make it even more economically viable. When it comes to 'breaking news' then the i-Channel will outperform CNN every day every night every hour every minute and every second. It is just inherently better to deliver 'my news' to me, on my phone. Rather than 'the most popular news topics' that run on all 24 hour news channels. And absolutely definitely totally, you cannot deploy this type of i-Channel 'equivalent' commerically on cable TV, where the original CNN news ticker was born. Mobile has a unique ability, and it has delivered a massive newsmedia paid service with very happy customers - using this first unique ability of mobile.
PERSONALIZED AD BECOMES CONTENT
So lets take one other example of personal, the first unique ability of mobile as a mass mediu. BMW's winter tyres MMS campaign is an award-winner and very well known in the mobile advertising circles. I have described it several times here at this blog, so you can read the full details about it here BMW Winter Tyres with MMS.
The main highlights. BMW in Germany had a full customer database of all new BMW owners, who had bought their BMW within the past 12 months, but during the summer months. In Germany every winter there is snow on the ground, and the law says that during winter time, car drives have to use winter tyres. So BMW created a truly personalized MMS picture messaging ad campaign. In it, each new BMW owner received a picture message featuring what looked like exactly his or her specific BMW, in the exact right model and type, in the exact right color, and with the exact wheel rim that the owner had bought. Then BMW offered a recommendation of the winter tyre for that specific car model. Obviously this was an automated system, they did not attempt to go photograph every BMW owner's car. They knew from the purchase invoice, exactly the required details. And in the picture message, they only showed the front quarter panel of the car, so even the license plate was not visible. But it was truly personal.
Then to totally maximize the opportunity, BMW waited with the campaign ready to run, until the first snow fell in Germany, and that campaign went out within minutes, to every targeted BMW owner. The response rate was unbelievable. Fully 30% of BMW owners in Germany who received the ad - not only saw it, and read it, and responded to it, and liked it - but showed up at an authorized BMW dealer to buy the recommended tyre. The total campaign cost 120,000 US dollars including all messaging costs and all creative ad agency effort and IT design. The yield? The campaign was reported to earn 45 million dollars in additional real business to BMW that winter. If we use personalization, we get results. Massive results. And the consumer stops thinking of our marketing messages as 'interruptive advertising' - they will love them as content and as a 'service'. They evidence is there, that when mobile advertising is used this way, in what is called 'engagement marketing' then consumers do actually beg for MORE of the advertising.
Note about the BMW case, that Germany is not considered the most advanced mobile markets, like Japan and South Korea or Finland and Italy; and that BMW is not in the digital entertainment business; and the product that advertising sold, was as 'bricks and mortar' as they come - winter tyres - which required actual 'footfall' into the stores, as these tyres needed to be fitted to the cars, and could not be 'fedexed' to your home like say Amazon can send you a book. This campaign was just about as 'foreign' to the native 'mobile opportunity' as they can come, and yet it achieved 30% conversion rate. Not half percent click-through rate as a good campaign can get on the internet; not even 5 percent response rate as early primitive mobile ad campaigns get if designed for WAP banner ads; when an engagement marketing campaign is well designed, it does get 30% response rates and better, as thounsands of engagement campaigns prove from Europe to Asia to America.
That BMW campaign illustrates personal as a unique ability of a mobile ad campaign - to incredible success. CNN i-Channel shows remarkably successful adoption of a personal - oriented newsmedia service. And Ringing Tones illustrate personal in the entertainment media space, a massive opportunity worth 5 billion dollars worldwide. These three examples show that you can use the first unique aspect of 'personal' to build media concepts that are unique to mobile.
END OF PART 1
In this first installment of this series, I have proven that mobile is indeed a new mass media channel. I have shown that there are in total now seven mass media, and that mobile is the newest. I pointed out that being far youngest, mobile is least understood of the mass media. And I started on the journey to explore differences with the media, with the first of seven unique aspects of mobile.
MORE IN NEXT ARTICLE
The next blog article in this series will explore the next 3 unique abilities of mobile with tons more actual media concept examples. Later I will cover the remaining of the seven unique abilities, then discuss several other relevant abilities of mobile, and discuss the myths around mobile as a media channel, such as the supposed limitations of the screen size and tiny keypad. Stay tuned.
As is usual on this blog, there is more info. First, if you can't wait for the next installment, and want the full story now, even in an earlier 'version', and want to read my previous (long) essay about the full story of the 7th mass media, please go to this link - Deeper insights into 7th mass media.
Secondly, if you want to see more specific case studies and statistics, I have more than 100 specific stories and entries at the blog dedicated to the 7th mass media opportunity, a the conveniently named website of 7thMassMedia.com
If you want something snappy and short that you can share with colleagues who won't have time to read my long blogs, I have a treat for you. A freebie 2 page pdf document, what I call a 'Thought Piece" - think of it as a very short but fact-packed White Paper. I think any executive has time to read 2 pages. So there is a Thought Piece on the 7th Mass Media. If you send me an email to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com,. I will send you that pdf file by return email.
And obviously, this blog series is taken directly from ideas and case studies and examples and stats in my sixth hardcover book, Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media, subtitled cellphone, cameraphone, iPhone, smartphone. The book has industry giant companies endorsing it. It features a foreword by the former President of Nokia and has 16 case studies including NTT DoCoMo's i-Channel mentioned in this story; and is far better in explaining the full 7th mass media opportunity, in more clear and thorough ways, than this blog can hope to be. It includes whole chapters dedicated to areas such as music o mobile, mobile gaming, social networks on mobile, the mobile internet, mobile advertising., etc. You can buy it at Amazon's main USA site, or Amazon's UK site, or order it directly from the publisher Futuretext who of course ship all over the world. And when you and I meet up at some point in your career, do bring the book along, I will be most delighted to autograph it for you.
And I am of course available to support you. I was the person who coined this term, seventh mass media channel, and have quite literally been talking about this topic the longest, of any experts. My reference customer list is the who's who of mobile and I do regular consulting jobs, from basic executive seminars explaining this opportunity, to service creation workshop and business-case development. I do consulting work regularly on all six continents. Don't let distance be a problem, I am here to help you if you want to understand more than what was in this blog. Feel free to write to me and we'll figure out what I can do - or if not me, who is the person you should talk to.
SO WHO IS TOMI AHONEN
So why should you believe me? So who is this guy? I know my writing style is arrogant, abrasive and often has an over-inflated sense of ego. I apologize for that, but I am a grumpy old geezer and I've been around the block for this industry for a very long time. My writing reflects the battle scars of being there all alone, for years, seemingly like Don Q, fighting against windmills. Now that there is some light in 'my tunnel' I am often tempted to say, 'I told you so' and refer back to my early books and writings. That is the penalty of having been a visionary for an industry from its beginning. I know it is annoying to the reader who does not know me and my style, but I ask you to indulge me a little bit further.
This blog is a hobby - we sell no ads to this site, so I get no income no matter how many eyeballs we attract here. The blog is very widely respected and syndicated on many sites such as CNBC, NY Times, Business Week etc. So we often get big numbers of visitors (but make no money on them) who then leave comments. And you will see if you go to the comments, that we take our responsibility here to respond to those comments, all of them. I understand from many other 'thought leader' type of popular sites, that the authors do not bother to reply or at least not bother to give meaningful detailed answers. Go read some of mine haha..
This blog was set up so we could connect with our readers and fans. So I do not bother to 'polish' my writing to be 'soothing' and 'politically correct' - I do have a real day job as a full-time consultant, and this blog takes a lot of my time just as it is. If you want polished writing, buy one of my books, is how I see it. If you really value my thoughts, as they appear and evolve, and want to be first to catch those thoughts knowing that a year later they will be in my next book, but want to gain that competitive advantage of being among the first to take in those thoughts, then you are a regular reader here, and I greatly value your participation. We have many industry heavyweights who regularly leave comments here with us. Those who know me are willing willing to put up with the arrogant style, and to read my thoughts in rough, pre-polished stage, and then they still go and buy my next book right when it is released, haha.
If you are a regular reader of the blog, you know me well. If you work in mobile telecoms, you probably have at least heard of me and your bosses probably have a couple of editions of Ahonen in their bookshelves. But if you come from the media industries like newspapers or magazines or books, or radio or TV, or cinema, recordings, internet, the PC/IT industry or advertising - you almost definitely have not heard of someone crazy called Tomi Ahonen from Finland, some ex Nokia dude, living in Hong Kong. So why care?
I am not an expert on the other six mass media. I do not claim to know or understand print or the movie biz or radio or TV. While I did work for the first internet service provider of Manhattan early in my career, I am not an expert on the internet. I am only an expert on mobile.
How much of an expert am I? I could tell you that I wrote the first book about mobile services and apps, am the father of the only industry-wide service creation theory and tool, developed the first university course on this topic, am quoted in hundreds of articles and list the who's who of my industry as reference customers. But you, the visitor to this blog, cannot independently verify any of that, in any way easily. I could just as well be just blatantly lying to you.
So, what can you verify. You can go to Amazon and find my books. Hardcover books, published by real book publishers, each with reviews, often by heavyweights of the industry. I could not possibly have somehow falsified Amazon's websites. Even more than that, as Amazon now offers the ability to search inside books, so if you go to Amazon.com the main Amazon USA website, and on the search field, you type in with the quotation marks, "tomi ahonen" and see what it shows, you will see not only my books, but several other authors who reference me. Then do the same for "T Ahonen" and you find many more. And do it again for "Tomi T Ahonen" and find more still. The Amazon "search inside" feature offers scanned images of pages from books by OTHER authors than me - and you can see what they say about me. Do they say 'that idiot Ahonen' or perhaps, say 'the expert Ahonen'.
Go take a look. If I truly have released six hardcover books - more books published than just about anyone in the mobile telecoms industry; and furthermore if dozens and dozens of my peers, other authors in mobile, acknowledge me and my thoughts, in their books - several who now reference explicitly the 7th mass media concept - then yes, you can rest assured, this Tomi Ahonen guy is legitimate.
MY MISSION IS TO SHARE
And then, that perhaps he is quite a strange bird among authors and global experts, gosh, and totally 'self-destructive' even, for anyone else calling himself a "consultant". Read some of my answers to people who ask questions at this blog for example. Look at that part in the previous section here, where I promised more info for you. What idiot "consultant" gives total answers on his blog, and then promises to send more free info after that, and gives links to even more free info on other blogs. Is this guy really crazy or what.
Then you will also hopefully appreciate my personal motto - written in all of my books and printed on my business card - "in a connected age, sharing information is power" and you will understand why my customers love me so, and keep coming back, and why my fans keep buying my books and re-reading them again and again. And chase me at conferences with books to autograph, flying to other continents just to hear me speak again.
My passion is to share information. I am too old, I have seen too much, I know too much, no matter how hard I try to write and speak in public, I can never share all I have inside my head. I have literally shown into the public domain over 1,200 mobile industry service concepts and how they make money. My books have over 600 of them. Think about that. How many McKinsey-BostonConsulting-PwC consultants have you ever met, who have given away for free one thousand proven ideas to make money? There is only one Tomi T Ahonen for this mobile content and services industry. I have that reputation, and I can hear the clock ticking, that some day my time will come, an airplane crash or a terrorist bombing at my hotel or a heart attack or Alzheimers or something. Then my ability to share will be gone, but up to that point I write write write, speak speak speak, blog blog blog (and Twitter Twitter Twitter Twitter and still more Twitter) and do my private consulting gigs with my friends and clients.
My customers appreciate that, and they hire me for my insights, those that I didn't have time to write down yet... The truly best ideas, the latest greatest hottest coolest stuff, that nobody but my paying customers get. The part that even readers of my blog haven't yet heard. Those who think in millions and billions, rather than little amounts of money, know the value of being first to information about new business.