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The 7th media channel | The Mobile Phone Technological Revolution

Mobile mass media is currently growing its power and influence in the daily life. It’s evolving and rapidly becoming a technological revolution.

In its path, it’s creating new products, industries, and services. All the while redefining existing services and products.

It’s not however a clear and defined brand, such as the behemoths of Google, Yahoo, YouTube and Second Life of this Internet age.

The Foundations are now being laid for the future corporate giants of the 7th mass media to emerge.

Differing from the Internet, mobile as the 7th mass media channel is similar to the five legacy mass media, economically viable with a stable business model from day one.

Yet, differing from the legacy mass media, all of which are witnessing a decline in their audiences and revenues, mobile like the Internet, is an interactive media enabling it to fully capitalize on social networking and digital communities.

But more importantly from a media audience point-of-view, there already are over twice as many mobile phones worldwide as there are personal computers, nearly twice as many mobiles as TV sets.

The only mass media that is carried upon the owner at all times, mobile is also the first mass media where near 100% accuracy is feasible on measuring the audience.

Here are more details:

Mobile as the 7th Mass Media

Print Press

Prior to Gutenberg inventing movable type and printing the worlds first book, the 42-Line Bible information was vigorously controlled by the church, ensuring its control over a society that is described as a feudal society, but, it was also a feudal economy. And to whose benefit? The church.

The church was a controlling institution, it was wealthy and it was powerful. Wresting control from the gate keeper is, we would argue never an easy business.

Printing technologies from late 1400’s, opened the floodgates for information and knowledge to be shared through pamphlets, books, newspapers, music scores, and magazines.

It was the First Mass Media, and it was a significant contributor to the demise of the feudal system and the hegemony of the church over large swathes of Northern European populations’.

As printing spread and publishing developed, technological innovation created new market structures. Soon publishers become the controlling institutions, wishing to exercise their control and hence domination of that market space.

The Oldest Media Giants

The oldest of today’s media giants such as Time Warner and Rupert Murdoch etc, trace their roots to the newspaper and print industries.

Printing and publishing created a whole new raft of job descriptions the author/writer as the creative talent, with other professional writers including journalists, columnists, screenplay writers etc.

For the newspapers and magazines, the job of editor was invented to manage the written content.

Illustrators appeared for books and periodicals, and after the advent of the photograph in the 1850’s, photojournalists and photographer illustrators also were added into the creative skills of print and publishing. Advertising was born through the newspapers and magazines.

Advertising revenues also changed the business model of newspapers, and became the model thereafter on how every mass media made a sizable proportion of its money.

But importantly because of the possibility of reuse, public libraries were born, where industrial man and woman could better expand their knowledge were they so inclined.

With newspapers and magazines, from a commercial context, the role of information changed. Content became the necessary glue, for the really important stuff – commercial messaging to a targeted audience. Today many free newspapers exist funded by advertising.

Needless to say, like all industrial economies, barriers to entry for print publishers were high. The capital costs of setting up a publishing business were not insignificant, and as publishers realized they could reach greater audiences with wider distribution, those capital costs increased.

However, the considerable benefits were that whoever had the wider distribution controlled the story, the news and the information. Until very recently it was a few media proprietors, from around the world that were the arbiters of what we could or should know.

Lessons from First Mass Media: a new media will introduce new industry, new professions, and new business models. Advertising can support, even carry a media channel.

Rocking all over the World: Recording 2nd of the Mass Media

Analogue recordings from late 1800’s introduced the first “new” mass media. What were first only music recordings on “clay” records eventually evolved to the vinyl recordings of the later half of the last century.

The music industry added new recording methods from open reel audio tape in the 1960’s to the C-cassette and music cartridge in the 1970’s, the music CD in the 1980’s and digital music stored as MP3 files from the late 1990’s and the ringing tones now in the current decade.

The music recording alone is worth 30 billion dollars worldwide today.

Music was not the only recorded content. In the 1970’s movies appeared on video cassettes and a second major content category for the recording industry was created.

Movies stated off as a rental business but then added video cassette sales and then the DVD sales and rentals. The movies sold and recorded on DVDs today are worth about 20 billion dollars or nearly as much as Hollywood earns on the box office “cinema” income of first-run movies.

Today several other recordings categories exist including computer programmes, video games, TV shows etc.

Recordings as a new mass media

Recordings as a new mass media channel was radically different from print, in that while anyone could read a book, magazine or newspaper, for consuming a record or tape, CD, DVD, you needed to own a media player.

This forced households to go buy the new home entertainment gadget, the record player.

And then later the cassette player, the CD player, the DVD player etc all replicated this pattern, needing the player to consume recorded media.

Early recordings were music concerts, longer symphonic orchestra music, which was what you would go to listen to, if you went to the theater to listen to a concert.

The recording industry then innovated and created shorter forms of music, inventing the pop song of about 3 minutes in length.

This was not viable on the stage, we don’t go to listen to the London Symphony Orchestra play 3 minutes.

This new format created the pop music industry which today features the artists like Justin Timberlake, Brittney Spears, Coldplay, 50 Cent, Black Eyed Peas etc.

At its peak around the 1950s and 1960s the music recording industry produced the biggest global artists such as Elvis, Frank Sinatra, the Beatles etc.

They were able to use their music success to expand into other media, most notably radio and the movies.

Bringing Entertainment to the Masses

Recordings brought culture and entertainment to the masses. It meant for the first time, you did not have to be wealthy, to go to the opera, own your own instruments or be able to enjoy music.

It was also like publishing a controlled economy and distribution system. Analogue recordings created a new industry, the music business and slowly cannibalized music from print.

Analogue recordings as a mass media and distribution model created a new spectrum of jobs; from studio and live recording, to music management and touring bands – created for the modern era by the Beatles. A&R, publicists, managers etc., but as ever the story evolves.

Lessons from Second Mass Media:a new mass media can cannibalize from the old, but also add new opportunities. A new media can create formats which were not viable before it. 

In addition to creative and technical talent there can be performing talent in media. Even with an expensive media player to be purchased by users, a media can flourish.

Easy Riders Raging Bulls: Cinema 3rd of the Mass Media

Cinema Clacker

In the 1910’s cinema became the 3rd evolution of the Mass Media. This introduced yet another very distinct form of enjoying mass media. 

Cinema thus became an audience media, mostly enjoyed in the movie theater with hundreds of other members of the public. Interestingly it was a communal experience, and still is

Reservoir Dogs

Technically we now had a first truly visual mass media, with moving pictures. Movies told stories of the Wild West, brought to us the madness of war via Vietnam and Apocalypse Now, scared us to death via Jaws, and took us to new galaxies via Star Wars. 

Very popular cinema content formats were invented in the first half of the last century for the cinema. These included “newsreels” short about 5 –10 minute news summaries in moving pictures - the precursor to today’s nightly TV news.

Also weekly “serials” were introduced, where the same hero would battle a series of villains one week, be left in a perilous situation, to be continued next week. 

The cliff-hanger style of serial short movies which brought cinema audiences back every week for a further installment. 

Interestingly this format continues on TV with soap operas and continuing storyline TV series such as; The Shield, The Sopranos, Desperate Housewives, Big Brother, Pop Idol, and, Star Trek Enterprise etc.

Gone with the Wind

Cinema was thought of threatening books as a viable media. The exact opposite happened. Good books spawned movies, and successful movies that were not based on books, were turned into printed books. 

Hollywood ruthlessly cannibalized the topmost talent and content from print and recordings and attempted to turn them into movie stars. Some succeeded like Ian Fleming’s James Bond series of books or Elvis Presley’s transition into movies.

Madonna and Prince are examples of where cinema tried but failed in transferring a recording artist to the silver screen.

Comic books were turned into movies such as Superman, Batman, Spiderman etc, which in turn helped sell more of the comic books but other titles such as Darkman have failed. While recording was a decade older as a mass media, cinema was able to overtake recordings in its importance due to its distribution model.

As soon as cinema theaters started to make money, they sprung up everywhere and by the 1930s there were dozens, even hundreds of cinema theaters in major cities around the world. Recordings were still suffering from the high cost of individual record players and thus the slow adoption and expansion of record players which did not reach most of the population until the 1960’s. 

Like recordings, cinema also introduced new skills and new artists. The Hollywood star was born, with Charlie Chaplin the most recognized person on the planet in the 1930’s. Even long after its peak influence in the 1950’s, cinema still today holds a premier position among all media stars, as the ultimate indication of true celebrity.

The most paid artists worldwide tend to be the big box office Hollywood stars, and most music artists, stage actors, TV celebrities, professional dancers, comedians etc hope to land a major movie role to boost their careers.

Lessons from the third Mass Media: moving pictures are more compelling than written words or just sounds. People are willing to pay per view. And a media that does not require the audience to go buy new equipment has the ability to bypass older media in adoption speed.

Radio Romance: Radio 4th of the Mass Media

Radio Birth

The 1920’s brought us radio and 4th of the Mass Media. Radio was the first ubiquitous broadcast media, the first “streaming” media. 

This was the first time a media required the audience to make an appointment to join and listen. With books and newspapers we could read at any time we wanted. With recordings we could replay the recording whenever we felt like it.

With cinema we could select which night we would go and see the movie, as long as it was still playing. But with radio our show came once and was gone. If we were not there to hear it, we missed it. 

This meant the birth of the broadcast schedule and appointment in the instance to listen. And introduced the need for new printed magazines and newspaper pages telling us what was on radio, on which channel, and at what time.

Radio Brought Diversity

Radio brought a new diversity of news, information, debate and music to the people. And, it brought a new channel for commercial communications. 

Radio was the engine that started to drive mass consumption, content became the glue for commercial communications. And that is an interesting and important point to consider. 

Radio brought us the Soap Opera as continuing storyline radio plays that were sponsored by the consumer detergents and soaps giant Procter & Gamble and featuring their main brands such as Palmolive, Colgate and Pepsodent.

Radio also did something that never before was possible the rapid dissemination of breaking news and information, experienced live as it happened. It complimented the long-form more in-depth analysis of newspapers and specialist magazines. 

Radio was funded either on an advertising model or by national license fees, or in some cases a mixture of the two. However a strange symbiotic relationship developed, with music recordings and the Top 20 chart radio play format.

Suddenly the music recording industry noticed that those songs that the radio DJ’s played would become economically successful chart hits. 

Like each new media, new talent was needed and radio’s new talent were the DJ’s and announcers, newsreaders and other radio voices. New radio plays emerged and comedy hours and familiar radio voices became celebrities.

Lessons from the Fourth Mass Media: include that broadcast is tied to a schedule, even a cannibalistic new media typically will not kill off an older media, rather adjust it. 

Even if two mass media use similar content, the newer one will still spawn new professions and a new industry. It’s possible for two media to form a symbiotic relationship.

This is Soap. Confused? You will be TV 5th of the Mass Media

TV Birth

The 1950’s brought us the mass introduction of television. TV combined the broadcast concept of radio and its business model with the visual and multimedia impact of cinema. 

Like radio and recordings, TV required the audience to purchase a consumption device, except that in the 1950’s and 1960’s even the cheapest TV sets were easily ten times more expensive than record players or radios. But this enormous price barrier was no obstacle to TV.

Television’s economic and cultural impact was simply seismic : it was the first mass media to physically and metaphorically replace the fireplace as the heart of the home. 

TV took a great deal from its older broadcast siblings, radio and cinema obviously, but also print. The economic model of radio was copied – including the business models of either TV license or advertising, or in some countries both. 

Only much later with cable TV did subscription models appear and today even pay-per-view models are being introduced for TV.

TV Started To Dominate

More than just a media TV soon dominated all other media economies. By the 1970’s TV attracted the largest audiences and become the engine room for driving mass consumption via TV advertising.

For example, Morecombe and Wise a British comedic duo got the highest recorded TV audience in Britain, with 26 million viewers, almost half of the UK population watching their Christmas special.

The Superbowl in the United States is the annually most watched TV show gathering about 80 - 90 million viewers to the show. TV also changed previous media concepts. 

A good example is music. After TV innovated with the music video (MTV), suddenly TV became the determining factor in a recording artist’s chances of climbing the music charts. Radio, once the sole arbiter of the audiences taste in music was superseded.

TV introduced again new skills, both technical from TV studio, video, audio, editing, lighting etc staffs to the on-air personalities from news anchors, game show presenters, talk show hosts etc. 

More recently VJ’s ( Video Jockeys on MTV and music video channels), and even reality TV contestants in shows like American Idol and Big Brother have become celebrities that TV audiences aspire to become.

From Scarcity to Plenty

From cable and satellite TV and now digital TV, various multi-channel TV systems has given the TV audiences ever more choice. It has also caused severe fragmentation of the advertising audience. 

P&G Chief Marketing Officer Jim Stengel says that in 1965, 80% of adults in the US could be reached with three 60-second spots. However in 2002 it required 117 advertisements to achieve the same result.

Lessons from the fifth Mass Media: even a very expensive media player is not an obstacle to adoption if the format is right. A media can gain a dominant position without a unique technical benefit. 

A new media rival with an absolute advantage - such as TV over radio - will still not kill of the previous mass media.

You are no longer in control: Internet as 6th of the Mass Media - and the first interactive media

Internet Birth

The 1990’s brought us the 6th Mass Media, the anarchic Internet. But, of all instances of a new media appearing onto the scene, the Internet was the first time that a new media could do everything that the earlier five Mass Media could do. 

Furthermore the Internet added two unique benefits never possible on the previous five: interactivity and search.

From Cold Media to Hot Media

What the Internet has achieved single-handedly is to demonstrate that humans are a “We” species, a social and networking species. We have an innate need, to connect and communicate. 

The networked and interactive nature of the Internet suddenly enabled us humans to get back to what our DNA demands us to be via: the blogs, Wikis, Citizen Journalism, peer production, collective intelligence, Netvibes and del.icio.us.

Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games such as World of Warcraft, social networking like MySpace and Cyworld. Or even Habbo Hotel, a virtual children’s playground which releases new variants every six weeks based on the feedback of its 8 million users worldwide. 

This enables a community-improved system with improvement cycles unheard-of in legacy media, capitalizing on the “wisdom of the crowds.”

This radically changes the relationship between media content creation and media content consumption. 

Industrialization and the mass media

Industrialization and the mass media have conveniently forgotten that we are a “We” species and really don’t like being reminded of the fact that we want to be part of creation, of storytelling, of networks and communities. 

And that it is a fundamental need of every society on this planet, no matter whether we live in forests or indeed cities.

The 6th Mass Media demonstrates an audience can, and indeed demands the possibility for direct participation in media creation and consumption. We can think of the first five mass media as “cold” mass media, consumed passively. 

By contrast the Internet was the first “hot” mass media, which allowing users to create, rate, participate in and propagate media content.

Business Week explained of the relevance of social networking in its June 2006 cover story:

“This is the biggest change to business… since the Industrial Revolution“

Napster: You’re a very naughty boy

Napster was perhaps the earliest example of the destructive power of our technological revolution. Napster demonstrated how rapidly a 6th Mass Media service can change consumer behavior. 

Not over decades as with previous mass media, but rather in years, months even. The result, a decline of over 10% of global music sales and a reordering of the music industry.

By the time it shut down, 57 million people were using Napster’s people powered music-swapping site. Were all those people criminals? 

Or does this say something fundamental about the shift in the relationship between mass media, consumption and the audience?

Audiences migrating away from legacy media

Today, readership of newspapers is pointing to terra firma, traditional TV viewing is in terminal decline, whilst Internet use continues to look to the blue sky of growth. 

Print, radio and TV are also becoming media channels for increasingly older people. 

The ITU Digital Life Report for 2006 reveals that over 55 year olds spend 31.5 hours per week with traditional news media (print, radio and TV) and only 8 hours with modern digital mass media (mostly the Internet).

Meanwhile young people i.e. under 35 year olds, by contrast spend only 25 hours with all the three major forms of legacy media and already 16 hours per week with interactive media. 

Young people spend 50% more time on the Internet as on TV, twice as much as on the Internet as on radio, and four times as much time on the web as in .


I search therefore I am,” is the mantra of today’s digital natives. Search changes everything. A good example of how search is altering legacy media is with recorded music. 

Pitchforkmedia.com has emerged as one of the more important Indie “must-read” music sites in any medium, with 125,000 unique visitors a day and only three full time employees. 

Bands that have struggled for years once picked up by pitchfork have often witnessed a rapid increase in sales and their music.

Google’s sponsored search words concept has radically altered advertising revenues on the web, and in 2006 more revenues were earned by search advertising than all other forms of advertising on the Internet. 

Like each of the previous mass media, the Internet has brought about new professions requiring new skills.

Some of these are technical, like web designers, others are on the creative side such as bloggers. Already today there are more bloggers than all professional journalists in TV, radio, newspapers and magazines combined. 

But also most bloggers are not paid for their work, the number of professional and semi-professional bloggers are measured in the low tens of thousands out of the 72 million blog sites today.

Lessons from the 6th Mass Media: if a mass media is an inherent threat media, threatening to cannibalize all legacy media, it also will rapidly alter each of the legacy media. 

Interactivity creates digital community and moves media from push to pull. A hot media is inherently preferred over any cold media and will cannibalize older media at unprecedented speeds.

Last thoughts before moving to 7th Mass Media

While this White Paper is intended to explore mobile as the 7th Mass Media, and the first 6 are presented for lessons to be learned in the transitional stage to the introduction of a new mass media, we need to conclude this part with the Internet as the 6th Mass Media with the sentiment, that it won’t go away. 

For all the huge changes enabled by the Internet so far, the changes ahead caused by the Internet are going to be greater than all changes we have seen up to now.

The Internet alone is an iceberg still mostly under the water. Don’t misunderstand this White Paper in suggesting mobile would somehow “kill off” the Internet. 

Just like cinema and TV did not kill off books, radio did not kill of recordings and the Internet has not killed off newspapers, magazines, video games, etc.

So too, mobile is the newest mass media, it is a very different mass media but it will not be the hangman of the Internet. For all of the major Internet services, companies and media formats, their bright future is still ahead of them. 

Only that while the Internet has started its path towards the second billion users, the youngest media, mobile, is already nearing its third billion users.