Cutting the Cord: Mobile Momentum

Matthew Yorke

Ever feel like you have seen this movie before? Heady growth rates, market consolidation at huge multiples that will never truly get financially justified, frenzied media coverage on the one hand, and on the other reluctant enthusiasm and healthy doses of skepticism. This could be the year 2000 and we could be sitting in meetings discussing a small but growing online advertising number against a gigantic but static print number. Today, the hot topic for media companies is mobile compared to a big and still growing online ad market.

Apple’s Steve Jobs predicted 2011 would be the year of the tablet. With that prediction he is undoubtedly right, but only half right. It is also the year mobile finally breaks out from all the false promises and actually exceeds expectations.

I wrote about the 3 Ps of publishing in a Minsider column in April 2011 and portability—one of the 3 Ps– has become the most significant change for publishers and consumers. The natural assumption is that mobile is a consumer story and b2b media and marketers are on the sidelines watching with envy. Well, it is just not true!

IDG Global Solutions in July 2011 released the results of a mobile survey of almost 13, 700 people in 16 countries that measured the adoption of smartphones, tablets, and their applications usage. There are some really interesting findings:

• More than two thirds of respondents use a smartphone for personal or business use.

• 70% browse the Internet regularly and use mobile applications, with almost two-thirds of participants using between one to seven apps.

• 27% already own a tablet with 67% planning to buy one in the next 12 months, of which 80% will buy an Apple iPad!

• 67% of tablet owners share the device with colleagues and family, extending the tablet experience and reach beyond the 27% ownership figure.

Not surprisingly, Apple is either #1 or #2 in all markets as far as handsets are concerned.

Perhaps, what surprised me the most is the consumption data from b2b users compared to b2c consumers. B2b users are making more calls, sending more text messages, browsing the Internet more often, accessing more mobile email, and downloading more apps than b2c users. The mobile opportunity is here for both media and marketers and no question that includes b2b.

In a frenzied world of activity and information overload, the smartphone stays with you all the time and mixes personal and professional activities seamlessly. In the high-tech category, where average sales times are 18 months, mobile offers an opportunity to reach target audiences wherever and however they want to consume content. Why should we assume that IT professionals will wait to preview a whitepaper or watch a case study until they get back to the office? That just makes no sense. Far more likely is via their social graph and mobile widgets, they will see that an IT peer just commented on a piece of content that is relevant, open a link in a mobile browser, read the content, and possibly add a comment.

In an era of real-time marketing, mobile is the enabler. The challenge for both publishers and marketers: do we make the same mistakes we made in online, post static versions of publications or brochures and call that a website? We are in the very early stages of mobile, social, and location-based integration, the smart publishers and marketers will create content and experiences specifically for the mobile platform, not just adapt existing digital content.

Not convinced yet: an estimated two billion people access the Internet, 50% of them via a mobile device. IDC predicts 472 million smartphones will ship this year. Gartner forecasts the mobile ad market will be worth $20.6 billion by 2015.

Seen this movie before? This time media companies with innovative marketer clients can lead the revolution, not get swept up by it.

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