Texting's Effect on Media

I read recently that text messaging has increased a whopping 95% over the past few years. That is, young people (mainly) are going nuts text messaging friends. This is not just a casual addiction, it's compulsion and it can detract from traditional media's presence in their lives because of one significant and undeniable reason.

Gen Y reluctantly gives up their phones and mobile devices to a charger at night and the rest of the time their phones are with them, on them, turned on and being used. No Walkman could ever make that claim of dominance or loyalty. It's an unfair comparison in a way, but it underscores just how much time the present generation devotes to phone-related activities.

Right after spring break this year I was returning from Phoenix to Los Angeles to resume classes at USC when I saw a young girl at the USAirways gate lying flat on her back on a couple of seats sleeping with her cell phone resting in her hand on her chest.

It got a message.

She awoke. Glanced at the text message she received, punched in an answer, put her head down and went back to sleep with the phone on her chest.


Until, she got another text message. And this went on and on. What a miserable nap.

Texting is driving people to distraction. New Jersey is the latest state to seriously consider DWT legislation (Driving While Texting). It's scary out there. My wife and I were hit by a young cell phone user in her car one Sunday in Phoenix (three-car crash, totaled my SUV) and when I crawled out of my vehicle to see if she was alright, the injured driver had blood dripping down her face with her cell phone planted firmly to her ear. She bravely (perhaps foolishly) volunteered she was on the phone at the time she went through a red light -- a light that was red for 30 seconds. She didn't see it because she was distracted by the phone.

I have long held that the future of music media is in mobile devices. I believe everyone's life will eventually be centered around a mobile device that has everything near and dear to them built right in. (Don't we already have that with Crackberry addicts?). In the future, pictures, songs, music, info, schedules and talking capability will make the mobile device a necessity of our modern age if it isn't already.

Apple's iPhone available in late June may help us take another quantum leap toward the mobile future as almost everything about the new iPhone is exciting except the slow AT&T (Cingular) network it's on.

I also see screens being put in public places and on planes and trains that would allow users to bluetooth their content to such larger screens and when these screens not in use, advertising will be playing on them.

Even airplanes flying to LA from Phoenix operated by USAirways will eventually have screens that will allow me to play my own video content but with the sorry state of the airline industry right now its not likely to happen on that airline anytime soon.

This is an admittedly long-winded way of saying if I owned a traditional media company I'd be scared. That's the first stage in dealing with grief due to the onset of competition from interactive media (after denial, anger, more denial, more anger and then acquisition of companies they can't run, don't know why they bought and so on).

More to the point -- if a radio is no longer required equipment for the next generation, will that be the end of radio as we know it? Probably not -- as long as you get radio for free when you buy a car. The key word is free -- or more accurately, standard equipment. And you'll note that few consumers actually buy a mobile device for its radio these days.

Still, with more time committed to mobile devices such as telephones and iPods, what kind of future can it be for radio?

If YouTube continues its domination over this attention deprived generation, can you think of a better "television" than a mobile device for those short video clips? This begs the same question -- what of television in the future? Same answer, actually. As long as the consumer needs a larger screen the TV will be around, but less and less of network and cable programming will be required to make owning that screen worth the investment to purchase it. But a mobile device will be required equipment in the not-too-distant future.

If universal WiFi becomes available and these mobile devices allow for seamless streaming of the Internet everywhere, does traditional broadcasting have a chance? Probably a better chance if its content is available on the Internet.

If young people don't read printed newspapers now, can you imagine a future where they would do so tomorrow? If the news is delivered on a mobile device, then you have the modern newspaper as long as its mobile and current.

The unprecedented changes happening to traditional media are being driven by -- let's face it -- an enhanced telephone of which texting has already made us take pause and reflect on the big changes yet to come to mobile music media.

If I'm in traditional media, I'm all about adapting and creating content for mobile and Internet-based devices.