The emergence of empowered consumers, the advance of so-called digital natives, and the abundance of applications designed to give consumers more control over how they create, access, and enjoy content have transformed publishing and content creation.
The addictiveness, pervasiveness, and sheer dominance of the mobile device make it central to this transformation. Everything we can do online with our PCs we can also do on our mobile phones. What’s more, the popularity of location-based services, made-for-mobile—social networks, such as itsmy.com and myGamma, and a host of schemes that encourage moblogging (mobile blogging) and content capture as well as content creation on-the-fly—pave the way for mobile to be the next, and potentially the dominant, form of mass media.
This is the view of Tomi Ahonen, independent consultant, mobile luminary, and author of Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media: Cellphone, Cameraphone, iPhone, Smartphone. Mobile follows print in the 1500s, recording from the 1900s, cinema from the 1910s, radio from the 1920s, TV in the 1950s, and the internet in the 1990s. He concludes that all forms of content will "ultimately converge around the cellphone."
The power of mobile begins with its reach: There are twice as many mobile devices as TVs, three times as many cell phone subscribers as internet users, and four times as many mobile phones as PCs. A growing number of mobile content companies and network operators believe mobile will soon be the main way people enjoy radio and TV programming.
Indeed, mobile can replicate everything all previous mass media do. It’s what Ahonen says will make mobile "at least as disruptive as the Internet." People can read newspapers, magazines, and books; listen to podcasts, the radio, and songs; play games; and even watch movies on their mobile phones. And let’s not forget the cameraphone’s impact on content creation.
This brings me to a thought-provoking observation made by David Cushman, a social media strategist and renowned blogger. He takes Ahonen’s views on mobile a giant step further and suggests that the internet and mobile themselves converge in the eighth mass media: us.
In Cushman’s view, the internet and mobile are simply tools that enable people to create and control all aspects of content experiences. "We are the eighth mass media. We are the distribution, the content, the medium, and the message carried with it."
Digital convergence is the direction, but we the people steer its course. We are all publishers now. Anyone can create and distribute content. However, Cushman points out the catch: We need tools that will empower us to achieve our potential. The sixth and seventh mass media—internet and mobile—enable the eighth (us). Now it’s up to companies to shift their focus from pushing the boundaries of what their technology can do to breaking the usability barriers that hold people back from creating and interacting with content.
One company that gets it is LiveAps, an upstart startup dedicated to making publishing fluid, seamless, and, above all, simple. Its flagship application (free at www.mydragndrop.com) provides a suite of tools that allow average people and individual publishers to create websites by dragging and dropping elements and objects to where they want them without having to know code or worrying about the underlying structure.
Paul Christian, LiveAps founder, says the inspiration was to enable everyone to publish. "Requiring people to know code or expecting them to learn products like Dreamweaver limits publishing to people with those skills. The only prerequisite should be a passion to express ideas and communicate experiences." A partnership with Widgetbox also takes the heavy lifting out of inserting miniapplications (widgets) into sites and blogs.
Mobile is high on the LiveAps radar, and future releases of Mydragndrop will allow independent publishers to strip their internet websites down to the basics and order those elements to fit tiny screens without resizing, for example.
We are becoming a mass media. By harnessing the mobile internet, a platform that allows us to publish ideas and feelings at the moment we experience them, we gain more control over how we create, share, and enjoy content. The outcome is transformational, but the real change will come when the only obstacle to what we can achieve is our imagination and not technology.