Addicted to Mobile

Five months ago, I wrote a white paper describing five key trends that would affect digital signage – particularly ad-funded digital signage.  Those trends focused on the increasing affinity of consumer to:

  1. Consume video-oriented content – particularly via mobile devices
  2. Consume and share information via social networks – increasingly via mobile
  3. Adopt wireless technologies – specifically next-gen smartphones
  4. Use wireless technologies – specifically location-based services and apps
  5. View and engage with mobile ad’s

The point of my paper was to help those deploying digital signage to consider the mobile experience and the habits of the mobile user.  This was intended to help the digital signage operator understand one essential truth:  A failure to appreciate how consumers engage with mobile technologies can result in a signage deployment that consumers ignore.

Since I wrote the white paper, the aforementioned trends have continued to rapidly evolve.  In response, I plan to re-release an updated version of my paper in late January to reflect the latest statistics and observations.  In the meantime, I’d like to call your attention to a sixth emerging trend that I find fascinating.

A few months ago Matt Richtel, a technology writer for the New York Times, spoke with NPR about a series of articles that he had written on the affects that technology – particularly mobile devices — were having on peoples’ brains.  The points I found most fascinating were as follows:

  • The average person is consuming three times more information today than in 1960.
  • An ever-increasing amount of information is being consumed via mobile technologies.
  • People are less engaged with the world around them when they are constantly using mobile devices as opposed to when they are away from them.
  • The immediacy of information delivered by mobile devices appears to be creating a physical and psychological dependence.
  • Research indicates that checking the phone or a “buzz in the pocket” prompts a dopamine and adrenalin release that becomes addictive.

According to Richtel, the research is still in the early stages, but the empirical evidence suggests that the addiction to the mobile experience is real. 

Think about it.  Have you ever heard anyone refer to their BlackBerry as the “CrackBerry?”  Millions of BlackBerry users tell stories of compulsively reaching for their devices whether notified to do so or not.  Some have even told of regularly feeling their phone vibrate even when no vibration occurred.  These have been labeled phantom alerts.

Business users have understood the Crackberry phenomenon for years.  With the launch of the new generation of smartphones (e.g. iPhones and Android phones), consumers are beginning to experience the Crackberry addiction as well.  But it’s not necessarily email that’s driving consumer addiction; it’s Facebook, Twitter and text messaging.

So what does this emerging trend of mobile device addiction mean to the digital signage operator?  It means now more than ever, operators need to understand the psyche of the mobile user.  It means that they must be aware of how, where and when a mobile user will engage with their devices.  As noted above, failing to do so will result in a signage deployment that consumers will not watch because they’re too engage with their phones.

As a postscript, shortly after writing this article I turned on the television to watch the news.  The first thing I saw was an interview with Sarah Palin’s nine year old daughter, Piper.  Piper was asked how she felt about her mother’s growing infamy.  Piper said: “She’s really busy and addicted to her Blackberry.”   Based on the NPR interview with Matt Richtel, Sarah really could be addicted to her Blackberry.

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2 Responses to “Addicted to Mobile”

  1. Great Blog! I remember my wife asked me if I was ready for a 12 step program when I first got my Blackberry. Now I find myself outlawing Smartphones at the dinner table so I can “talk” with my daughters.

  2. This is fascinating and very true. I occasionally find myself checking my phone for phantom alerts. It will be interesting to see what advertisement companies do with this increasing addiction to information

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