Currently I take the Boston subway (the T) every morning during rush hour to get to MIT. Over the last few weeks, I counted how many people use which type of media on their daily commute. Obviously, these observations are by no means statistically representative, but still interesting.
On a typical day, about 70 people ride on a subway car. The average media usage is as follows:
- 10 people read a book.
- 2 people read a "normal" newspaper (Boston Globe, New York Times etc.)
- 1 person reads the Wall Street Journal
- 43 people read the free daily commuter newspaper (Metro)
- 7 people listen to their iPod, and most of them read something at the same time. Other types of MP3 players are rare, and very infrequently you see somebody with a -- gasp -- portable CD player.
- 2 people type on their BlackBerry.
- 5 people consume no media at all, not counting the ad displays they're staring at.
Apparently, the free commuter newspaper has a marketshare (including iPod multitaskers) of over 70%. In contrast, the situation for traditional newspapers looks somewhat sad. Maybe people read a "real" newspaper at home, but considering the average age of commuters (about 35) I suspect that traditional newspapers have lost this customer segment.
- 0 people read a e-book
- 0 people consume content on their mobile phone
- 0 people use portable game consoles
- 0 people use a Ultra-mobile PC or something similar
So far, digital media are only present in the form of iPods and a few BlackBerries. Good old print media still dominate the scene.
I just wonder who is actually using all the great convergent gadgets that the electronics industry tries to sell. I can't think of a much better place for this type of gadget than a subway ride, and Boston really isn't a city of luddites, as far as I know.
Probably there a few good reasons for this non-usage:
- Convergence overload: The latest mobile devices are able to do simply everything. And that's too much. Obviously, devices with a clear focus (iPod, BlackBerry) are much more successful.
- Device babysitting: I personally would like to have a mobile blog-reading device that automatically pulls down my favorite feeds every morning. The content simply should be there whenever I want to access it, without the need for any activity on my part and without waiting times. We're far away from this. In most cases, content synchronization is a major pain that only works with frequent user interventions. Again, Apple has demonstrated how to do this in the right (i.e. simple) way.
- Format and DRM chaos: The songs that I bought on iTunes don't play on my Nokia mobile phone. "Blink" is available as an e-book only on MobiPocket, "The World is Flat" only on Adobe Reader. The industry apparently expects me to install three or four competing e-book systems on my various devices, and even then I can't use all content on every device.
- Lack of reliablity: Bad battery life and unstable software are still a problem. The e-book software on my PDA frequently forgets what book I was just reading and where I was in that book. I really wonder if this vendor's emplyees ever use their own product.
The (mobile) digital revolution is still at its very beginning, and it's not moving very fast. And that's mainly the vendors' fault. I think consumers are open for many things, but not willing to put up with all these annoying imperfections.