The Mobile Future

With just weeks until the Apple iPhone becomes available to consumers -- the most significant mobile happening in history -- traditional media need to have a better understanding of the repercussions.

When was the last time a satellite radio executive said don't go to the store on the day satellite radio will be debuted. Or can you imagine a radio exec saying stay away from Radio Shack or Best Buy the day HD radio debuted.

Well, Apple's Steve Jobs had the chutzpah to tell cell phone shoppers to stay away from the Apple stores on the day the iPhone is released because the line to get in will be around the block. Ever the salesman, Jobs added that they could try going to partner AT&T stores that day.

The overpriced, over-promised, overdue iPhone will soon change the landscape for the media business. Read this New York Times piece on the anticipation and anxiety that is expected in the marketplace.

Apple will not only own the new record business (iTunes) but the new phone business (iPhone) with major ramifications for everyone else.

This blog is about music, broadcasting and the mobile future for a good reason -- because the future of all media will be aimed at mobile devices. This is not to say that you will never watch a large screen HD TV again, but some of the content you watch may be stored or accessed on your mobile device.

A lot of companies think YouTube was the second coming, but among the next generation it was just the next thing. To Google maybe it was their future, but already YouTube is only one of many video delivery systems. The TV networks with true penis envy have all started their own.

They just don't get it.

TV needs to concentrate on producing programs -- regular length, episodic videos. It is a losing strategy to try and control the delivery system. It's as if the prerequisite for being a TV network back in the day had to be owning every TV station that aired their programs. Today many TV executives would agree that soon TV nets won't need affiliates. Yet they're not learning their lesson and applying it to mobile video. They want to be YouTube.

The radio business is consumed with HD radio and economies of scale -- buying what properties become available, selling what it can make a profit from and they have a lot to lose by this strategy.

Radio used to be the mobile medium. Now it isn't even included on most mobile devices.


Young consumers don't like radio and don't need to have it on their iPods, MP3s or their cell phones.

Radio still doesn't get it.

Radio can't compete with other mobile programming sources like video clips, iTunes or even sending photos from built in cell phone cameras.

Radio needs to get pictures.

Today's consumer wants audio when it wants to hear something. Video when it wants to see something and text when it wants to read something.

Until radio gets pictures and text it can't compete on the mobile platform.

No mobile platform, no business ten or twenty years down the line.

Let's not let Internet web sites off the hook. Most have done a miserable job adapting to the mobile medium. The future of newspapers are looking up by attracting online readers even though they are not making big money for the publishers. No news, information or entertainment site that wants to own a piece of the mobile future can adequately compete unless it uses mobile phones to send information (requested and permitted by the consumer) in real time.

What I think is about to happen is that Apple -- with its direct pipeline to the young consumer -- will define the medium as it has done in MP3 players. It's really too late to stop them. There is also evidence that Apple and its partners will make applications for the iPhone that are likely to leave traditional media out in the cold (again).

I'd like to look at the mobile future with its official introduction by Apple in a few weeks as the start of a major change in how we consume content with Apple as the gatekeeper.

No matter that almost everyone has a cell phone and can't live without it. The real issue is what are all these consumers going to do with their mobile phone? Don't say -- make calls. That's so analog.

We can live without radio.

Manage out TV viewing with TiVo when we have it.

We don't read newspapers in increasing numbers.

The way it now looks, if I am right, the mobile future will be all encompassing and very lucrative and radio, TV and newspapers will not be driving its future. Worse yet they may even become its victims.

This needs to change.

We're devoting time and attention to this at USC, but in my view, to rethink, redeploy and redesign radio, TV and newspapers. This may be impossible for all but the adventurous. Oddly enough, the kind of people who put traditional media on the map in the first place.

Let's see if anyone stands up and goes to school on this fundamental change that will either bring great rewards or great ruin -- the official beginning of the mobile future when Apple thinks differently.