E-Media Strategist: Mobile Publishing
I love mobile devices. I bought my first PDA, a Cassiopeia, back in the late '90s. It was a Windows CE device, had a large, color touch screen, and ran scaled-down versions of Microsoft Office applications. I worked for Windows IT Pro at the time, and believe it or not, we actually launched a mobile version of our website specifically designed for mobile devices using a platform called AvantGo. That was 12 years ago, and we were able to aggregate enough of an audience to actually sell sponsorships.
Obviously mobile devices and mobile publishing have evolved significantly since then. I now own a BlackBerry Bold, an iPod Touch and an iPad. While I love these devices and believe they are indeed the future, I have a difficult time swallowing the hype about how these devices—especially the iPad—represent the saving grace of the publishing business as a whole.
Let's get real for a minute. From a pure Web-browsing perspective, mobile devices simply aren't a very big piece of the pie. They accounted for only 1.26 percent of all Web consumption in North America as of December 2009, and after an initial surge of early adopters, even the iPad has leveled off and represents only 0.8 percent of all Web consumption in North America. To be fair, these numbers only represent Web browsing and not application usage, which is a big part of the equation, especially for Apple devices. Thus, audio, video, digital magazine and e-book sales aren't reflected in general Web market-share numbers.
So how do we separate mobile publishing hype from opportunity?
HYPE. Mobile Web browsing has not reached any kind of critical mass. In part, this is because of the limitations of devices and network capabilities, but also in part because mobile is an afterthought for most publishers. It is simply not enough to worry about right now, but that will change over time.