Our lives continue to change right before our eyes.
And that’s why we partnered with Arbitron last year to create “Goin’ Mobile,” an ethnographic study about smartphone usage. As the population rapidly gravitates to these devices, sociologists and psychologists will continue to grapple with the effects these gadgets have on our lives, and why we do the things we do.
One such activity is what I call ESU – or “Excessive Smartphone Use.” You see it all the time, and it was recently the topic of a CNN Health web article.
They cited a study in a journal called “Personal and Ubiquitous Computing” that tracked the "checking" habits of smartphone users. The research showed that respondents checked their phones on average of 34 times a day. Most of these “checks” lasted under 30 seconds and typically had a 10 minute separation.
Many of the people that we observed in “Goin’ Mobile" checked their phones more often than that. Andrew (pictured here), an IT professional in Baltimore, gave us a live demo of ESU while scarfing down a sandwich at Quiznos. His smartphone checks (email, Facebook, Foursquare) were more like every 90 seconds. He could not put his iPhone down for more than a bite or two.
A neuroscientist at UCSF, Loren Frank, believes the motivation behind this is two-fold:
1. The brain enjoys receiving an email. It signifies something new.
2. An email is a symbol that you’re important.
I would add these reasons to that list that go beyond receiving email on smartphones:
3. Smartphone owners have a strong desire to be in touch and connected.
4. They are becoming accustomed to being interrupted. A text, email, or push alert almost always gets their attention no matter what else they're doing.
5. The smartphone is becoming the center of their communication universe. Everything they value in life – pictures, contacts, Facebook, email, news and entertainment – is now in their pockets, purses, or hands.
Back just a decade or so, radios were everywhere, and thus, every station was theoretically “there.” As consumers moved from clock radios to car radios to desktop radios at work to Walkmans or transistor radios, your station always had a solid chance of getting cumed.
In a recent study, Mark Ramsey took a look at consumers and smartphones. He made some convincing points about the need for radio apps to be more than just a Walkman and for the need for apps to “solve problems” for consumers. Mark also noted that many stations still don’t have an app, and of the ones that do, promotion and marketing for them is spotty at best.
We see some of the same things from a jacAPPS perspective, but with a few twists.
First, this space is so hot that broadcasters should run, not walk, to develop a mobile strategy and get their brands on iPhones and Android devices.
Second, your individual brand is key. Just as you would want your station’s logo in an ad or on the back of a T-shirt for a charity event – rather than your parent company’s – the iHeartRadio initiative is good for Clear Channel, but perhaps less good for their individual stations. Great branding means having your station's app on smartphone desktops right alongside Facebook, Pandora, and Google Maps.
Third, you can easily research the functions and features that your audience values in apps. This is why you have a database. Before you simply throw an app in the store, take the time to understand how your audience will use and value it.
Habit played a major role in radio listening over many decades. Consumers easily fell into daily usage patterns that played to radio’s strengths. Today, that ubiquity and obsessive habitual behavior gravitating to smartphones. They are the only device we own that is always with us and always “on.” Radio needs to tap into the ESU that is so much a part of the way that consumers use these gadgets. As programmers once focused on getting their stations on pushbutton presets in the '60s and '70s, smartphone desktops are the gateways today.