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How Your Cell Phone is Ripping Traditional Media Apart


The rise of mobile technology is probably the fastest and most understated paradigm shift our culture has ever seen.

“Mobile” has enhanced the ways we connect with each other, redefined what commands our attention, given birth to new industries and decimated others like a force of nature.

Mobile devices satiate our constant desire for on-demand entertainment. The source of its power can only be defined as human nature itself.

A mobile device is your music collection and movie library. It’s also a bookshelf, a gaming console, a social network, a notepad,  sketchbook, calender, camera, address book, and alarm clock, that conveniently fits in your pocket.

It’s no wonder then that when smartphones outsold PC’s in late 2010, it signaled what many believe to be the beginning of a new era and, to some, the end of the world.

 “Mobile,” the harbinger of death.

“Smart” mobile devices must be regarded by marketers as being on a level with television or radio in terms of media consumption. Couple this understanding with reports from multiple industries that indicate traditional media consumption is declining, and we can begin to understand how mobile technology has impacted our society.

Mobile devices have redefined the way we connect to the Internet, access our News, and stay aware of local events. The industry most critically damaged by the rise of mobile devices is the newspaper.

chart of the day, newspapers classified ads revenue 2000-2010, march 2011

The Newspaper has had a rough decade.

The first $3 billion dollar hit to the industry happened from 2000-2001 and can single handedly be attributed to‘s introduction to major cities from June-August 2000. When people learned they could run or review classified ads for virtually anything from apartments, jobs and personal ads for free, the newspaper industry received a critical hit to its primary source of income. It has never been able to recover.

The second blow to newspapers occurred when the industry lost another  $3.13 billion between 2007-2009. It just so happens that Apple launched the iPhone in 2007 and other companies followed suit by releasing app-ready and Internet-connected smartphones like the Blackberry Storm and the HTC Incredible. The race is on, and we’re still only talking about smartphones introduced through 2009. The question is: can we really say that took the Newspaper’s advertising money, and the Smartphone took it’s readers?

According to a 2010 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 47% of Americans report they get at least some local news from their cell-phone.

The same survey reports 46% of people now say they get their news online at least three times a week, surpassing newspapers (40%) for the first time. To add insult to injury, 69% of participants reported that the loss of Newspapers would have little to no impact on their ability to keep up with local information.  While this survey does not indicate how users are accessing the Internet, another survey from the Pew Research Center indicates that 40% of adults use the Internet, email or instant messaging on a mobile phone.

Only one conclusion can be made- your cell phone murdered the Newsroom.

While that’s been happening, notice also that tablet computers and e-readers have joined in, so an array of mobile devices have also been beating on the record stores, bankrupting bookstores, decimating publishing houses and stealing ratings from the television.

Why are all of the traditional outlets going downhill?

It all comes down to where advertisers are spending their money. Informed marketers spend where the people are. With mobile devices, advertisers are quite literally in your pocket at all times. They don’t have to wait for you to come home and turn on the TV, or buy a newspaper.

Since 40% of Facebook’s users access the social networking site from their phone, it’s become commonplace for brands and customers to engage with each other in real time. It’s a matter of convenience for both the marketer and the consumer.

It’s convenient to buy music on your phone. It’s convenient to download and watch shows while waiting for the bus.  It’s convenient to own 150 books that combined will never exceed the weight of 600 grams.

It is inconvenient to thumb through thousands of disks for the one song replaying in your head, to lug DVD box sets around, or to go out of the way to find- well, anything.

As mobile devices become more accessible, more people are finding themselves freed of scheduled lineups. They make fewer special trips, and are cutting a lot of “unnecessary” things out of their lives.

So are advertisers.

On October 5th 2009, CBS canceled “Guiding Light” the longest-running drama in television history. Guiding Light first aired in 1952. The network also played the last episode of the 50 year-long serial, “As the World Turns” in September, 2010.


“Ad dollars allocated to soaps fell nearly 30 percent from 2005 to 2009, and then fell another 20 percent in the first half of 2010.”

Yet, data from the application tracking company Flurry, indicates app use is on the rise.

The Flurry network tracks social games and networking apps, and has observed an average of 19 million daily users who spend roughly 22 minutes a day on apps. Treated as a consumer audience, app viewers would rank somewhere between Sunday Night Football and Dancing with the Stars and would only fall 4 million viewers shy of beating  the prime-time hit American Idol.

Flurry iOSsocialGames vs PrimeTimeTV resized 600

Now considering that the apps Flurry tracks comprise roughly 20% of Apple’s 350,000 apps, that these figures only include TWO categories of apps, and do not even include other marketplaces like Android or Blackberry, something becomes very clear:

Mobile devices are more popular than television’s hottest shows.

Mobile devices are ahead of all traditional broadcast media.

Mobile tech frees us to shift when we consume content to times that are convenient to us. It gives us discounts on-the-go, lets us play games with friends, purchase without a computer or trips to the store and, ultimately, stay connected with the people who matter most to us.

As this freedom spreads, we find ourselves moving further away from the days of “Must-See TV” and reading yesterday’s news. The message to traditional media outlets is clear: Evolve or Die.

And what happens when we project this data out another four, five, or even ten years? When television viewership drops so low that advertisers figure it isn’t a wise spend? What happens when the convenience and savings of downloading a book outweigh the tactile experience of flipping through pages? What happens when we have complete freedom to decide what we consume and when and where we consume it?

In just a few short years, the mobile device has proven itself to be a powerful force. And we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface.

Join The Conversation

  • RonHeimbecher's picture
    Jun 21 Posted 5 years ago RonHeimbecher

    Thanks for the data, Tommy. This correlates closely to some things I've been working on about the "supposed" decline in reading due to attention span.

    I don't think it's attention span at all, but smaller windows of available time (e.g. bus rides, short breaks at work or school) that cry for smaller time-chunks of content; like the idea of being able to finish a whole chapter of a book in a ten-minute bus ride.

    BTW, somebody at SMT might take a look at image scaling in the email briefs. I enjoy your posts, but 4 million pixels of Tommy in my email is a little much with morning coffee.



  • tommyismyname's picture
    Jun 20 Posted 5 years ago tommyismyname

    Glad you noticed this!


    Reason why Radio wasn't on the list was because it's actually doing pretty healthly. I imagine the reason it still does well is exactly why you say, people are always going to have to drive to work, and drive every else. 

  • Jun 18 Posted 5 years ago Kraig Karson (not verified)

    I've noticed that radio is not on the list.  And rightfully so.  We continue to evolve and terrestrial radio continues to be free and still a great car companion. 

  • tommyismyname's picture
    Jun 17 Posted 5 years ago tommyismyname

    Hey Jamie!

    I replied to this the other day, but for some reason it still hasn't posted, so I'll try again!


    It's incredible how many people are unaware of this "silent revolution" and I'm interested to see how it's going to have its impact 10, 15 or even 20 years from now... I have a feeling it will be a whole new world. 

    The pant's story is kind of long, so I wrote about it over here 


    It's a fun read, and I hope you like it!

  • JamieTurner's picture
    Jun 15 Posted 5 years ago JamieTurner

    Tommy --

    This is a really terrific post. It's not only packed with good information, but it's very, very well-written. The "Third Screen" (as Chuck Martin likes to call it) is going to change the planet in monstrous ways. It's good to see you're on-board and writing great posts about the mobile revolution.

    I only have one question -- in your profile, you said you got fired over a pair of pants. Dying to hear that story. Care to share?


    Jamie Turner

    Co-author of "How to Make Money with Social Media"

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