Gugliermo Marconi is credited with inventing the radio and he received a patent for the first practical radio transmission in 1897, and he launched the first commercial radio based communication company, the Wireless Telegraph Trading Signal Company in 1897 (later to be known as Marconi Company Ltd which was eventually merged into BAE Systems and that in turn sold to Ericsson). And yes before the nerds complain too loudly, Marconi built on previous work and there were many other important inventions in this space of many greats like Faraday and Tesla and Popov. But Marconi got the patent and set up the first commercial company to make it function as a business. It is fair to say Marconi is the father of radio. So ‘our industry’ in ‘mobile’ cannot work without radios of some kind, regardless of your definition - cellular or WiFi or near field, Bluetooth, or even FM radio that is often inbuilt into smartphones as an extra - all of those trace their roots to Marconi. So we can thank Gugliermo for laying the foundation for our industry even as the ‘mobile’ part of it took many twists and turns merging in and out of the telephone industry (itself older than radio) and the internet to get where we are today. Signore Marconi, grazie mille!
Now when you and I think of ‘radio’ we think of the thing in the car, the device in our kitchen-clock, the FM receiver in our home stereo set, or maybe the feature on our smartphone. Radio. You know, lots of music, then lots of ads, or tons of outrageous talk with traffic reports. Radio. So almost all ‘normal’ people will think of ‘radio’ as that same thing, a broadcast technology that gives us music, news, sports, weather reports and traffic congestion info, that we listen in to. Now, the radio ENGINEERS will also remind us that radio waves ie the same radio transmission technology gives us also a far bigger industry that is much more able to consume our time and interest - television. In rough terms radio worldwide is about a 100 Billion dollar industry in size but TV is worth about 5 times that, roughly 500 Billion dollars in size. Television’s first experimental broadcasts were starting just a few years around when Marconi himself died (1937). A MASSIVELY bigger industry born out of his invention, radio communications, but one that flowered in the next 80 years after his death and 40 years after the radio communication technology was patented and this industry born.
There is so much more to radio obviously than radio as the mass media we listen to, or its colorful cousin, television. What about measuring with radio? Radar (also invented around the time of Marconi’s death just before World War 2) allows us to measure far and with freakish accuracy incredible things like the speed of the round of a cannon firing or to notice that Hi Tomi is wobbling and not saying Hi anymore from space (Hitomi is a Japanese satellite that just lost its way a few weeks into its journey into orbit). Even more astonishing are radio telescopes. So in the area of measurement we can use radio. So its a very versatile and still fast evolving technological frontier. Here in mobile we went from 1G to 2G digital to 3G high speed to 4G mobile broadband and by the Japanese Olympics the father of the cellular industry - NTT DoCoMo of Japan - will be demonstrating 5G for us. (NTT launched cellular ie mobile telecoms four years before another ‘father’ Dr Martin Cooper provided his contribution to the cellular ie mobile industry - the first personally portable mobile phone. Previous mobile phones were either briefcase-phones or mostly, carphones. But yeah, the mobile industry was not born in Chicago in 1983 with Dr Cooper’s phone, it was born four years prior to that, with the first 1G cellular/mobile telecoms network going commercially live in Tokyo Japan).
ON THE RADIO
Its a long meandering intro to my point. Marconi was asked of his invention, whether he thought it could be used to transmit content to homes, ie what we think of as ‘radio’. To deliver our news or music or entertainment. He said no, he did not believe there was any practical commercial application for his radio to be used for broadcasting uses like that.
Marconi the inventor of radio, didn’t believe in ‘radio’ as we now know it. Wow, isn’t that amazing. So what in the world was Marconi then doing with his radio. It wasn’t TV or radar at that time. No, his company - look at the name - was a wireless telegraph and signaling company. In the late 1800s telegraphs were wiring the world for the first time for instant worldwide communication (the first trans-Atlantic cable was laid only in 1866, on that magnificent giant ship Great Eastern, the last of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s masterpieces in engineering). The telegraph changed the world incredibly. So consider John Tawall, he murdered his wife in 1845 Slough (a town in England), boarded a train and escaped to try to vanish in the vast city of London. But his wife’s murder was discovered and before the train arrived in London, a telegraph was sent to to Scotland Yard who came to Paddington station and apprehended the murderer. Suddenly information could move faster than humans. Before the telegraph all you could have done is sent an express letter - on the next train...
Marconi was a man of the 1800s and the big telecoms disruptor of that world was, the telegraph. Yes, some rich people were also installing those fire-alarm gadgets - telephones - into the servants quarters of their houses - where servants would take some messages and deliver for their masters but at this time, the big thing - the internet of its time if you will - was the telegraph. And that is where Marconi brought a great leap. What about ships at sea?
You can’t pull a wire with the ship as it sails across the ocean. But ships of that time were quite prone to all sorts of disasters from storms to exploding early coal burning engines to then be burning or eaten up by sharks or drowning. Nasty way to die. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a ship in distress could ‘telegraph’ to the shore to ask for help - say send an SOS - three short beeps followed by three long beeps then again three short beeps. (SOS has a literal meaning, its short for ‘Save Our Souls’ which is not the souls of the shipping crew, it means the ‘Souls On Board’ ie the SOBs, which was shipping language for their human cargo. Come save our passengers. SOS. SOS).
That was Marconi’s killer idea. All ships should buy his new gadget so they could communicate to the shore if they got into trouble. And then... yes I sailed over the Atlantic when I first visited the USA in 1966 on a giant Holland America Line ocean liner the SS Rotterdam (six nights, seven days to cross the Atlantic, woke up to see the Statue of Liberty out of our porthole, I was 6 years old at the time). So yes, at that time there was no telephone service from ship-to-shore but there were telegraphs, and we did receive a telegraph while onboard. I learned then that there was a dedicated telegraph operator in the radio room of the giant ocean liner just in case some important VIP customers had to receive some important urgent message so vital it could not wait until the ship reached its destinations in some days. I thought it was amazing (our telegraph related to our hotel lodgings in New York).
Almost instantly the military took to this idea, obviously very useful to have ship-to-ship communication ability that goes beyond the visible horizon (where flags with Semaphore code and at night Aldis Lamps with Morse code could be used to send messages but only to visible range, not beyond). But that is how Marconi saw it. Radio’s ‘killer app’ was ship-to-shore communiciations and once that was set up, then it also could be used in ship-to-ship and later, other difficult and long-range communications where cables had not yet been pulled. Eventually even those newly-fangled aeroplanes that the Wright Brothers put up in air, were wired for radio comms by around the First World War. And most of the early radio communication was by beeps, the telegraph and using Morse Code (back in boy scouts in the 1970s I still learned and memorized the communication methods of Morse code and also of the Semaphore flag alphabet, gosh those are utterly lost to me now). Now, compared to the ‘radio’ broadcasting industry by size, the telegraph communications industry never became to that size of 100 Billion dollars. I don’t know its peak size in terms of value, but I’d guess it was never more than one tenth of that. So if we say the total radio industry - combining Marconi’s original radio telegraph wireless signaling, and the soon evolved and soon larger radio broadcasting side, combined, we’re at about 110 Billion dollars in annual revenues, tops. Still, that is huge, so compared to say Hollywood which is one quarter of that (all global cinema box office revenues actually, not just American movies). I like to use Marconi’s vision (and the kind of ‘lack of it’) often in my workshops about mobile and our horizons. Don’t let veterans of our industry say something is impossible, seek the opportunities beyond the obvious. Often the largest opportunity of a given technological advance comes later in the that industry’s growth stage and often the inventors and pioneers of a given industry didn’t see its full potential.
SO THEN, MATTI MAKKONEN
So I want to move to another father of a wireless telecoms industry, Matti Makkonen. I wasn’t even born when Marconi died, but Matti, I met him many times, and he became my mentor when I was at Nokia (he was the last person who mentored me on my career and I was also his last mentoree, funny coincidence). I later invited Matti to become the godfather to my young Consulting Department at Nokia. If Matti’s name is not as familiar to you as Marconi, it eventually probably will become so. He is the father of the mobile data industry. Matti Makkonen received the Economist Innovation Award in Communication and Telecommunications in 2008 for his work in inventing the SMS text message. Ah, THAT guy, yeah. Now I vaguely remember, eh... This man:
Matti died last year, he had semi-retired and had some advisory positions still but most of his career he spent with the Finnish telecoms incumbent Telecom Finland aka Sonera (now part of Swedish giant TeliaSonera) where his last job was heading the mobile internet arm of the company. He then went to work for Nokia as a Vice President and he later would become the CEO of Finnet another Finnish telecoms company. Now, Matti was the first to remind everybody that SMS Text Messaging was an international telecoms standard written into the GSM specification and the result of a lot of collaborative work, but that was also his humble way to deflect from the fame. He did invent SMS text messaging. Others also worked on it to create what we now have but Matti is the genuine father of our industry, mobile, in terms of an industry around mobile data. SMS text messaging was the first non-voice service launched on mobile/cellular services and also became the first media delivery channel on mobile and a payment method and advertising channel too. The first (experimental) SMS message was sent in 1992 from a computer on the Vodafone network in Britain. The first commercial SMS text message the way we understand it today, as a person-to-person text, sent from a mobile phone to a mobile phone was Nokia GSM phones on the Radiolinja network in Finland (part of Finnet group) in 1994 (I myself sent my first SMS text message also on a Nokia phone also on Radiolinja’s network, in 1995, so my texting addiction is already 21 years of age, gosh).
Matti Makkonen gave many lectures seminars and keynotes to the young mobile industry later in his life. One of the most lasting, influential presentations by anyone that I have seen, was the private briefing he gave to my Consultants at Nokia in year 2000 (I can’t believe it is 16 years ago, his teachings are so relevant still today). I come back to Matti’s thoughts time and again, about things like using the mobile phone single-handedly, or how we are moving from services to the ears (voice calls), to services to the eyes (mobile data on the screen of the phone) and how being small doesn’t mean mobile is somehow the weaker sister of the computing world. These are all themes that I’ve touched upon on this blog over the past 11 years and in my books in the past 15 years. But today I want to return to another of Matti Makkonen’s wild visions from year 2000, about the new services in mobile data. Matti had seen the birth of SMS, and how much if flowered by that time in six years to add news alerts and games and jokes and payments and advertising.
And let me pause here, for a moment, to give us scale. SMS Text Messaging is used by 5.8 Billion people worldwide (source TomiAhonen Almanac 2015) - it is the most used technology, the most used communication method, and the most used media on the planet. Yes, more people use SMS text messaging than use the voice calls on their phones so SMS is bigger even than voice on our phones today, by active users. The largest telecoms industry ever - if measured by reach of humans but obviously not by its revenues. Which brings me back to Marconi - Makkonen DID conceive of new vast opportunities BEYOND just messaging on mobile phones both on SMS, and beyond SMS. But how big IS that messaging purely as conceived by Matti himself, not the fancy MMS and OTT and other mobile messaging evolutions beyond just SMS. SMS text messaging alone is worth 139 Billion dollars annually today (says the TomiAhonen Almanac 2015). While that is enormous obviously it isn't quite in the scale of say television (yet) but note - SMS was the fastest industry in human history to go from zero dollars to 100 Billion dollars in annual value. Fastest industry in history to get to 100 Billion. (Oh, and lets not talk about the profits. At one point more than 95% of the TOTAL SMS texting industry was pure PROFIT about a decade ago...)
Now back to how Gugliermo Marconi must be smiling up there in the telegraph room of Heaven. It is wireless messaging communication by signaling, which is SMS. They wrote a separate SIGNALING channel to the GSM standard to allow for Matti Makkonen’s invention to work on the voice based digital telecoms cellular network of that time. So Marconi’s idea took literally a century to cover the whole planet geographically and another decade or so to reach essentially every pocket of every human who is old enough (and literate) to read and write. And in money, if the original wireless telegraph industry never topped 10 Billion dollars in value, and its richer younger sister the ‘broadcast radio’ grew to be worth 100 Billion, now that son of the wireless telegraph - SMS text messaging - is worth both of those, combined, and then some. Yes SMS text messaging alone (ignoring all other mobile messaging from MMS to OTT to email) is worth 139 Billion dollars and far larger than the total original industry created by Marconi’s invention, of wireless telegraph signaling.
NEW MOBILE DATA SERVICES AS IMAGINED
In year 2000 there was no iPhone. If you wanted the internet in your pocket you could buy the Nokia Communicator but it was a brick of a phone and incredibly massively outrageously expensive for a mobile phone at the time. It was like buying a Rolls Royce for a car. Only the really rich and the really powerful had Communicators (and only a few lucky ones over at Nokia management including... ahem... someone you know). There was no Twitter, there was no YouTube, there was no Facebook - even MySpace had not launched by 2000. If you wanted a mobile internet, and didn’t live in Japan, you were out of luck because even WAP had not launched yet. 3G had not launched. GRPS (2.5G) had not launched yet. The highest speed mobile data you could do in year 2000 was HSCSD (Not to be confused with HSDPA now in use) and that had only been around a few months. Yes, this is moving from 2G towards 3G but it was essentially 2.1G if you accept WAP (of WAP is crap) as 2.2G.
In year 2000 you could go visit Japan and see the astonishing iMode on NTT DoCoMo’s service - in very many ways the prototype of the modern iPhone-idolizing apps-prioritizing mobile data world. iMode had only been around for a year but if you like your app stores as a developer where Apple or Google pay you 70 cents out of every dollar that your client is charged - thank Japan for the idea. Except on iMode it was 91 cents returned and only 9 cents out of every dollar kept by NTT DoCoMo. If you like 3G speeds, or having a WiFi option on your smartphone or QR Codes or now the NFC payments on your iPhone - all those were invented by NTT DoCoMo in Japan. If something related to mobile and was not invented in Finland around SMS, then almost everything else came from Japan. If not at NTT DoCoMo then it would be its two rivals such as GPS location-based services by KDDI, or cameraphones by J-Phone (now Softbank) or real music downloads (KDDI) or picture messaging (J-Phone) etc etc etc.
But most of that was still in the future in year 2000. Even in year 2000 there was no cameraphone, no GPS phone, no musicphone even invented, far less QR codes or NFC payments and mobile wallets. Mobile phone screens in year 2000 were still in monochrome (black-and-white) and usually only displayed about 5 lines of text, some premium phones still got by showing only one line of text at a time that you had to scroll. Imagine doing that on a Twitterflood rant by Donald Trump (or Tomi Ahonen) today haha.
That is your context for year 2000, when phones had no cameras, no browsers, no color screens, no media players, no GPS and no touch screens. And the highest speed was something so obscure we can’t even now remember what HSCSD letters stood for and when WAP was a promise of something amazing in coming years, when the ‘almost’ internet was going to reach our pockets. What kind of vision could the father of the mobile data industry have for that vast expanse of opportunity? My consulting team at Nokia was truly privileged to get that private session with Matti Makkonen who among so many other remarkable pearls, gave what to my senior consultants and definitely to me, was the most valuable part. A vision into the future of our services in mobile data. He taught us four words: Advertainment, Infotainment, Edutainment and Community. It is literally true, that I have thought about those four of Matti Makkonen’s teachings as a group at least once every single month since I heard it. This blog (not this article, I mean this blog the Communities Dominate blog that has had 6 million lifetime visitors and has received 50,000 comments in its 11 years) is the direct descendant of that teaching, but I am getting ahead of ourselves. Lets go to the four.
Matti was not arguing these are the only four areas where mobile data will exist. He also did not say they would all be big. But in year 2000, apart from what already existed in mobile data at that time - news, games, music (while yes, very very rudimenatry as ringtones) advertising, payments, person-to-person messaging etc - Makkonen foresaw four NEW areas to emerge. One around a new type of consuming information, one as a new way to receive an education, one around a new media to deliver advertising and one as a new way to communicate. He felt very passionately that mobile needed to utilize its unique abilities and to deliver via content and services that capitalized on those unique abilities - starting with being able to operate it on a single hand. An internet service on a PC or laptop never had that need. Single-handed operation. But on early mobile services it was a massive insight and an early key between those who failed and those who made it. As regular readers of this blog know, one of my career-long passions was seeking the extent of unique advantages of mobile of which I have so far chronicled nine. Note that by my first books more than a decade ago, I had only discovered four.
In that listing of four, three have the ending ‘tainment’ from entertainment. Matti believed strongly that adding an entertaining aspect to delivering information or education or even advertising would enhance that service and on mobile - due to our short attention span, often being in a situation of multi-tasking and having so many alternate calls for our attention - it is even more important. So lets take infotainment. The merger of information with entertainment. I am in the information-peddling business myself as a consultant and author. Those who have seen me speak know that I at least TRY to make it also entertaining, to throw in some jokes and little gimmicks and some other tricks of the speaking trade, to try to add that entertainment angle to my message. If the audience is enjoying itself (to the degree you can at a technology conference or internal company workshop with that weird guy in the hat) it is more able to absorb what I am trying to teach. I took to heart the moment I heard the quote by the late, great talk-show master, Johnny Carson, people will pay more to be entertained, than to be informed. It was joked at the time, that young people had stopped listening to the nightly news just preceeding Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, but tuned into listen to his monologue of jokes, to learn the news that way, instead. And the Daily Show in its peak years with Jon Stewart, took that blending of news and entertainment into a total new stratosphere, and it was measured to be true, that for young people they learned the news more from Stewart than from any other more formal news source.
I was onboard with Johnny Carson’s quotation well before I met Matti Makkonen for the first time and I don’t know if Matti ever saw or heard Carson or ever knew of that quotation, but when Matti talked suddenly of ‘infotainment’ it went straight into my hypothalamus and simply confirmed by a new word to me at that time, what I knew instinctively to be true, and how I had been living for years already at that time, as Nokia’s chief Consultant and part of its heavy rotation ‘Talking Heads’ team at HQ who were authorized to speak to the media. So ‘infotainment’ is my racket, eh? That is what I apparently was born to do. To try to make the boring nerdy subject matter of wireless telecoms sound interesting and exciting and even funny.. gosh, and I was actually succeeding in that mission too.
Now on mobile industry giants, did you notice what Telenor has been doing recently? They are now launching all across their Asian footprint a campaign they call 'More Than' in which they want to help various Asians get better info about education, healthcare, agriculture, government etc. This is part of that kind of thinking what Matti taught us all those years ago. A telecoms operator wanting to help with agriculture info? Or health or education. Thats pretty smart. Now, did the Telenor management ever actually listen to Matti Makkonen directly talk about his thinking, who knows? Scandinavian telcos did a lot of cooperation and later in his Nokia years he very well could have visited with Telenor, one of Nokia's best clients. But I honestly don't know. What I DO know is that my consultants DID meet with Telenor very frequently - Telenor openly thanked Nokia's Business Consulting department for helping them with their 3G strategy development in October of 2001. I am certain Matti's ideas got transferred in ample degree to the strategy team of Telenor then, 15-16 years ago. And probably the names are long forgotten but the ideas have percolated and today a Scandinavian mobile telecoms operator/carrier is working in areas to help bring info in valuable areas to customers in distant lands. This is an amazing industry and I am so proud to have been part of it. Now, those who are succeeding in mobile out of the information industry tend to be those who get the ‘tainment’ part of it - like the Pew Survey last year revealed, for example the Huffington Post is one of the early web news services to see more of its viewers coming from mobile than PC. Its not that HuffPo doesn’t do ‘real news’ but their service makes an effort to offer a lot of that entertainment part thrown in with it. Probably the least controversial of Matti Makkonen’s ideas from back then would have been Infotainment and we can just accept, very wise and far-sighted view, suuret kiitokset, Matti Makkonen.
The more challenging part and a close sibling to infotainment is edutaiment. Really? Do teachers now have to compete with late night comedians? But we all know its true, the best educators tend to be good also as entertainers. My fave professor from college days, then only the Chair of the Marketing Department at Clarion University who later became the University’s President, was Dr Joe Grunenwald. Obviously a marketing professor. He would kid while he was still only a professor, in class, that he wanted all professors to be paid by student enrolled, the more you attracted students the higher your salary (he didn’t really mean it and we discussed this in class also why this would dramatically distort the very integrity of the education system) but he said, he was so popular he’d just list the sports stadium as his classroom and fill it... thats the confidence of a great, entertaining speaker. A side-splittingly funny teacher (my fave high school teacher, Sr Renee Brinker at the English School in Helsinki - was the funniest teacher I had had up to Grunenwald). He made you laugh ever single class and thus, you really didn’t want to miss even one of his lectures. Plus - seasoned comedians like that - he wouldn’t bore you eternally with the same jokes, it seemed truly to be fresh every single time.
Is it fair, no. Is it the only requirement for a teacher, to have to be funny, obviously not. Can you have a great teacher who is utterly not funny at all, of course you can. Teaching is a calling profession and highly noble, and I don’t want to belittle it saying it should be crass entertainment only - BUT on MOBILE - we don’t have the time, we are always overloaded with alternate stimuli - what is on my Twitter right now - on mobile.. if you want to educate, try to make it ENTERTAINING, that will make it FAR more likely to succeed. Like say...
Angry Birds. Yes yes, we’re bored silly by now of the Mighty Eagle Peter Vesterbacka’s iconic red hoodie seen at every envy-inducing public event where Rovio keeps getting invited, but come on. Three. Yes three not two. Three is a rare number in this scale. If we say BILLIONS. Not many companies can say in their lifetime they reached 3 Billion customers. Angry Birds has passed now the 3 Billion cumulative download threshold. Facebook only has 1.5 Billion users. Three. Apple will pass the 1 Billion cumulative iPhone shipment number this summer. Three. Samsung has only shipped 1.3 Billion smartphones in its lifetime. Three. Angry Birds by Rovio has passed 3 Billion downloads in only six years. It is by a wide margin the most played downloaded videogame in human history. It is pure entertainment obviously but did you see what Rovio, its parent did? They used the Angry Bird popularity to set up an education unit for young kids of pre-school age (up to age 6) called Fun Learning. That has now been spun as its own company. That is edutainment. You combine education with entertainment, to help it succeed in the fiercely competitive world of mobile. Not every teacher has to be entertaining (though it helps) and not every educational service or system needs to be fun - but boy does that help. It was what I told the first Mobile Learning conference in my keynote in 2010, I implored the young m-learning industry to embrace ‘magical’ services. To be not just educational but entertaining too.
There was no edutainenment in year 2000 when Matti Makkonen talked to my consultants and nobody would conceive of using a mobile phone as an educational instrument. But here we are a decade and a half later. New Zealand already has all teachers using mobile phones in some way in their teaching, the specific use is with the teachers but they’ve gone from banning phones to embracing them in education; Finland has moved to the point now where this year 2016 will be the first where parts of the national matriculation exams (at high school graduation level before entrance to universities - for American readers think SAT score tests, for British readers think GCSE exams or closer probably the A Level exams) are done WITH mobile phones IN THE TEST ROOM. You still thinking we should BAN the students from using their personal mobile phones (smartphones) when the world is speeding towards an information age? How moronic is that? You HAVE to embrace the mobile revolution also in education.
In Finland it is a migration process where a few schools and subjects start this year and in a few more years all students in all schools and all subjects will take their national matriculation exams - by mobile. Yes. The world’s best national education system compared to any other country, in all tests year in and year out - is doing THIS. Mobile is OF COURSE a learning instrument. But knowing that, if you can make learning FUN, then it becomes easier to learn, easier to teach. Edutainment. Thanks Matti Makkonen.
The wild part where Matti took us on that fateful day at my Consultancy department, was his view of advertising evolving. Again, this is five YEARS before the book that spawned this blog, Communities Dominate Brands. Matti thought that advertising should evolve past being interruptive and hated, to become entertaining and beloved. Wow, what a concept for that time. And that successful mobile advertising on mobile would bring about a total new category he called advertainment. Not that all ads on mobile would become thus, but that this was a dramatic new growth opportunity of a whole new area of advertising, essentially unique to or at least born out of the challenges and limitations of mobile.
I’ve spoken to the global advertising industry on all six inhabited continents, and literally at least once every year since chairing the world’s first mobile advertising conference sixteen years ago. And obviously I am not an ad industry guy, I’m a telecoms geek. And I ALWAYS ask my ad audiences to help innovate in the ad industry for advertising to be entertaining, to be magical, to go beyond the interruption. Yes, its mantra today like how I now preach: Don’t spam don’t spy; ask permission and satisfy. How can you have satisfying advertising? One way is, if it is entertaining. Like say advergames, a whole subcategory of advertising which was born through mobile. The world's first advergames were invented in India, on mobile of course. Very smart by Matti, a non-ad guy, talking to us in year 2000 to foresee this, radical change to the advertising industry.
One sign that the ad industry is on its way to Matti’s vision is if we find commercially and sustainable advertising models which have the consumers requesting for more ads. That sounds like a hobby for the mentally deranged. Yet, as I’ve repeatedly proven in my mobile advertising workshops, even ad industry professionals didn’t notice, that Amazon has invented an ad model that has us requesting more ads and not even thinking of the ads as ‘advertising’. I am of course talking about Amazon’s recommendation engine - when you look at the page for my book Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media, you see of course other books recommended by Amazon. They are based on others who bought my book (or looked at its page), so likely if you liked my book, you’ll also like those others. Now, at the end of the five books they recommend today, is a button to offer you more recommendations. If you clicked on that link, you actually requested Amazon to show you more advertising!!! Those little pictures of book covers - they are each an ad, and if you requested to see more recommendations, you, my dear reader, have also been duped by Amazon to request more ads - and spend time watching MORE ads rather than reading a book or say, this blog, haha... Yes, I know, I know. Can you imagine how foolish the advertising industry audiences have felt when I asked them about that haha...
Its possible to create ads so good we want more of them. Maybe that they have more information, like in Amazon’s case. Maybe its because the advertising brand has gamified the ads and have conditioned us to wait to see more - to win awards or loyalty points like say Coca Cola did in South Korea or McDonald’s did in Denmark - with mobile campaigns. People were sitting in front of the TV during ad breaks - hoping to see an ad by McDonalds so they’d get to redeem a coupon. WAITING for a particular ad... Yet another variant is what I wrote about a few months ago, iadbox out of Spain now spreading fast around the world from Britain to Argentina. They are delivering targeted mobile ads where the recepient is also rewarded, and yes, again, many users now look forward to more ads. This will change the world totally.
Advertising is evolving fast and into something radically different from the past. Some in the ad industry love the challenges and opportunities of the change. Others desperately cling to the past and lament the changes. In Communities Dominate Brands, my fourth book eleven years ago, that topic was a key theme. Since then I returned to the mobile side of the ad industry changes in Pearls Vol 1: Mobile Advertising, as an overview of the various individual steps that the ad industry had taken on its journey to discover the power of mobile. Was it all ‘tainment’ where the mobile ad industry went? No. But it evolved totally beyond what was the full ad industry of year 2000. And today mobile is the fastest-growing part of global ad industry and all major ad agencies sing the ‘mobile first’ song and some even talk of occasional ‘mobile only’ strategies and campaigns. But when they get stuck with the silly old location-based ideas or smartphone apps, and need some inspiration of where the magic was, and is, and will be - they call up the old consultant from Hong Kong who once worked at Nokia... I love talking with the ad industry professionals because its a young person’s industry like mobile, and they are able to view the world with an attitude of exploring the opportunities through its creative potential, rather than what many older telecoms engineers like to look at hopeless log-jammed understaffed underfunded over-promised project nightmares in how they see the near future of their side of this industry.
So in year 2000 as I listened to Matti Makkonen talk to my department, on the Infotainment, I was fully onboard. On Edutainment, I saw it as also a strong prospect with perhaps a longer time horizon. On Advertainment, while I caught Matti’s enthusiasm and shared in a prospect, of the possibility of an industry to change so radically, I wasn’t as sure. I gave Advertainment more room for doubt in my mind, but still embraced it as a possible future scenario, which I soon bought fully into, and that could be sensed well already in my third book 3G Marketing. But it was that fourth part which to me took the longest to take hold. Community. What was that all about?
COMMUNITY AS IN DOMINATE
So Infotainment, Edutainment, Advertainment and Community. I remember Matti making the point when he showed the four on his slide, that he didn’t like the verbal disharmony where that last, fourth word didn’t rhyme with the previous three, but it was because there was no established word for that type of service. What was his Community? What we now know as Social Media. Facebook, Twitter etc. Oh, duh, yeah, Communities Dominate Brands, eh? Obvious.
But not obvious when Matti said it. There was no Instagram or Snapchat. There was no Twitter, no YouTube and no Facebook. Even Facebook’s predecessor, the largest social media service ever on the plant, up to that point, MySpace - had not LAUNCHED yet. Nobody blogged (outside of South Korea). A social media experience was a chat room (and yes, I had been there, done that too. As far back as 1994 I was moderating a chat room watching live TV as the New York Rangers played the Vancouver Canucks for the Stanley Cup, we were chatting live with fans of both teams across North America about the ongoing game, 22 years ago).
In year 2000 there was nobody who said social media (for whatever synonym you can find, chatroom, dating services, social software, community services) would become big - in MOBILE. Remember in year 2000 most ‘tech experts’ outside of Scandinavia thought SMS texting was a brief youth fad about to die haha.
So first, out of Matti Makkonen’s frequent tech audiences, I was probably among the few who got his ‘point’ instantly - I had literally been running chatrooms and used online dating services and played multiplayer online games and used various other early social media already. And I had been incredibly addicted to some of them, I knew all that. What I felt a VERY strong RESISTANCE to, from Matti’s message was, that this would become commonplace sometime in my lifetime. For me, in my mind, the parallel was to videogaming. I had been incredibly addicted to early and up to mid 1990s videogaming (up to Doom and Quake which just introduced multiplayer games at modest player numbers). I then stopped cold-turkey when I noticed it was an addiction and it took me away from real life. But as the proverbial gaming geek, it was a lonely hobby (especially at that time) with no time for romance and no sensible girls at that time would bother to hang out with some totally weirdly addicted gaming nerd.
Anyway, I saw in my own geeky-nerdy-dweeb behavior on videogaming the same patterns as with the early social media. And I thought, yes, I can most definitely see a future where people LIKE ME become addicted to mobile community services (ie social networking) but I did not see OTHER normal people ever wanting to do that. Not my uncle or aunt, not my sister (but yes, my brother). I could not imagine in year 2000, something like Facebook reaching 1.5 Billion users worldwide just 15 years later. That change in my belief would not come until I saw MySpace, and eventually of course resulted in the book Communities Dominate Brands which was, as you all know obviously, eleven years ago the world's first business book for this industry we now know as Social Media. At the time of that book, even the term 'social media' was not yet the accepted terminology (which is not mentioned once in the book even though it talks about many of our famous social media services of today from Linked In to YouTube). And as I became convinced, I then also counted the numbers and revenues and that led me to quickly move to stage two, the purely mobile angle to social networking was then further shown in Pearls Vol 2: Mobile Social Networking.
This part of my brain fighting against Matti Makkonen’s teachings was also a funny bit about how my own growth into ‘mobile social networking’ happened. In the years 2000 and 2001, we, my department, were often tasked with various writing and speaking projects. Sometimes for us, sometimes for our superiors for the Nokia marketing messages. I would instinctively always remember to add advertising and news/information and education into those stories that would invariably include SMS and mobile payments/banking and location and navigation telematics etc. But I would tend to just forget to add COMMUNITY. So my boss, Ilkka Pukkila - the smartest boss I ever worked for (with apologies to all my other past bosses) - would then just mention, in seeing whatever drafts came in - wouldn’t you want to add ‘community’ to this.. He too was a big fan of Matti Makkonen of course and had seen some of Makkonen’s presentations so he knew that story. I would feel dumb and of course add community to whatever it was we were working on. Note, this happened at least four times in less than two years. My mind just had some kind of block on social media. Wasn’t ready to yet accept it as an obvious part of this industry’s future. Luckily Ilkka was fully onboard.
Ilkka probably doesn’t know it, but one of the ways I used to read various draft documents coming from my department was with my mind set on ‘what would Ilkka say’ haha, and that was when I started to insert more Community into various Nokia Consulting Department communications (and my own presentations). That very thought - what would Ilkka say - was WHY there are those two pages of Community related thinking in my first book, Services For UMTS haha. And that book had a chapter on location-based services. By my second book, m-Profits, the proportions were reversed where community services had a chapter and Location-based was down to two pages; and by my fourth book, a whole book went just into discussing how Communities Dominate Brands.
Sometimes I am a bit daft and slow, but I do trust my mentors and log their guidance even when I might feel I disagreed at that particular time. Matti Makkonen’s fourth point, Community, turned out to be the biggest of them all - and almost totally powered by the mobile revolution. Even as Social Networking first emerged on the PC internet side, the money was soon made on mobile and today all major players in Social Media agree, their future is totally on the mobile side. And it helped that Ilkka Pukkila reinforced that one message frequently - don’t forget about Community. Without Matti or Ilkka, this blog would not exist because the book would not have been written. I would simply have not spotted the opportunity until it was too late to try to write a book about it haha...
MAKKONEN WAS BELOVED AND ADORED
Let me mention about my Department and its reaction to Matti Makkonen. Note, these were among the very brightest and best of Nokia’s talent. They were not trying to build the technology for 3G networks or the handsets but to understand the BUSINESS of the future, how in that 3G world, different players would survive and grow. Who could make money - and how - out of a world that literally did not exist yet. They had access to all of Nokia’s research and experts - at that time literally the largest collection of 3G related patents, engineers, research was at Nokia - plus we commissioned out of my budget the world’s largest consumer surveys covering over 50,000 people in several dozen countries globally, about various dimensions of mobile data services. Where I was the administrator who had to spend all my time in various endless meetings, mostly my consultants could do their research and analysis work and spend much of their time with Nokia’s clients - the operators/carriers. There was simply no more competent group of experts on what the future of mobile data could be, than my Department by that time. Let me show you our Consultants on a recreational day skiing.
Nokia 3G Consulting Department 2001
So It was not me who researched and analyzed and thought through and argued the visions of 3G mobile business. I had almost no time to do that kind of ‘work’ as a middle-manager most of my work was just administration with occasional PR jobs. I’d review their work, supervise some of it, and mostly just had to accept it all because I was no longer really competent to evaluate it. The various areas were moving so fast, it made my head spin. Now, my Consultants.. they were the best of the best (of the best). And they read every report by Gartner and Ovum and IDC and Informa and so forth. They KNEW. And THEY were impressed with what Matti Makkonen said. That four-part view to the future - Advertainment, Edutainment, Infotainment and Community - that was regularly referenced by my Consultants - and always attributed with considerable respect, to Matti Makkonen. In year 2000, nobody else had this kind of vision to the future of mobile. Nobody. But suddenly, all my Consultants were now allowed to quote Matti as this being part of the vision we - the Department - had of the future...
So again, to be clear, this was not the only thing Matti told us, he also covered the usual suspects from news alerts to videogames to mobile payments to telematics etc. That was ‘normal’ and not the part that sticks to your mind for 16 years. But those four.. Advertainment, Edutainment, Infotainment and Community - those did. I think of them yes, at least once every month.
So Matti Makkonen’s invention, SMS Text Messaging is worth 138 Billion dollars in annual revenues and used by 5.8 Billion people worldwide today. Its bigger than what the inventor of radio, Marconi’s original concept, wireless telegraph, and the evolution of his invention - consumer radio broadcasting - had grown to at their peaks, at well under 110 Billion dollars. Now what of these four. The first three ‘tainment’ parts are all slight or small sub-sectors of modest parts of the mobile data industry and probably nobody really measures them (yet) for their precise sizes, well under a Billion dollars each, probably.
But Mobile Social Networking (not all Social Networking just the part on mobile) is the fastest-growing sector in mobile data and already worth 39 Billion dollars (according to TomiAhonen Almanac 2015). Mobile Social Networking has 2.1 Billion active users already (TomiAhonen Almanac 2015). So Social Networking just on mobile is larger than the total PC based internet worldwide. Social Networking on mobile ignoring the PC side, is viewed on more pocket screens around the world - than the total number of TV SETS globally. How’s that for them apples, eh? Another radio revolution surpassing another radio revolution. And talking of that television then as an industry. TV grew to pass Marconi’s era two radio industries, telegraph and broadcast radio and is worth about 500 Billion dollars today. What about the mobile data revolution that Matti Makkonen spawned out of the humble SMS text message. As the various Spotifys and Ubers and Whatsapps and Admobs joined the mobile data revolution the total mobile data industry (excluding cellular voice but including Skype type VOIP services) - yes, mobile data today is worth 525 Billion dollars (TomiAhonen Almanac 2015). Mobile data as a total industry, is now larger than television by revenues worldwide. Yes. It just happened. This time next year, mobile data will be larger than the total broadcast industry of TV and radio, combined. This time next year. And obviously mobile data is not apps. Apps only succeed as a delivery channel for mobile gaming and are less than one tenth of mobile data overall. Don’t focus on apps (unless you’re a game developer). Marconi, your radio thing-a-ma-jig may have some life in it, haha.
We stand on the shoulders of giants. Matti Makkonen, the father of the mobile data industry was a true giant and many of my books are direct descendants of his teachings and of course I thank him in my books. Matti was a rare visionary who not just saw the potential of his invention, but was able to see beyond it. If you work in Information, News, Education then do work to add ‘tainment’ to what you offer - make it Infotainment or Edutainment when you do deliver mobile services. The same with advertising. Make it so good your customers ask for more, like Amazon, like iadbox, like Coca Cola, like McDonalds.
And in mobile, currently, the fastest-growing part is.. Social Networking. How do we make money in Social Networking on mobile, that was the kind of stuff I was teaching the industry back when the iPhone was being launched and its why even giants like Facebook finally came to ‘the dark side’ of mobile. Its what the whole Pearls Vol 3: Mobile Social Networking book spends explaining and illustrating. But Matti is gone, its up to younger generations to carry on that mantle and help us see into the next areas. What comes next? I’ve always been intrigued by that question and my first answer is always ‘I wish I knew’ haha. But seriously, we know some parts. Augmented Reality will be the next mass media after mobile the 7th. We know this, I’ve been teaching this for years now. See my TEDx Talk about it if you didn’t know why AR will be quite much larger than say VR. Money will go mobile, we know that (my book Pearls Vol 3: Mobile Money). The big thing interesting me now, is Big Data. We have the world’s first case study on that, how Big Data compares to the old way of using demographics data driving old mass market advertising. Beyond that.. I wish I knew. I will keep on searching and sharing with you whatever I find.
But thank you Matti Makkonen for bring us this far. You foresaw most of what became of the mobile industry and you did it often a decade before the others. Up there in heaven, you’ll no doubt be wandering around with your heavenly mobile phone, sending texts to your new pal Marconi, sitting in his telegraph room, who in Heaven’s telecoms switchboard, of course receives your text messages sent in Finnish, arriving in Italian, on Morse Code. Beep-Beep-Beep.
PS - For those who want to see all the mobile industry stats, the latest TomiAhonen Almanac 2015 edition that came out a few months ago, has all the numbers you ever wanted.
For those who’d want to have a look into the future, along the theme of this blog article, for them I have the latest update of my TomiAhonen Mobile Forecast 2018 that came out last year. Yes.. if you wanted to see the future, why not see it via the most accurate forecaster of the mobile industry.