Where Have All the Readers Gone?

You’ve heard the forecast by now. By 2015, more people will access the web by mobile device than by desktops and laptops combined, according to International Data Corp. B2C commerce will nearly double, to just over $1 trillion. 40% of the world will have access to the Internet. In the U.S., Europe and Japan, Internet over PC use “will first stagnate and then slowly decline.”
You can be forgiven for being skeptical. After the first commercial web browser was born in 1993, companies weren’t breaking down any doors to get web pages. Even two years later, IBM’s CEO Tom Watson spoke for a large swath of business when he told Newsweek:

Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities.
Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense?
The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.

He was right in one respect. The state of the web in 1995 couldn’t handle what consumers expected from it. In fact, it took the turn of the millennium for even business to take the web seriously. Just as commercial web was gaining consumer trust, the dot com bubble burst in 2001 and no one was making jokes about Tom Watson anymore.

Blogs and e-commerce changed all that. When online sales started taking off in 2004, the web came into maturity. Now it looks like the web has past its prime and is due for some plastic surgery.

We’re at a pivotal moment right now. Media everywhere is getting so much coverage because that’s where your customers have already gone. They want to take their movies, music, contacts and data with them everywhere because there is no time for down time anymore. For the same reason, they are bringing their own devices to work (BYOD) because consumer tech is trouncing the PC’s and laptops provided at work. HTML5 will soon blur the lines between app and mobile web, so design has already started leaning toward mobile-first, with desktop-view compatibility.

In other words, here’s a new forecast to archive in a time capsule for 2015. Over the next three years, companies that hang on to their (now traditional) websites and neglect content syndication for smartphones and tablets will end up spending their entire advertising budgets looking for customers who have already left the party.

  • http://abdallahalhakim.tumblr.com/ Abdallah Al-Hakim

    it is an interesting topic and one that is developing rapidly. The question for me is how will people access information in the future – will it be through a browser search, apps, or from within platforms such as Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and others. Regardless of this, I do agree that most of these services will be accessed from a mobile device and the smart companies would be the ones to syndicate their content across all the platform (and make it operating system agnostic)

  • http://blog.kwiqly.com/ James Ferguson @kWIQly

    This may be so in a number of domains, but there are certain services where document layout and graphic representation are fundamental to their usability.
    The reason printing paper is the size it is, is related to our focal length, and the reasonable resolution of data that one can present at the that distance.

    If it were otherwise we would save on material and shipping cost by producing paperbacks and newspapars the size of match-boxes – We do not for a reason.

    So the quantity of data we want to consume and scan in a standard field of vision = roughly two sides of A4 or one desktop screen = roughly what we can hold and see in our hands at arms length without moving are heads substantially.

    For this reason many, many serious apps and media will remain non “mobile” and will be delivered for comfortable viewing on this form factor. Screens may therefore become ubiqutious and respond to our proximity rather than being carried everywhere. A better solution, that is already proxied by the work station.

    And it will remain. The small screen of the tablet, and smart phone are a pro-tem solution to the lack of infra-structure needed to serve our needs better.

    So we will fall out of love with our devices and in love with the places where we consume the services, data and interactivity provided. The size of a steering wheel, the size of dinner plate, the size of serving tray – all things determined by the size of the client UI, all have stood the test of time.

  • TaraRobertson

    Thanks for your comments, James and Abdallah!