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Late Majority: How Smartphones Matured the Mobile Market

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): (more…)

Hitchhiker’s Guide: Mapping the Consumer Media Universe

Mapping the Media Universe as a solar system of devices

(click to enlarge the Media Universe infographic)

The media universe is constantly expanding, so as consumers adopt more devices and gadgets their usage of how they watch, shop, and connect continues to evolve; today the media universe revolves around the consumer.  As the media landscape changes, PRs, Advertisers, and Marketers must navigate this new media universe, understanding not just all the gadgets consumers own, but also how they use media across devices to form their own behaviors.

Working with Nielsen’s data to provide insights into cross-platform media usage, I helped design the 2012 Consumer Usage Report from concept through completion, including the above inforgraphic meant to help navigate the media universe just in time for CES in January 2013.  Using the common marketing metaphor of the “universe”, meaning all people in the target audience, this visualization provides a snapshot overview of the US media market.  Visualizing the media universe as a solar system of planets (devices) which revolve around the sun (consumers), this infographic maps consumer ownership of digital devices (computers, mobile, tablets, etc) and devices connected to the TV (cable/satellite, game consoles, etc).  Pulling these devices together is gravity, illustrated by how are consumers spending their media time, and some may be surprised that the overwhelming majority of time spent (150+ hours per month) is watching traditional and time-shifted TV.

At the same time consumers’ media habits are rapidly changing, and the media universe continues to expand to incorporare new devices akin to a technological big bang.  During 2012 smartphones became the majority of mobile users in the US for the first time, and nearly 1 in 5 households now owns a tablet computer.  Social media usage continues to grow, and while many more consumers are using it on the go most still connect to social networks using their home computers.  And for cord-cutters like me who get much of their viewing through online stream sites, it may be surprising to learn only 4% of households own IPTV sets, but with 56% of homes using video game consoles it seems likely at least a few are watching video on Netflix and Hulu on their TVs as well.


To learn more about the how consumers use tech and media in their daily lives, please download the full report from Nielsen’s website.  And to see more examples of infographics and data visualizations I’ve worked on, check out my portfolio on this site.

An Eye For An iPhone: How Gadget Theft is Becoming A Growing Problem

I never thought it could happen to me, but last year I had an iPhone stolen out of my own hands while riding the subway late one summer night.  Even though I had read news stories and blog posts before about how the theft of smartphones and iPads was becoming more common while riding public transportation, I thought I was safe until I became another victim.

using

My first instinct was to share my experience through social media, where I learned that a few more of my friends had also had their phones stolen riding the subway.  A little further research led me to see the problem was growing across the US, and that many more shared my frustration being unable to recover my handset, even using the Find My iPhone feature. Most recently, in acknowledgment of the growing theft problem the FCC proposed changes to how the carriers manage reported thefts, hoping to help consumers avoid the hefty costs often associated when their stolen phones.

After I learned that the problem had become so widespread, I made a collection of clips on Storify sharing how the problem has grown, which I’ve updated over the last year. Here’s my ongoing story about the growing problem of iPhone theft: (more…)

Instagram by the Numbers: measuring my photo sharing via mobile

In its short history, Instagram has become very popular is crowded market of competing mobile photo apps, or at least has become my favorite among them since I started using it in October 2010.  For those not already familiar with this iPhone app, Instagram has been installed by over 1 million users who use the app to snap pics, apply creative filters to add visual interest, and easily share their photos across multiple social networks (ie Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Foursquare).  Users can follow photos by their friends using a timeline inside the app, which doesn’t have a web interface but rather exists as a social network of sorts confined within the app itself (and accessible to services using its API).
Matt Hurst's Instagram infographic
Of course the concept behind Instagram isn’t new; long before this app I’ve been been sharing mobile photos on TwitPic, showcasing my photography on Tumblr, and sharing thousands of pictures on Facebook, Flickr, and many other photo sites. Although it’s not immediately apparent how useful the service might be as a branding or communications tool, it has caught on in popularity from a consumer-generated media standpoint.  At least in my own experience Instagram offers immediate gratification and feedback that makes it addictive, with the added value of offering perspectives across a variety of social networking sites.

Matt Hurst's Top 5 followers on Instagram Matt Hurst's favorite Instagram users Matt Hurst's "likes" on instagram
Matt Hurst started using Instagram on October 24th, 2010 MattHurst's instagram infographic

Outside of Instagram, here’s a few more ways to measure the impact of mobile on photo sharing:

  • The iPhone is the most popular camera on Flickr overall, and I’ve uploaded more than 5% of my 8194 photos on Flickr from pictures taken using my iPhone camera.
  • Photos are the most used app on Facebook, and they’re rumored to be working on a mobile photo app
  • At least 2 million photos are posted to Twitter each day on average, and doubtlessly more buzz comes from image driven Tumblr posts and photoblogs

Most recently with the announcement of Twitter’s new photo sharing functions, as well as their deeper integration with Apple products, photography continues its push into mobile platforms and remains a key driving force behind social media into the foreseeable future.

Extra credit: check for updated stats about how I’m using Instagram, and see a gallery of my favorite photos in my Photography portfolio. And of course you can look for my photos by following MattHurst on Instagram

Foursquare by the Numbers: Measuring my social life by location

Matt Hurst's checkins on Foursquare, displayed in an infographic

Heatmap of MattHurst's checkins on Foursquare Since Foursquare was created in March 2009 its social network which connects people and places into an addictive public game has motivated millions to continue checking-in. Whether your friends use the social network to unlock badges for brands and special events, compete on the leaderboard, and of course become “the mayor” of their favorite venues. Location-based social networks like Foursquare have created new opportunities for friends to connect IRL (or allegedly to stalk each other), while opening individuals to new connections more like they do online.

Of course Foursquare was hardly the first location-based social media; by the time I signed-up in March 2009 I had already been checking-in for nearly a year, using networks like Brightkite and Loopt. Indeed the founders of Foursquare were well ahead of the competition, having set up the SMS-based location network Dodgeball years earlier which had been bought by Google, only to revisit their idea with smartphone technology. By mixing game elements and unlockable rewards, not to mention the right timing to take advantage of the burgeoning social media scene, Foursquare has created a unique application that has proved popular by 2010 and beyond.

In the process of the gameplay and deals that attract users and brands to use the service, one of the byproduct of using Foursquare is the data that’s created about individuals who use the service. Here’s some perspective on how I’ve used Foursquare over the past 2 years:

Thumbnail of Foursquare infographic - click to enlarge

click image to enlarge the Foursquare Infographic

  • I was the 3,820th user to register on Foursquare, making me an early adopter of the location-based network that now tops 8 million members.
  • My first check-in was on March 17, 2009 at Breadsoda in Washington D.C., and have checked-in another 669 days since
  • In my first two years I’ve checked-in over 3000 times (3241 as of April 15, 2011) at 723 different venues.
  • I’m currently mayor of 7 venues, and have earned as many as 13 mayorship at any one time, earning me the Supermayor badge
  • So far I’ve unlocked 61 badges so far: 38 official Foursquare badges, and 23 more branded by their promoted partners

Of course Foursquare is much more than a means to broadcast your location, although the network has that reputation since many early adopters (myself included) had their service configured to tweet their check-ins automatically. However I’ve found Foursquare is best experienced not just as social media, but as a tool to connect people with places. Their service aids the discovery of new places to visit by using the suggestions and tips of friends, and on several occasions has helped result in the social media serendipity that has connected me with new friends and enabled impromptu rendezvous with friends who check-in right around the corner.

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Location, Location, (social media) Location

Map of my friend's check-ins on Brightkite in DC

Map of friend's check-ins on Brightkite in DC

Everyone is checking themselves in, but this is hardly rehab; it’s Social Media Week in New York City.  On Foursquare, Gowalla, and now even on Yelp, people are sharing where they are and vying to become the “Mayor” of venues they frequent. They say that all news is local, but instead this is Where word-of-mouth, real-time, and overshare intersect.

Location-based social media have become the next-big-thing as opinion leaders look for new ways share their influence.  Over the last year Twitter has cemented our collective desire to share what we’re doing, who we’re with, and increasingly where we’re doing it. When individuals share their ideas using hashtags for events (or HotPotato), they’re telling us more than which venues are hip by adding an online dimension to reputation management.  Just ask any restaurant owner how Yelp has changed their business.

As a rule people tend to trust the opinions their friends and neighbors better than any agenda setting news source.  In the new media landscape we can find out instantly if any of our friends share their impressions of places (and business).  It’s a mental shortcut that’s easy to fall on; almost a year ago I wrote about how becoming a DC transplant was impacted by social media:

I ended up in Glover Park not just for the rent, but probably because Wikipedia gave me the clues that the location was right. Google Maps helped me find an apartment within walking distance to the grocery store. (This move would not have worked so well for me only 10 years ago)
Once I moved in, I could use HopStop to find the right Bus/Rail times. Later I found the WMATA’s site worked a little better. I found out the sort of places other locals would like using Brightkite. I traded in for an iPhone with GPS . Yelp is still pretty invaluable for me.

Of course the importance of location to communication is nothing new: newspapers, the phonebook, and whole publishing businesses are built around guide books. But social media has changed where we get our information from has opened up new kinds of influence, amplifying word-of-mouth discussion into sacrosanct reputation management.

With new technology come new opportunities; as with real estate before it, the value of both location and networking become readily intertwined.  Every real estate agent already understands that our social networks reveal which place might be the right fit for us, whether in real life or online communities.  These new location-based social media in turn mirror the patterns of individuals to settle in like-minded communities where they feel most comfortable.

Where only a decade ago the internet opened up opportunities to connect with others over common interests, no matter how strange or remote they might seem, today social media has introduced us to common interests of our own neighbors.  Local bloggers understand the value of neighborhood news, and so does Google while they roll out local search as a key feature for their service: what you’re looking for online may already be in your own backyard.

Moving On

Goodbye DCNo I’m not moving my web address, but in real life from DC to New York City. Following graduation from American University and an internship at New Media Strategies, I’ll be moving to New York City (or Brooklyn rather) to seek employment as a communications professional.

As a long time proponent of location-based media, this move is more than simply a personal transition for me. This last week marks one year since I entered a Youtube video contest sponsored by WMATA (which I went on to win) documenting my commute in celebration of Car-Free Day in Washington, DC. I’ve been preparing for my move by writing a review and tribute to my neighborhood, Glover Park, on my local blog Pedestrian Capable DC, which specializes in transit and local issues.

Of course writing about local interests has been a professional interest of mine long before moving to Washington, DC.  While still a student at Webster University in Saint Louis I established another local blog, Highway 61 Revised, which created original news stories for college audiences within the metro area.  Alongside a team of other young journalists and engaged writers, we created original blog posts, mixtapes, videos, photo essays, and event listings which engaged a local audience of blog readers through its website and social media tie-ins.

I learned about building relationships with local media and other bloggers through my blog, and had a few adventures along the way.  Being a blogger has introduced me to a whole ecosystem of location-based social media that I still use everyday, from the Craigslist postings that helped me move to the marketing opportunities of newer networks like Brightkite and Foursquare.  Without these services I might have had a harder time finding out where to move, much less discovering my own neighborhood through the word-of-mouth recommendations of my neighbors.

As I prepare to move into my new home in New York City, I know I will use location-based social media to discover the landscape once more; reading local blogs and checking consumer-review websites like Yelp are only the beginning. In the meantime I’m still addicted to blog feeds from STL and DC, now augmented by new media in New York City.  I’m looking forward to beginning a new adventure in New York, learning from my experience using location-based social media in order to discover what’s worthwhile and new wherever life takes me.

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In Your Hand (an Internet)

You have seen them walking along the street with their heads down and their hands out in front of them, thumbs fidgeting on a handset that looks less like a phone and more like a mobile computer.  And you wonder what they see that could possibly be so interesting that they’re about to walk into a streetlight (or get mugged).

Although you can’t tell if they’re reading an important email or just texting their friends, there is an increasing chance they are reading a website.  In a Pew study of mobile phone use before 2008, at least 19% of Americans had already used a cellphone or PDA to access a website, and since then use of cellphones like the iPhone that can access web represent an increasing portion of any website’s visitors.   Because these devices use a smaller screen, and mobile websites might be loaded for different purposes, communicating on a mobile website is different.

Some differences seem more obvious than others: like most writing for websites, a mobile website should be succinct, with catchy hooks that make you want to click through and read the rest of the story.  Most mobile web browsers will only display around 50 to 75 words of legible text on screen at a time, so you’ll need to make the point quickly.  The screen itself promotes sites that are easy to navigate with narrow vertical scrolling, as opposed to the wide horizontal columns used on monitors for navigating most desktop web browsing.  And because people are using the web on the go, they are visiting sites for different reasons; one trend is location-based information services that take advantage of GPS and Google Maps (which should be the subject of another post on this blog of its own).

This website is specially configured for reading on mobile browsers, including the iPhone and Blackberry handhelds; simply visit the site on your mobile device and it should look a little different.  By utilizing a plugin to WordPress, you will be able to use most of the features in this site on your mobile device, including the latest blog posts, sending an me an email, leaving a comment, or just searching the site.  I would like to welcome any feedback you might have about my own mobile website, so that I can make adjustments for these rapidly changing communications tools.