Gone mobile

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By Fred Jacobs

When we designed and conducted the “Goin’ Mobile” ethnographic study with Arbitron back in 2010, we saw some amazing “stupid human smartphone tricks” that were precursors to major behavioral changes that have become societal in scope.

While speaking with a friend the other day who has an iPad but is still using a flip phone, she told me that she has purposely shied away from purchasing an iPhone because she thinks it will ruin her life.

That’s an interesting way to think about the smartphone phenomenon.  It is a game-changer, and while there are many positive aspects of owning an iPhone or one of the better Android handsets, the loss of attention-span and other cultural changes is undeniable.

We attempted to capture some of these usage patterns in Techsurvey8.  Overall, smartphone ownership has now passed the halfway mark, up to 52% in this new nationwide study.  And it’s interesting that both men and women are almost equally as likely to have one.

We also found that smartphone ownership tends to level the tech playing field by age.  Even those who have an iPhone or Android device in the oldest demos are using it to perform a myriad of cool and varied tasks.

The “dual pyramid” (below) speaks to the growing differences between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”  That is, those who have a smartphone, and those who are still using what is nicely called a “feature phone.”

(A friend of mine in his early ‘70s is a “have-not” and still jokes about the time I referred to his device as an AARP Phone.”)

So as you look at the pyramid, you can definitely see how smartphones aren’t just convenient, they have opened up a new world to users.

Now, the only thing that feature phone owners do more than their smartphone counterparts is talk.  In all other usage areas, it’s no contest.  When you take the dive into smartphones, a whole new world opens up to you.

Of course, that also sends a message to those of us who program and market radio stations.  Look at the capabilities and activities that our listeners now have – and of course, they run even higher in progressively younger-targeted formats.

So here are some takeaways, followed by a logical question or two:

Eight of every ten respondents receive and send email on their phones.

So how do your database emails look when listeners open them up on their smartphones?  Are you considering the UX – or user experience – in your email program?

Three in ten record videos and three-quarters take and share photos.

So how can you utilize the audience as “citizen reporters” at concerts and events?  If everyone has a camera (and a video camera), how can you use this network to create content and a real-time experience?

One-fifth use their smartphones for Twitter, while two-thirds do the same for Facebook

So are you acknowledging your audience in a timely way on these platforms and taking advantage of their real-time nature?

Nearly six in ten check out news, weather, and/or traffic info on these handheld wizards.

So how does your on-air information provide entertainment value, a local touch, and a greater degree of accuracy?  And if you’re running a news operations, how does your station’s mobile experience match up with audience usage patterns?

More than one-third check sports scores on their smartphones.

Does your app do more than stream – are you providing sports scores for the teams your audience cares most about in a mobile environment?

And six in ten regularly download and use apps.

And how does your station’s mobile app program reconcile with those big numbers?  Do you have apps, and if so, on which platforms and devices?  Do your apps provide more than just a stream – a unique, mobile experience that is reflecting of your brand’s essence?

That’s what I love about research.  It asks questions, and then generates more questions.  But these are good ones to be asking in a mobile environment that is moving at Mach 5, right before our very eyes.

What questions do you see on this pyramid, and how can you and your team answer them?

Fred Jacobs

About Fred Jacobs

Fred Jacobs, created the Classic Rock format, and has been a leading force in Alternative and Mainstream Rock. Currently, Jacobs Media services are used by nearly every major broadcasting company, including CBS, Entercom, Emmis, Cox, Greater Media, Citadel, Journal, and others. Jacobs Media has also provided consulting services to The Corporation For Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, and public radio stations around the country.