The near-future of the internet is mobile, but as B2B marketers we must be aware of how internet usage is changing in the long-term, and what this means for our campaigns and communications. Thinking in terms of individual channels and devices will only limit our ability to fully deliver for our clients in the future.
So how is the internet changing?
1. Our ability to access the internet is becoming ubiquitous
The most amazing thing about the internet is arguably not the content, but the creation of the infrastructure that carries it. Millions of interconnected computers, millions of miles of cable to carry data between them, and all the protocols and hardware that direct traffic from one place to another. This process hasn’t stopped yet, and being ‘online’ is becoming a more and more ubiquitous experience. The data on the internet is available through many channels and in many locations.
2. We are increasingly using web-based services, not web-based content
More and more we are basing our internet usage around key services and applications, such as Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and Spotify. Users are blending these services together to create their own online experience: Facebook for social life, LinkedIn for professional life, Delicious for bookmarks, Remember the Milk for tasks, Spotify for music. These services feed information to us, rather than us having to seek it out, which makes our online life more integrated with our offline life.
Some of these services are tied to a single device, but the majority are available wherever you are, and it is this portability that makes them so useful. For example, Netflix allows you to watch movies online, but not just through your PC, you can access them on your Xbox, PS3, Wii, iPad and internet-enabled TV or Blu-ray player as well.
3. The content available on the web is changing
In 1990, most traffic on the web was based around FTP (File Transfer Protocol), which took up 57% of the available bandwidth, but twenty years later video owns 51% of this bandwidth. Standard web-based traffic such as web pages and other downloads is now only 23%, down from approximately 55% in 2000. Video is the big growth area and the available content is growing rapidly. The ability to access this video-based content is also growing, with users no longer restricted to their PC. Cisco’s latest forecasts see 66% of mobile data usage being video-based by 2014 (see Figure 2 here)
What do these changes mean for those of us in the business of creating content?
It’s important that we aren’t overly rigid in our approach to creating content; we mustn’t think in terms of devices. Today we are producing mobile apps and web-based sites to deliver our services, but in a few years’ time we may be looking at a completely different landscape where it is impossible to know exactly where and how our content is being viewed. Some of these changes – Internet TV for example – may be game-changing as the distinction between online and broadcast blurs even further.
In some cases, we may well be faced with the decision to concentrate on particular devices and channels at the expense of audience numbers, or to take a more general and less tailored approach that can be viewed across the widest spectrum.
Regardless of which route we take, the ability to deliver a consistent experience across all channels is paramount, and our ability as an industry to understand the options and deliver this consistency will be crucial.