Time to pause, rest our eyes, take stock of dizzying mobile change


Do you at times suffer from motion-induced blindness? I’ve seen it become quite an epidemic within the media industry, caused by the mobile revolution and the accelerating speed of innovation and disruption.

Traditionally, motion-induced blindness occurs when you are driving at high speed, gazing on the road ahead. After a while, you won’t see another car or a bicycle, animal, or person crossing your path.

Pilots in the armed forces are taught about motion-induced blindness during training, because it happens faster at high speeds. They are taught to look alternately at the horizon and the instrument panel. A pilot must continually pivot the head and keep the eyes moving.

If you fix the gaze on an object while speeding, your peripheral vision goes blind.

If you click on the picture above, you’ll find a demonstration similar to the ones used to train pilots. If you fixate on the dot in the center of the picture (don’t forget to click on it, otherwise it won’t move!) for more than a few seconds, the different objects will disappear and reappear at random.  

Likewise, I think a kind of media motion-induced blindness is afflicting most news media executives, who are constantly trying to go faster to keep up with the pace of change.

Suddenly – out of nowhere – they’re faced with new competition coming at them from all sides. “Oh my God! Where did that come from!?” they gasp. (I often find myself saying “OMG!” after learning how rapidly the world is changing.)

As with fighter pilots, the only way to beat media motion-induced blindness is to take your eyes off the immediate road ahead of you, pivot your head, and scan the landscape on both sides to avoid unpleasant surprises.

That way you get some perspective on the pace of change and the complexity of the greater scope.

What better time to do it than now, when New Year’s is approaching? To help you reflect on the past year and the year ahead, I’ve put together the Oh-My-God Reality Check for 2013 – a kind of speedometer to measure the pace of change and disruption.

  • OMG! 150 times a day – and no sex involved: An average smartphone user looks at his or her device 150 times per day – or more. That is nearly once every 6 minutes during the time you’re awake. I can’t forget the quote from The Guardian, from a teenager: “I’d rather give up, like, a kidney than my phone.”

    Still, mobile gets less than 2% of advertising revenues.

    The question is: How fast will money follow consumers?

  • OMG! The end of an empire. In 2007, when the iPhone was introduced, Nokia had close to 40% of the mobile phone market. Nokia still ruled.

    In September 2013, Nokia’s mobile phone business was sold to Microsoft for €3.79 billion – pocket money for Microsoft, which also paid another €1.65 billion to license patents from the Finnish company.

    So, some five years after ruling the world, Nokia is out of the mobile phone business.

    The question is: If that empire could fall so quickly, what other thrones are up for grabs?

  • OMG! The mobile majority has already arrived. “By the end of 2013, there will be more mobile Internet users than fixed Internet users,” said Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg at Mobile World Congress this year.

    Only a few years after the mobile revolution commenced, a majority of Internet users are mobile. And they’re rapidly getting smarter.

    “By the end of 2013, more than 50% of phone shipments will be smartphones,” Vestberg also said.

    The question is: Are you prepared to treat your desktop Web as a mature business?

  • OMG! Even Google underestimated the speed of change. When Google in February 2010 announced its then-sensational new strategy – mobile first – CEO Eric Schmidt predicted that in 2013, smartphones would outsell PCs. Eight months (!) later, in the fourth quarter of 2010, smartphones outsold PCs.

    This year – in the fourth quarter, according to IDC – tablets outsold desktop and laptop PCs combined! Think of it: When Eric Schmidt made the prediction about smartphones at the Mobile World Congress in 2010, Apple had just launched the first iPad. Now, in just three years, even tablets are outselling PCs.

    The question is: If even Google underestimates the speed of change, how do you foresee the development of your business?

  • OMG! A retailer is better at selling ads than newspapers. This year, if you look at the estimated figures, Amazon will have more advertising revenues than the entire New York Times Co., print and digital included.

    In two years, Amazon has doubled its net ad revenues, from US$419 million in 2011 to US$835 million estimated for this year. In 2012, the Times had a total of US$883 million from print and digital advertising, but both categories are declining.

    Think of it: In the old world, a retailer would come to a newspaper to buy ads. In the new world, a retailer is now selling more ads than The New York Times, which has been in the business since 1851.

    The question is: If a retailer can sell your ads, what new things could you sell instead?

  • OMG! Fire sale on newspapers. Not only does Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, sell more ads than The New York Times – he now has his own newspaper. In October, Bezos completed the purchase of The Washington Post for a mere US$250 million, which, in the tradition of Amazon, must be considered a very competitive price.

    But even cheaper was the price John Henry – owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club, among other sports entities – paid for the Boston Globe. Henry paid US$70 million for the newspaper, which The New York Times bought in 1992 for … US$ 1.1 billion!

    News analyst and author Ken Doctor estimates that newspapers are worth a tenth of what they were 10 years ago.

    The question is: Can you see the opportunities in news media that these entrepreneurs and investors obviously see?

These are just a few of my OMG! moments to get some perspective on how the world is changing. I bet you can think of other, even better ones.

The important thing is to pivot your head and keep the eyes moving to get a new perspective and avoid media motion-induced blindness. Otherwise, you might not realise if you’re speeding on the road to heaven or hell.

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