I’ve written a lot about my views on mobile opportunities for news organizations. Today I want to share some other people’s thoughts on the topic.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt declared in February that “mobile first” would be the new mantra of his company (I wrote in November that news organizations should pursue a mobile-first strategy). Schmidt repeated that point in April as the keynote speaker at the American Society of News Editors convention:
That’s where the action is. That’s where the growth is.
Considering the recent growth patterns of newspapers and Google, I would listen to Schmidt if he’s telling us where an opportunity is. As David Carr notes in the New York Times, Google is even making plans to profit from newspapers’ obsession with paywalls.
ASNE changed its name last year, changing the N from Newspaper to News, to reflect the importance of digital technology. But top newsroom leaders remain rooted in print. For instance, when ASNE decided to write a series of columns “busting myths,” four of the five myths relate so directly to print that their headlines refer to newspapers. Myths relating to digital journalism will have to wait for another day or another organization, apparently.
But news organizations can’t wait to pursue mobile opportunities. As my TBD colleague Jeff Sonderman noted last week in a blog post about a seminar at Digital Capital Week, smartphone sales will soon surpass dumbphone sales and PC sales.
If you want to truly understand the impact mobile is already having, and what it can become, I recommend the blog post, Everything you wanted to know about mobile but were afraid to ask by Tomi T. Ahonen.
Ahonen, a mobile consultant based in Hong Kong, says no technology has grown as swiftly as mobile and none has impacted so many other businesses. The “next barons of industry,” he said will be the innovators who master the eight “unique benefits of mobile”:
- Mobile is the only personal mass medium
- Mobile is permanently carried
- Mobile is always connected
- Only mobile has a built-in payment channel
- Mobile is available at the creative point of inspiration
- Mobile has the best audience information
- Only mobile captures the social context of consumption
- Mobile enables Augmented Reality to mass markets
As I wrote last week and as his title promises, Ahonen’s post is long and detailed, covering many more aspects of mobile than its possibilities for the news business. But his many points about the importance of mobile throughout life today underscore why this is the medium in which the news business needs to adjust and compete immediately:
Mobile use intrudes on consumption of other media. Ahonen cited a 2009 study that found that 1 out of every 7 minutes spent on any mass medium, involves phone use.
While mobile is disrupting other media, smart mobile use can also boost other media. He cited mobile services by the Economist in India and Hockey News in Canada that spurred print sales.
Want to be part of a growth industry?
The mobile data industry alone is worth 250 billion dollars – more than the total internet industry including content revenues, all search and advertising revenues, and all dial-up and broadband access revenues. Yes, mobile data alone is bigger than all that – and younger and growing much faster. The mobile data business alone is bigger than the global music industry, the global videogaming industry, the worldwide movie box office and all residuals incomes including rentals and DVD sales of movies, and the worldwide radio industry – combined. This is a giant industry and growing at breathtaking speeds.
Ahonen explains why mobile use is different from laptop and desktop computers:
A ‘mobile web’ user, a ‘mobile web’ usage situation, and a ‘mobile web’ pricing situation, and a ‘mobile web’ device experience – are all different from the classic PC web.
While a full-size keyboard may be more convenient than mobile for middle-aged fingers like mine (I’m getting faster and more comfortable on my iPhone all the time), Ahonen notes the many ways that mobile can gather data without the keyboard: recording audio and video, taking photographs, scanning with 2D barcodes (which our TBD business cards will feature).
Mobile is the seventh mass medium (following print, recordings, film, radio, television and the internet), and it successfully cannibalizes the services of the other six, but can do things none of them can do:
So there are major ‘billion dollar’ industries of digital content, that were invented on mobile, that work ONLY on mobile, and cannot be ported ‘back’ to any of the six older mass media, including the internet. Yes, mobile can cannibalize ANY legacy mass media, yet mobile has abilites that no other media can match.
And that recession that newspapers have blamed too much for the collapse of their advertising revenues?
Even with the biggest global economic crisis of our lifetimes over the last 2 years, while all other major industries – and the global economy – shrunk – mobile grew user numbers, mobile grew traffic in minutes and messages, and mobile grew revenues – and mobile grew profits. Almost every subsector of mobile made money while the world economy ‘cratered’ – mobile advertising doubled in 2009 when the global ad industry and every other ad sector shrunk.
Ahonen’s bottom line:
In our lifetimes there will be no better opportunity to make money than mobile is today.