Mobile Phones as Channels for the 7th Mass Media
July 1st, 2007

With a fluid and wisely ironic style, the mobile strategies expert Alan Moore shares with us a collection of personal opinions that link together towards supporting more strongly the Connected Age theory that he and Tomi T. Ahonen assembled in 2005 in Communities Dominate Brands.

Paraphrasing an analogy in Communities Dominate Brands, while the fixed Internet steamed ‘the pulleys and the belts’ of the Network Age‘s engine, the private, always-on, and reachable mobile technology turned into the warp drive of modern communities in the Connected Age. Ferdinand Tonnies’ organic and personal Gemeinschaft is presently pulled to the edge of deep critical metamorphosis by the always connected mobile technology that dissolves old distances and disparities between people, like space, time, race, and ethnicity, in order to re-blend once isolated individuals into smart mobs, homogenized around common interests. Sharing information via mobiles becomes the main tool for enlightening and empowering masses and for building a new meaning for their ‘unity of will.’ The phenomenon of ‘connectedness’ inverses the terms in the famous equation of “information equals power” by taking the information’s flow from the closed-doors monopolizing elites and pouring it into the veins and tissues of a young social body formed by the increasingly aware and active grassroots. The new economics and social dynamics in the digital era are based on sharing, not holding information.

Moving to the advertising sector, Alan thinks that the new mobile platform is the ground for far greater developments comparing to the traditional ad business of the classic media, due to the nature and expansion of the mobile technology that make the advertising messages more personal, thus more meaningful. This adds a new dimension to the viral and mouth-to-mouth marketing strategies, making them faster, more focused on appropriate customer audiences, and this way perhaps less expensive. The author mentions statistics, like 3 times more cell phones than TV sets worldwide, high rates of connectivity (like the 90% of the Korean teenagers being hooked into Cyworld) and qualitative examples of modern communication tools and mobile communities, like Cyworld, the iPhone, blyk, Admob, MyNuMo, Artist First, Moblog UK, to back up and illustrate his affirmations.

Very surprisingly, in the past and even now, some businesses weren’t and still aren’t aware of the mobile network’s potential. Alan confesses that, for many years, as a foreseeing prophet of the 7th Mass Media, he was ‘the voice of the one who shouts in the desert’ during business meetings. And that proved to be to the disadvantage of many corporate board audiences that should have listened and take action. Mobile is definitely a revolutionary technology, considered as the 7th mass media, and the expert’s recommendation is not to miss a technological revolution.

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It seems as though there is a constantly evolving critical mass of options open to advertisers in the mobile channel. Some of which fully utilise the potential of meaningful social networks, whilst other don’t.

Google’s typically easy UI for its mobile advertising methods is, admittedly, in its infancy, but it has the power of location-based personalisation to bring brands meaningfully to a user’s pocket. For example, one of their mobile-only packages allows for the publishing of a phone number that can be activated from wap upon clicking.

So what’s the big deal? Well, it makes use of the primary focus of telephones (making calls – remember that?), whilst allowing consumers to be fed with highly personalised responses to their searches. E.g., entering “pizza London” into their mobile search engine will in theory (in theory…) return local pizza shops, alongside their phone numbers. Hey presto!

What mobile advertisers need to remember is that the social premise of a mobile phone is always primarily its role as a voice device. This is why I think wap-to-voice or voice-to-wap works.

2 - Serena

Thanks for posting this article – I now feel like I finally understand about the 7th Mass Media.

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