The Mobilization of Rich Media

The mobile internet has been defined as the 7th mass media channel. For those unfamiliar with the expression, the prior six mass media channels are print, recordings, cinema, radio, television, and the internet, which is distinct from the mobile internet. What makes this particularly interesting are the usage numbers; 900 million personal computers in use at the end of 2007, 1.3 billion internet users, but over 3.3 billion mobile subscribers (including 798 million WAP users- the mobile version of the internet, and 2.4 billion people using their phones for SMS texting). Not only the usage numbers for mobile internet far larger, they are growing far faster than the numbers for the traditional (PC-centric) internet.

Why do these numbers matter? Because they indicate a permanent shift in how people receive and send information. It’s a reasonably safe assumption that if you’re reading this, you have a PC somewhere, which you access frequently. It’s an ironclad assumption you have a cell phone, which is always with you, and always on. Is your PC always with you and always on? Unlikely, even if it’s a small laptop.

In addition to the always on/always with you convenience of mobile devices, the other core influence for the mobile experience is the size of display real-state on a mobile device; the small footprint forces efficiency in visual communications. Combine that with text limitations of 140 characters per SMS message, and you have literally billions of people who are evolving to a lifestyle where they only receive information in bite-sized chunks.

Because mobile devices are now the dominant information tool for the mass-market, there is also a corollary shift underway in how information is created, managed, and delivered. This is one area where rich media component content management systems are actually ahead of the curve; these systems were designed against standards that demand a minimalist efficiency (such as DITA), and are set up on the assumption that fast access and pithy delivery are the key drivers.

Similar to the social sites need for a hierarchical rich media content management infrastructure, the mobile internet requires structured access to broad stores of information, but delivered with a more condensed payload, a faster cycle time, and lots more potential for re-use and syndication. Traditional CMS systems are going to find themselves in a world of hurt with this new model, while component content management vendors are going to be facing a near Greenfield opportunity.

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