The first time I paused a Netflix video on my desktop and picked it up from the same spot on my smartphone, I knew I was witnessing something more than cool. There was in this a revelation of a kind that media geeks will recognize. Likewise, when my desktop browsing history on Amazon showed up as recommendations on my iPhone app, and the cart I was building on my browser followed me into the store on the Amazon app, I knew I was in a new world.
These conveniences have been with us for years now, and they are no small reason why Amazon and Netflix have been riding the device revolution so hard and successfully. It is still amazing to me that so few competitors followed their lead and understood how critical seamlessness was to the experience.
That is one of the most telling statistics that comes from this year’s Motorola Mobility Media Engagement Study. In their survey of 9,500 consumers across 17 world markets, 76% said they would be interested in a service that automatically loaded content they liked onto their phone or tablet. Duh!
But more than simple ubiquitous access to one’s content, seamlessness is the difference between “mobile” and “mobility.” The former has always been about the devices, and the emphasis has been on simply porting familiar services to phones and tablets. “Mobility,” it seems to me, is a broader and deeper concept that places less emphasis on device and more on the user. It is the user’s ever-changing circumstance and expectation of adaptive, ever-present service.
Mobility -- not devices -- changes behaviors. One of the most telling behaviors that changed in me as a result of seamlessness is media hoarding. The knowledge and expectation of ubiquitous access exploded my Netflix queue and turned my Amazon cart into a roving, contingent set of possible buys.
The Motorola study suggests that mobility has this effect on people’s media habits. For instance, it found that media recording behaviors are now accelerated and standard. It finds that nearly a third (29%) of TV content now viewed is recorded. We are piling up the content, much like Grandpa in Dish's Hopper commercials. We imagine new places and circumstances where we may want to watch material and begin hoarding in new ways.
But the study also found a new challenge for media makers -- getting the content saved actually viewed. A third of recorded content is not being viewed. Our media eyes have grown bigger than our mouths. In some cases, this is just collecting, but I suspect we also are struggling to reimagine how different content maps against different circumstances now that all times and places become viewing opportunities. Triaging recorded content is now a function of media consumption. For marketers, re-marketing older content and reminding people of their queues and shopping carts will become a part of an ongoing cross-platform conversation.
It almost goes without saying that seamlessness and ubiquity personalize media experiences even further. The liberation of TV from the living room and from dependence on other family members’ tastes also opens up new content niches. For instance, the Motorola survey found that the smartphone and tablet now superseded the traditional TV itself in the bedroom. While 36% of bedroom TV watchers globally watch TV in the master bedroom on an old fashioned set, 46% do so on a smartphone and 41% on a tablet. The tablet, in fact, is emerging as the portable TV/DVR of choice for many people. Tablet owners watch 6.7 hours of movies a week versus 5.5 hours by non-tablet owners, and 80% of a tablet user’s content is recorded. This device is opening up the kitchen as a video viewing spot -- with 10% of device owners using it there.
Ultimately, the smartest smart devices will address true mobility. That is, they will know when you are accessing a familiar service from different locations and understand what goods and services you most likely need in those places. If we are going to sup at this limitless trough of media everywhere, then the devices will need to know what I tend to watch on my stairmaster, in bed, in waiting rooms, during a commute -- and float these items to the top. Which is to say that the media, the retailers, the marketers, will need situational awareness of the sort that we expect from companions -- not “everywhere” services.
“Anywhere” and “everywhere” are not terms that fully appreciate the nuances of mobility. They are terms that simply extend the gestalt of the last century’s broadcasting and mass media platforms to devices. They conceive of devices merely as new receiver/recorders. “Media Here And Now” may get closer to what we are stumbling toward -- with the emphasis on the implications of place and time in that specific consumer’s experience. “Mass” media’s final moments are upon us.