From a global perspective, to say that mobile devices are disrupting the digital media landscape somewhat understates the case. We have witnessed a major shift in how billions of people connect to the Internet, consume media and interact with each other. More time is spent on mobile apps than on all of the Web, and the smartphone industry already dwarfs the PC sector.
To date, the most common way to gauge the impact of this phenomenon has been to measure the amount of media consumed by device type -- hours of YouTube videos watched, Pandora stations streamed -- as well as the corresponding mobile revenue of media properties like Facebook.
Less noted, but equally significant, are the changes being wrought by mobile modes of production. The smartphone is a fertile test bed of new experiments (in UX, communications, commerce) and mobile has become a major source of new innovations -- ones that often find their way to PCs.
Here are four examples:
Web site architecture and design: The dominance of the visual Web as a design imperative is reflected in every major Web site redesign of the past three years and owes its rise to the mobile camera. Never before has it been so easy to create (and share) high-resolution photos. It’s no accident that Web sites became less text-heavy and more image-rich at the same time high-quality images became cheaper to create.
Additionally, many media properties are finally embracing responsive design, and some are bringing mobile idioms into the architecture of their desktop sites.
Native advertising: They say every new medium borrows the advertising formats of the old. As it became clear that ad adjacencies were often nonexistent on small screens, Facebook and Twitter (among others) created in-feed units, growing their mobile revenue famously in the process. Some desktop sites now avoid standard IAB placements altogether in favor of units integrated within content.
Push media: When Oracle's Responsys group acquired mobile push notification company Push IO, it noted that "while push notifications are primarily delivered over mobile devices today ... marketers will soon deliver push notifications through Web browsers, gaming devices and entertainment systems." Push notifications are the newest channel under the categories of direct marketing and CRM, often superior to email, with higher opt-in rates, lower price points and more sophisticated analytics.
Survey data: Not necessarily the sexiest area of media, surveys and panels have nonetheless formed the backbone of major media research companies such as Nielsen and SurveyMonkey. But in a world where the average person consults his or her smartphone countless times per day, there is diminishing patience for long-form survey. Startups like Wedgies and Polar (now part of Google) bring a BuzzFeed-like sensibility to an old format, turning surveys into interactive content and capturing massive amounts of user data in the process.
Over the coming years, as an additional 1 billion people come online through smartphones, digital will come to mean mobile, and mobile will continue to drive innovation in ways we've only begun to imagine.