Reaching Late Adopters: The Next Big Challenge?

Jan 08, 2013

I am a notoriously light packer. This is, in part, because airlines charge an arm and a leg to check bags, but it's also just a personality quirk. I don't like clutter in my home, and I don't like packing a huge suitcase for an overnight business trip. I especially dislike dragging a suitcase into a conference with me, so I've become quite adept at fitting everything I need into one -- admittedly large -- purse. But on my last few trips, my laptop has been posing challenges. It works fine, but it's heavy and by the time I board the train home I have an aching back and sore shoulder.

So I've been thinking about buying a new laptop -- something sleeker and lighter -- but the frugal yankee in me was hesitant to get a new machine while the old one was working just fine. Sure, it's old and heavy but it does the job without complaining, and 90% of the time, that's all I need it to do. And at the same time, I was also thinking I might finally cave and buy an e-reader. (I have many years' worth of unread paper books in my house, thanks to my days in book publishing, and so I've been hesitant to go digital.)

As I've established in previous columns, I am not a collector of devices. I don't run out and buy the latest iPhone just because everyone else did. No, I prefer to agonize over big purchases for weeks and months, making sure I am making the choice that is right for me. Heck, even settling on a dog food required countless hours of pouring over reviews on the web.

On New Year's Eve day I found myself thinking about an impending business trip -- two days at a conference, and all the train and cab rides that entails. I could feel the scoliosis developing just thinking about it. I needed to make a decision!

An uncharacteristic burst of impulsivity swept over me, and I bought an iPad...and I'm writing this column on it thanks to a Bluetooth keyboard that turns my content consumption tablet into a content creation machine.

Yes, in addition to being a light packer, I am a late adopter -- and frankly, if it weren't for that looming business trip, I may still be debating which device is right for me.

According to "The Challenge of Targeting Late Adopters" on, I'm not alone. We all know about the innovators and the early adopters, but according to the article there are also "Early Majority" (who pay attention to the newest technology but wait for the market to test it), the "Late Majority" (who wait until a new technology has firmly carved out a place for itself in the marketplace), and then the "Laggards" or late adopters. The "Late Majority" seems to be the group most people fall into.

I don't fall under the typical description of a late adopter who "feel suspicious of new technology," but I think because of my constant submersion in the world of mobile content -- and the devices that go along with it -- I tended to feel overwhelmed. Most people have no idea how many e-readers and tablets are really out there, and therefore their choice is made much easier.

But it's the late adopters of the world who marketers and salespeople so desperately need to reach. It's easy to get the guy on the cutting edge to buy your new device or service, but to keep growing, you need to reach the hold-outs. That, my friends, is no easy task, but will become increasingly important to content providers as more and more of us move away from print and go all-digital. What will Newsweek be doing about their long-time subscribers who barely read their email, and certainly don't turn to their mobile devices for news? Are they just letting those customers go, or do they have a strategy to convert those people? More importantly, do you have a strategy for converting the "laggards" who don't even know how much they would love your product?