Tag Archives: Mobile device

A $24 Billion Secret

If you use any sort of connected device – a computer, a tablet, or a cell phone – you’re probably (hopefully, anyway) aware that someone is watching.  Maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but it’s accurate.  Everything you do, and everywhere you go if it’s a mobile device, is logged, along with some sort of device identifier.  It’s not hard to link a device with a person and that person with behaviors.  That’s really what the targeted advertising business is about.  

In that context, this article from Ad Age shouldn’t come as a real shock, but it’s always a little disconcerting to get a glimpse inside the factory where they make the sausage:

Under the radar, Verizon, Sprint, Telefonica and other carriers have partnered with firms including SAP, IBM, HP and AirSage to manage, package and sell various levels of data to marketers and other clients. It’s all part of a push by the world’s largest phone operators to counteract diminishing subscriber growth through new business ventures that tap into the data that showers from consumers’ mobile web surfing, text messaging and phone calls.

That’s why Verizon bought AOL and some ad tech companies, paying over $4.5 Billion for them.  Think that’s a wise investment?  Well, the global market for telco data as a service is potentially worth $24.1 billion this year, so it seems like it might be to me.  What’s less wise is that most consumers have no clue that all of this information about them – their surfing habits, their travel habits, potentially numbers they’re constantly texting, etc – are being packaged and sold without their consent.  Oh sure – when you sign the contract to use any of the carriers there is a lengthy terms of service agreement you probably clicked right through, and it contained language that said your data may be anonymized and aggregated and sold.  I’m not sure most people understand what that means in real terms.  Try getting phone service without agreeing.

Unlike most apps, which are opt-in, you really have no choice about this.  Are there benefits to the consumer?  Maybe.  In theory, you don’t see ads for things in which you have no interest, and you don’t get information about companies and services that aren’t in your area.   There is a huge downside, however, aside from the creepy factor.  Hackers can steal information that might allow them to know when your home is vacant on a daily basis, for example.  In fact, this sort of thing doesn’t go on in the E.U. countries because of the strict data protections those countries enforce.

The “tell” I see is that the phone companies don’t want to discuss this data business and the revenues they make from selling off our data.  If there wasn’t something nefarious going on, why isn’t it more out in the open?  Maybe if we all knew what was being gathered (300 cellphone events per day per subscriber by some counts), we’d be more curious?  Maybe we’d take steps, as some of us do with tracking blockers on the web, to maintain control of our own data?  What do you think?

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It’s A Mobile World

Some new numbers from the eMarketer folks caught my eye this morning. They released their projections for digital ad spending for the next few years and they show that in 2015, mobile ad spending in the US will increase 50.0%, reaching $28.72 billion and accounting for 49.0% of all digital ad spending. By 2019, mobile ad spending will rise to $65.87 billion, or 72.2% of total digital ad spend.  As they put it:

Next year will be the tipping point where mobile ad spending surpasses desktop. And while desktop advertising will remain a significant portion of marketers’ budgets—approximately $25 billion in each year throughout eMarketer’s forecast period—mobile will continue growing in the double digits to gain more and more market share while desktop spending remains flat.

If you’re doing business outside of the US it’s pretty safe to say that mobile has already passed desktop since most populations outside of North America don’t really have desktops/laptops and rely almost solely on their mobile devices for internet connectivity.  Why is any of the above important to you?

If your business model relies on selling audiences of your content and you haven’t optimized every touchpoint for your content, you are going to be missing the boat.  If your mobile experience is inferior or if you’re depending on mobile web as opposed to investing in an app, you probably ought to revisit your thinking.  Now!

Google has recently updated the search algorithm to rank pages by how mobile friendly they appear. If all you’re doing is porting your desktop experience to mobile, you’re not being smart.  In mobile emphasis needs to be on performance and speed.  Get rid of large header images and use minimalistic design with flatter images.  OK, I won’t get too wonky but the point is you need to ask about this stuff if you’re not the technical expert.

When 3/4 of a market sits in one sector, I want to do everything I can to be participating in that segment.  I’m one of a lot of people who have written before about the need for mobile-first thinking.  Have you been paying attention?  What have you done about it?

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It’s The Pipe, Stupid

Any of us who consume content via the Internet are aware of how profoundly that consumption has changed over the last few years.  The advent of smart mobile devices and tablets has freed that consumption from the tether of the desktop computer and has started to fulfill the promise of “always on, anytime, any place, any screen.”   From a marketing perspective that has been incredibly frustrating as brands try to keep up with the ever-changing consumption patterns of their intended customer bases.  From a user perspective, it’s gloriously liberating.

From eMarketer.com

Some statistics from the good folks at eMarketer with respect to that change are over there on the chart.  You can see online – desktop – time spent dropping even as consumption of video and social increases.  Look, however, at the rapid growth on mobile devices.  There is a similar pattern to the type of content consumed but the time spent has gone from negligible to half of that on desktops and laptops.   But I don’t think that’s the real story.

Just as important – maybe more so – as the growth of these mobile devices is how all that content gets on those devices.  In other words, the pipe.  For tablets, a lot of the usage is in the home where it’s reasonable to assume the pipe is the home wi-fi network that’s drawing from the basic internet connection – the cable or DSL provider.  For phones and some tablets, it’s the mobile network.

The issue in my mind is that usage of these devices is artificially depressed by the usage constraints placed there by those carriers.  It’s hard to get an unlimited data plan with many carriers and those of us who have those data plans grandfathered in still get hit with bandwidth caps – usage points at which the data gets slowed down.  The carriers often say it’s about managing network capacity.  Which means, of course, it’s about money.

Building a wireless data network is a huge, expensive undertaking.  The carriers have every right to earn back that investment and have an obligation to do so to their shareholders.  The wireless business defends itself from undercutting by municipalities that attempt to install free public wi-fi.  Google, however, has proven it’s possible to roll out an uncapped very high-speed network at reasonable prices.  Admittedly so far this is not a wireless network.  Does anyone think it won’t be at some point?

If not Google, something else will break the dam of bandwidth restrictions.  That’s when the world really changes.  Just as improved cable networks have made HDTV ubiquitous (something like 75% of all homes have HD now), and just as that same bandwidth into the home has made cord-cutting a growing trend, a freed-up, uncapped pipe for mobile will drastically change the landscape.   You agree?

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Mobile meals

I’m delinquent in sharing today’s bit of Foodie Friday Fun since it revolves around a study done in January.  The IAB  and Viddle looked into how people are using their mobile devices to order food and the results are instructive for most businesses, not just restaurants.

English: This is actually Tom's Restaurant, NY...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the “Mealtime Goes Mobile” survey, 60% of us order takeout food or delivery once a week (yes, even those of us who love to cook sometimes can’t make the time!).  In fact, 2% identify themselves as doing so every day, although I’m sure I good portion of that involves lunch.  As one might expect, pizza, chinese food, and sandwiches and burgers head the list of the types of food ordered most often.

This is where it gets instructive   44% of people use mobile devices to check phone numbers (“mobile devices” includes tablets and we know most tablet use is in the home).  Significant numbers also use them to find locations, check menus, and to find coupons.  Obviously, incentives such as coupons are a big driver of business, but so is ease of use.  In fact, over a third expressed an interest in an app that remembered past orders.

What’s instructive is this – any restaurant that hasn’t done a few things is clearly missing out on a huge potential market.  A website not optimized for mobile is a big problem.  Since half of consumers have installed at least one restaurant app and 15% have three or more installed, investing in app development is another factor that restaurants should be planning as part of their marketing budgets.  The same points probably apply to your business, but unless you’ve taken the time to check your analytics, how would you know?  Using the segmentation ability to check bounce rates and user habits within the mobile segment and comparing it to the web segment makes sense.  Integrating non-digital behaviors with those report is possible, although harder (and a much longer explanation than you or I would like on a Friday!).

As we all know, consumer behaviors are changing a lot.  Are we changing our businesses along with them?

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Mobile Data And Changing Habits

Let’s begin the day with a factoid:  last year’s mobile data traffic was nearly twelve times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000.  That nugget comes from the Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2012–2017 which you can read by clicking the link.  Some of what it has to say – as with the growth of smartphone use, for example – isn’t all that surprising.  A few other points is kind of eye-opening:

  • Mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2012.
  • Android is now higher than iPhone levels of data use.
  • Mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent for the first time in 2012.
  • By the end of 2013, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2017 there will be nearly 1.4 mobile devices per capita.
  • Nonsmartphone usage increased 35 percent to 6.8 MB per month in 2012, compared to 5.0 MB per month in 2011. Basic handsets still make up the vast majority of handsets on the network (82 percent).

That last one is a little scary since it shows that there is still a lot of growth left.   Here’s the thing – a lot of this traffic was on cellular networks (as opposed to wi-fi), which is obviously why the telephone guys are upgrading like crazy.  I think the growth is as much about device growth as it is about the services and quality of the content available on them, and it’s this last little bit that I think will continue to drive things.  We tend to think of mobile devices as “second screen” but to me this study is evidence that they’re becoming a primary screen with respect to some content.  That primary usage builds habits, and one wonders when those habits will be reflected in viewing to what are currently primary screens.

Another nugget: the average smartphone will generate 2.7 GB of traffic per month in 2017, an 8-fold increase over the 2012 average of 342 MB per month.  How does that jibe with the bandwidth plans the carriers are selling?  If they’re refusing to sell an “unlimited” plan or throttling speeds over 2GB, how will consumers react?

We can see all of this happening already.  YouTube, for example, gets lots of views and while those views don’t eclipse the numbers that a major TV or cable network can deliver, they certainly are bigger than some of the second and third tier nets.  YouTube is not generally available in homes but is ubiquitous on mobile devices.  As YouTube behaves more like a cable content aggregator, one will see those numbers grow.  That’s what’s driving the numbers Cisco is predicting.  Is it driving you?

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Witch Doctor Technology

Like many of you who read the screed, I’m a fairly literate person when it comes to technology.

English: Witch doctor of the Shona people clos...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know – given what I do for a living one would hope that’s true.  That’s why my recent experience with some very common technology – a cell phone – is so frustrating.  Over the weekend my family all upgraded their devices.  The girls all moved to iPhone 4S and I moved to a Samsung Galaxy S3.  Both are great devices.  However, they both illustrate a point that’s all too common and what I want to discuss today.

My phone came with the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android.  I knew that there was a Jellybean update available – an upgrade to the latest version of Android.  While the ability to update the OS via an over the air download exists, because the manufacturers and the carriers can’t get on the same page, one needs to install the upgrade via a piece of software that lives on a computer.  I installed it on a windows PC, connected the phone and waited.  And waited.  Apparently, it’s a known issue to connect the device to the PC – a software issue.  I tried it on a Mac.  Same issue.  A few minutes of searching the web told me that there were a number of potential fixes that involved editing the Windows registry (not for the faint of heart), modifying phone settings, uninstalling and reinstalling device drivers, etc.  Nothing worked.

I used Samsung’s live chat customer support.  They had me try a few things I had also found on the web.  Nothing.  They said to uninstall the software which, of course, involves a reboot of the computer, which means you lose the person with whom you’re chatting and can’t get back to the same person again so you start over.  After many hours of this, I’ve given up.  Before the Apple fanboys and girls chime in, let me say that upgrading an iPhone to a new version of iOS ended up bricking my wife’s phone for a while and the number of issues I’ve had with Mountain Lion on my Mac is frightening.

Here is the business point.  No other industry with which I’m familiar releases products with known issues, and when the issues become public doesn’t seem to be in any particular rush to fix.  The G3 is a best-selling phone and to get to the latest operating system shouldn’t take the technologic equivalent of tossing chicken bones and burning incense.  Thousands of people are frustrated by this – I’m sure Samsung and the carriers (it’s not just a one carrier issue) are well aware.  If we want tech to be integral – more integral – in customers’ everyday lives we can’t behave this way.  Imagine if airplanes or cars were released with the kind of stability we see in most technology.

I don’t know what anyone can do other than to vent as I’m doing.  For me not buying the product is not an option.  Maybe that’s why these companies don’t seem to care.  But witch doctor solutions to these issues has to stop.  Do you agree?

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