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Thoughts on a future where content is liberated from platform

Thoughts on a future where content is liberated from platform

Two things will drive the adoption of mobile-based Internet access over the next five years: demography and technology, says Josh Chasin.

August 27, 2008 9:32 by

Back in June, ComScore acquired M:Metrics, the leading player in mobile measurement. Magid Abraham, our CEO, said that “with the substantial growth of 3G devices and Internet friendly handsets, we believe we are now at an inflection point in Internet usage on mobile devices.”

But you don’t need me to rehash the press release. Rather, I want to talk a little about where mobile Internet access fits into the consumer’s media day, and where it might fit in over the next five years.

Increasingly, publisher clients have been asking us at ComScore about plans to measure mobile Internet access. A researcher at one sports-oriented publisher told me that during parts of the NCAA tournament, the company got more mobile traffic than PC-based traffic.

I think there are two things that we can expect to see driving adoption of mobile-based Internet access over the next five years: demography and technology.

With respect to demography, a colleague of mine who until recently was a college professor tells me that overwhelmingly, the platform of media choice for 18- to 24-year-olds — based on her observation of the university population — is the phone. Increasingly, teens and young adults want news, information, and entertainment on the phone, which has become the multimedia communications hub of their lives. (Facebook can be updated via mobile).

According to ComScore M:Metrics, the audience of mobile users age 13 and over who access news, information, or entertainment content stands at 14.4%. However, among males 18-24, the figure more than doubles, to 30%. Consumers have a tendency to take their media habits with them as they age; if you don’t start reading the paper before the age of 21, for example, you will probably never be an adult newspaper reader. As young people age through the demographic spectrum, they will take their mobile-centric media habits with them, while even more tech-savvy generations follow in their wake.

With respect to technology, consider the impact of the iPhone, not yet a year old. Again according to M:Metrics, fully 88% of iPhone users access news, information or entertainment content via mobile handset. Similarly, about 62% of iPhone users use search — almost nine times as high as search penetration for the U.S. mobile Web overall. Imagine the impact on Web usage as the iPhone continues to achieve market penetration, and other manufacturers introduce competing handsets. (The iPhone is supposed to sync with Outlook this month; as soon as it does, I’m getting one, and when I get to the Apple store I assume there will be a line.)

And then there’s video. People are flocking online to watch videos, but they are also beginning to watch video on their phones. Maybe not everybody — M:Metrics reports about 5.3 million people tuned into mobile video programming in April– but certainly those young adults and iPhone users. And these people are not anomalous; they’re just early adopters.

Most of the major TV publishers (here at the Online Metrics Insider we don’t call them broadcasters) are already providing video content for cell phones. There may be some question about whether consumers will sit through long-form content on the phone, but weather, sports highlights, news highlights, and the Letterman top-10 list all seem like likely fodder for the smallest screen.

It is not difficult to envision a future where content is liberated from platform, and we’ll be able to search, IM, watch video, and rent movies through the big plasma screen in the living room, the middle-sized screen on our laptop, or the small screen we carry around in our pocket. This is why I continue to believe that measurement must be person-centric, tracking all exposure to content regardless of platform, with the consumer at the center.

No one said comprehensive measurement of the digital landscape would be easy. But it sure won’t be dull.

Josh Chasin is chief research officer at ComScore

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