Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mighty Text, Mobile Diaries, and Spotify for All

Google has teamed with Sterling brands and Ipsos to investigate consumer attitudes and behaviors associated with certain digital activities, specifically when using multiple screens.  The study involved 1,611 participants who recorded 7,955 hours of media activities logged in a mobile diary over a 24-hour period.

That consumers use multiple screens is not news; nor is the observation that multi-screen behavior has moved mainstream.  I think that this study is particularly valuable because it adds behavioral and psychological weight to our multi-screen habits.

The study finds that the “majority of our daily media interactions are screen-based.”  In fact, 90% of all media interactions are screen-based: smartphone, PC/laptop, tablet, television.  Conversely, 10% of all media interactions are non-screen-based (radio, newspaper, magazines).   And context drives device choice, including time available, goal, location, and attitude and state-of-mind.  Not surprisingly, the research adds weight to findings that might be obvious.  Computers keep us productive and informed; smartphones keep us connected; tablets keep us entertained.

According to the study, there are two modes of multi-screening; sequential usage and simultaneous usage.  The former describes moving from one device to another at different times to accomplish a task.  The latter describes using more than one device at the same time, for either a related or unrelated activity.  Sequential screening is common and largely completed within a day.  Top activities while in this mode are Internet browsing, social networking, and online shopping.  The prevalence of such usage suggests that businesses save their shopping progress between devices, such including “shopping carts” and “signed-in” experiences.

Smartphones are the most frequent companion devices during simultaneous usage.  The research indicates that “content viewed on one device can trigger specific behavior on the other,” suggesting businesses might not want to limit their conversion goals and calls to action.  Smartphones are the centerpiece of daily media use and serve as the most common starting point for activities across multiple screens.  Therefore, mobile is a business imperative.

I’ll leave the specifics of this important research on that note and reflect on the growing importance of the smartphone in other contexts.  I’ve been going to mobile conferences for at least a decade and every year the bar for mobile advertising revenue ticks up a notch--$20 billion in 2012?—and that reality seems never to come to pass.  I’ve long thought mobile advocates were beating the wrong drum.  Someone might yet solve the mobile advertising dilemma, but nonetheless the reason the smartphone is in ascendency is its growing importance in the enterprise and transaction zone, as the above research makes clear.

Qualcomm recently announced the North American regional winner of its 2012 QPrize venture investment competition.  Mighty Text is “an android-based application that enables people to send SMS messages from their computer or any device via the cloud.  It syncs directly with the user’s Android phone and number, making life easier for people who send and receive text messages and get phone calls while in front of a computer.”  Mighty Text gets $100,000 in venture funding and a chance to compete for another $150,000 attached to the QPrize Global Grand Prize competition in early 2013.

Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOM sees more than another tech prize winner here.  She notes that this “IP testing app and the nine other finalists are also a microcosm of Qualcomm’s views about what mobility can bring to computing and how to design for mobile.”  In her opinion, mobile isn’t a separate platform.  Rather, everything should be built to tie back into the mobile device.  She concludes that for Qualcomm this is a “fundamental shift in worldview and some companies like Spotify and Mighty Text get it and some companies are struggling, such as Facebook.”

By way of full disclosure, I have consulted for Qualcomm.  That said, it’s hard to disagree with Mr. Higginbotham’s conclusions.  Certainly the various app stores have only added value to the smartphone in the enterprise zone.

Perhaps equally important is her remark about Spotify.  Hamish McKenzie has waxed eloquent at Pandodaily about a Spotify for magazines, suggesting publishers break up the magazine bundles and present stories on an individual basis with a large dose of social.  If you add sponsored subscription bundles and a content/data arrangement with carriers and advertisers, you might have scale and a business model, one article at a time.

Did I mention the smartphone? 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Peter Pan, the Old Man, and Brands that Last Forever

Over the Labor Day weekend, I watched a DVD by the late psychologist James Hillman on the Puer and the Senex, with the former referring generally to the archetype of the eternally young, as in Peter Pan, and the latter to the hide-bound, rule-waving elder, man or woman, who wants the rest of society to stay within the lines.  From a Jungian perspective, these archetypes describe psychological modes of being as well as types of behavior.  We saw these archetypes on display at the recent Republican Convention;   Clint Eastwood, an aging, angry, scolding Senex talking to a chair; and Representative Paul Ryan, sketching a trajectory of the high-flying Puer, who shaved an hour off his marathon time.  Whatever sins might have been committed at the convention, any runner will argue that this “sin” was as mortal as they get.  Runners never forget their marathon times.  Running a marathon in under three hours is as difficult as Congress passing a balanced budget.

In his presentation, Dr. Hillman mentioned Clint Eastwood’s role in the movie Gran Torino, in which the actor portrays a disgruntled Korean War veteran who openly resents the changes in the ethnic make-up of his Detroit neighborhood, especially the influx of the Hmong Americans.  For Hillman, Eastwood’s character, Walt Kowalski, is Senex to the core, even when he softened his view towards the Hmong. Kowalski is “executed” in a manner consistent with his warrior culture and cunning.  His character cannot really think or get out of the box.

Hillman, whose psychology is apolitical, suggests that with all the idealization of the Puer, with his or her legions of Twitter followers and Facebook friends, the Senex, known for stubbornness, avarice, and resistance to change, will likely win the day.  We see this played out daily in our political theater.  President Obama’s promise of Change ran headlong into the Senex, who knows how to deal with the golden age of fantasy.

If the Senex and the Puer represent psychological modes or perspectives, they can also be seen to represent brands which, when successful, are also archetypes.  This is what makes them abiding and generally long-lasting.  I was thinking about this aspect of brands when reading about the late Helen Gurley Brown and her remarkable transformation of Cosmopolitan magazine and eventual international expansion.  This is certainly one of the most important magazines success stories, from both an editorial and business perspective, of the last fifty years.

While the Senex and the Puer might be battling it out on the national stage, it’s an open question whether brands can retain their historical permanence.  Douglas McIntyre has blogged about ten brands that will disappear in 2013 (www.24/, including RIM, Avon, Suzuki, American Airlines and others. The sweet smell of private equity money is present here and very little nostalgia.

I’ve heard over the years that somehow magazines brands are more resilient than so-called commodity brands because they carry our personal and cultural archetypes; in other words, our essential meanings.  Christine Haughney and Noam Cohen writing in the NYT Media Decoder conducted an unscientific reader poll of what magazines they missed (   Gourmet, shut down three years ago, “was the dearest of the dearly departed.”  Spy, Talk, George, and House and Garden also made the list.

I was at Hachette when George magazine was launched with John Kennedy as publisher.  I had a business development role at the company but little to do with George.  But I made my views clear on the magazine; I thought it lacked a business model.  The magazine lasted two years after Kennedy’s tragic death in 1999.

George was very much in the Puer tradition, a marriage of Kennedy mystique and celebrity politics; an arc of brilliance and an Icarus-like fall.  The magazine struggled before Kennedy’s death and was impossible after the fact.

Most magazines, whether they have a short lifespan or not, have archetypal roots and done well are grounded in in our culture, memory, and mythology.

In this regard magazines are indeed brands with a difference.