January 24, 2010...5:02 pm

Mobile Is Not An Island

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“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”

-      John Donne (English poet, 1572 –1631)


Back in the mid to late 1990s, as the internet was becoming an increasingly significant factor in the music business, most record companies set up a “New Media” department – covering all of that ‘internet stuff’ –  where one “New Media” guy was assigned to toil in relative obscurity figuring out what it all meant.  Every now and then he would poke his head out and announce to a relatively disinterested audience of executives what he had learned, and how it might apply to the rest of the company.  Over time, an adventurous executive or two would decide to listen more closely and decide to try out something new in the “new media” landscape. However, for the most part, “new media” existed as an isolated area of distribution and promotion that couldn’t be ignored, but also couldn’t be truly integrated.

How times have changed.  Can you imagine anyone in 2010 being employed in any capacity in a record company and not be intimately familiar with the effects of “new media” on music promotion, distribution and sales?  Or any new music release where “new media” is not a compulsory, and in many cases dominant, part of the overall release plan?

I have a friend, right now as I write this post, who has the inside track to be the new “Mobile” guy at a major media company.  Is this starting to sound familiar?  Why is “Mobile” still the “New Media” of 1995 in the media and entertainment industry of 2010?

Why is mobile not yet fully integrated into the mainstream entertainment business?

It’s about time that the media and entertainment industry realizes that mobile is not an island.

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a study this week stating that the average daily consumption of entertainment media among kids and teens (8-18 years of age) rose from 6 hours and 21 minutes in 2004 to 7 hours and 38 minutes in 2009. In addition, consumption of regularly scheduled TV programming in its original broadcast time dropped 25 minutes in the same period, despite the overall increase.

How is this pertinent to mobile?  Check this out.  At the same time consumption of regularly scheduled programming dropped, overall consumption of television programming increased.  Why? Because while 59% of young people were watching TV at the time the programming was originally broadcast, 41% were either time-shifting, or watching on a platform other than a TV set.  Of the viewing that was not time shifted on television, fifteen minutes per day were spent viewing television on cell phones and sixteen additional minutes of viewing were spent on other mobile devices, like iPods.

Not convinced yet?  The study also found that when multi-tasking was taken into account, total media consumption time increased from 8 hours 33 minutes per day to 10 hours 45 minutes per day.  Of those ten hours, over two hours per day (20%) was spent consuming media content on mobile devices.  That number was not far behind the 32% of the time spent on television or the 25% of the time spent on a computer.  The other 23% was spent on an assortment of devices such as console video games, radio, print, movie theaters and CDs.

Furthermore, while the proportion of 8- to 18-year-olds owning a laptop has climbed from 12% to 29%, cell phone ownership has jumped from 39% to 66%, and iPod or other MP3 player ownership has soared from 18% to 76%. In fact, the study specifically states that “We suspect that the tremendous increase in cell phone and MP3 ownership among tweens and teens is probably the most important factor underlying the increase in media use among 8- to 18-year-olds.”

The time for the entertainment and media industry to shift to a fully integrated mobile offering is not only here, but as the study shows, has already passed.  Mobile is not only a “very personal, highly interactive, communication ecosystem on its own, but an integral and critically important part of the media and entertainment landscape; an always on, always with you medium whose rapid growth and adoption is dramatically changing the paradigm for media content consumption. 

Media and entertainment executives who fail to recognize and act upon this sea change in mobile are reminded of the last words of the same John Donne poem “for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”.


  • I can’t help but wonder if today’s nickel-and-dime (i.e. per transaction) mobile contracts aren’t having at least some influence on this. Not to mention the already taxed/overwhelmed bandwidth issues. (Some carriers make this easier than others, and not everyone has an iPhone).

    I think we’ll see the fuller integration you mention continue to evolve, though. (Just look at the success of Hulu). I do agree that it is time to continue working in that direction. Those that aren’t already will get left behind. The proverbial “bell” is already tolling.

  • I think the entertainment industry is actually losing this great opportunity.
    It is not just a question of access to content, music, movies, small games, …
    There is a lack of creativity in developing services for this new generation of mobile phone users.
    The timing is also important for the creation of new businesses … That could create new products.

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