What happens when the internet, the backbone of our high-tech economy, is down? That’s a question recently brought to the forefront of the public’s attention, between the debate over Net Neutrality, hacking attacks, and President Obama’s recent proposal to expand broadband options. Despite years of gains, millions of Americans lack broadband access, and even where it is available speeds often lag other markets. Yet we’re also more reliant on the web than ever before, constantly connected whether at home, at work, or anywhere on the go with smartphones. It’s easy to take for granted the benefits of fast, reliable broadband internet – at least until we lose our own connections.
During the recent hurricanes and winter storms which managed to shut down major parts of the U.S. East Coast, there were numerous reports of internet service outages and website downtime for major hubs like Huffington Post and Netflix. Some of these issues could have been caused by infrastructure damage from the storms, but at least some downtime was attributed to servers buckling under the load of millions more Americans simultaneously logging-on while stuck indoors during the inclement weather. In fact, even during normal nights Netflix can account for as much as one-third of internet traffic during the peak evening hours, straining web servers and ISP networks.
Knowing these trends I formed a hypothesis: local ISPs would crumble during last week’s storm (Winter Storm Juno) under the heavy load of snowed-in users. To test my hypothesis, I recruited a simple network sample, emailing my friends across the New York metro area to run speed tests at the same time: around 9 PM EST on Monday, January 26th 2015. For the methodology we used SpeedOf.me to gauge speeds, while I collected details about each participant’s ISP and connection type, attempting to rule out as many variables as possible. So here are some results from our little experiment: Continue reading Snowed out: Testing ISP Speeds on a Snow Day
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: internet service providers want to create a “fast-lane” for certain websites (namely those who pay for the privilege) at the expense of effectively slowing down other websites. If it seems like we’ve been defending the principles of Net Neutrality for at least a decade you’re not far off (myself included during my early blogging days), but telecom companies continue to spend millions of dollars every year to lobby for policies designed to create an uneven playing field from which they profit but at the expense of consumers. Today I’ve joined thousands of bloggers and websites by participating an Internet Slowdown protest, simulating the same slowdown we might experience if ISPs are able to remove Net Neutrality rules set by the FCC.
First let’s make sure we understands what Net Neutrality is: a guiding principle of the internet that the web should be open and level-playing field for all websites. For the uninitiated, talk show John Oliver has an excellent primer on Net Neutrality and why it’s important: Continue reading Defend the web: Why I Support Net Neutrality
Today consumers own more devices than ever before, and the greatest growth comes from digital devices, many of which didn’t even exist a few years ago. If fact, according to Nielsen’s recent Digital Consumer Report (full disclosure: I helped research and create this report) not only do the majority of Americans now own smartphones, but during 2013 time spent accessing the internet using smartphone apps (34 hours per person on average) surpassed time spent surfing the web on computers (27 hours on average). Whether consumers using the devices to access media or connect with one another, advertisers and marketers must follow consumer’s eyeballs as they jump across multiple screens and platforms.
So where do consumers spend their time and attention when using media? Continue reading Media Universe: Exploring Consumers’ Expanding Use of Digital Devices
The last year has been a year of memories and milestones for me, from my engagement at the start of the year to the 25th anniversary of my father’s passing at the end. In between I watched, listened, and learned from countless media during 2013, influencing my daily life and providing inspiration for ideas of my own. Because I love building lists (and what blogger doesn’t), I wanted to share some of my top moments for 2013, at least from my own media usage and perspective:
My Top Instagram Photos in 2013
My Top Tweets of 2013
My Top 13 Albums of 2013
Today marks the 25th anniversary of my Dad’s death. He is remembered for many things in his life: as a husband to my mother, a father to me and my sister, a brother and son to the Hurst family, and a friend to many. But his life is most remembered for how it ended: alongside the 270 other people killed on Pan Am Flight 103 and in Lockerbie, Scotland as the airplane was bombed in an act of terrorism on December 21, 1988.
I was only 3 years old when my father died, so I don’t have many memories about him or from that day. I do remember sitting in our home by the Christmas tree seeing my mom crying by the phone, an unusual sight for a young boy. In a few short days we’d be flying home to St. Louis to mourn with our family, relocating to Missouri where my mom would raise me and my sister. It all happened so fast that it took years to fully understand my family’s life had changed forever. Continue reading In Memory of My Father, Roger Hurst
In 2012 smartphones became the majority of mobile handsets in the U.S. for the first time, keeping hundreds of millions of Americans constantly connected to the mobile web and increasingly using apps. This was a change many had anticipated, including yours truly who wrote about best practices for the mobile web way back in the first month of this blog circa 2009, naive to the changes smartphone apps would have on consumer’s daily activities. As far as predictions go I missed the mark a bit, though hardly as far off as Steve Balmer. It’s another example of how it’s hard predict how consumers will embrace and use technology until it’s in their hands.
Back in 2009 I was just another early adopter hoping on the iPhone’s bandwagon, and like many early adopters in Roger’s diffusion of innovation model I found new ways to make my smartphone fit my internet enabled lifestyle; none of which would pursued my parents to buy smartphones of their own. But it was clear which way the wind was blowing in digital: the future would be increasingly high-speed on mobile, and smartphones would reshape how we use the internet.
We can use this same approach – measuring the trends in mobile – to anticipate what’s next in the market. Today smartphones make up nearly two-thirds of mobile phone owners (65%) in the U.S., putting these devices in the “late majority” phase of adoption. That means the exponential growth we’ve seen in mobile is likely to begin tappering for smartphone makers, though providing more opportunities for publishers and marketers alike in the years to come.
To help tell the story of how the smartphone market has reshaped mobile and visualize the current state-of-mobile, I built an infographic (see below). First a disclosure: I created the infographic using publicly posted data published an industry-expert source (Nielsen) who are also my employer, though the ideas shared on this blog are my own (see my policy page for full disclosure): Continue reading Late Majority: How Smartphones Matured the Mobile Market
It’s been said that Public Relations has a “PR problem”; while the majority of people aren’t sure exactly what a PR does, almost all of them seem to have a negative impression of my profession. So when people ask about my career and I tell them I work in communications and marketing, their natural follow-up is usually “what does that mean?” Contrary to one popular misconception working in PR is not synonymous with the “Press Release”, which is just one tactic in the arsenal of a Public Relations professional. In fact working in PR has so many connotations that the PRSA led a rebranding effort in attempt to help redefine our work, or at least clarify what we do in the most transparent way.
Most would call my work in Public Relations, although depending on who you ask, you might get a different answer; in grad school we called it Public Communications, which helps distinguish our responsibilities are not limited to working with the press. If only my colleagues knew that calling myself a PR rep was the best shorthand for all the work our profession does: everything from researching public opinion, to crafting marketing strategy and crisis communications plans, to writing press releases and blog posts, to media relations and publicity which our profession is best known for. Continue reading What is Public Relations, and Why It Matters in the Social Media Age