Mobile Youth is a fundamentally flawed strategy!

A recent article in the Times said

The growth of mobile internet use, by comparison, remains sluggish. More than half of respondents said that they never browsed the internet, and only 8 per cent said that they used it once a week or more. When it came to daily use, the figure dropped to 1 per cent. (Of the more than 7,000 12 to 24-year-olds surveyed by Forrester Research,)

I believe that : Focussing on Mobile Youth is a fundamentally flawed strategy!

Before you start to throw reports and stats at me pointing otherwise, think of this – why don’t we have IPTV Youth or (horror) Fixed line youth?

Sounds stupid does it not?

Youth will always use technology to communicate! (Operative word is to communicate)

I have always believed that ‘mobile’ is an incredibly arrogant industry – we think we are somehow unique and in some way carve an ecosystem radically different from the Web. (Again – show me a report on the potential of Fixed Line Youth if you think that the Mobile industry is not arrogant!)

We got into this mindset because we saw consumers in Japan accessing the Mobile Web and then kids in Scandinavia adopting text messaging

But, as I said in my 3GSM presentation on Mobile Web 2.0, there is a battle for eyeballs. MySpace is a competitor to the ‘Ringtones’ – and at the moment, the Youth are going MySpace. MySpace and their ilk of course are not technologies but mechanisms for communication – same as Text messaging.

Which brings me to my point that ‘Mobile’ Youth is not a relevant concept

Now coming to the Forrester report.

That report is confusing terminology

a) Mobile Internet is not the same as ‘Mobile Web’ – I think from the references they are talking of the ‘Mobile Web’ when they are saying

More than half of respondents said that they never browsed the internet, and only 8 per cent said that they used it once a week or more. When it came to daily use, the figure dropped to 1 per cent.

The Operative word is ‘browsing’ i.e. Mobile Internet would be any IP based Mobile device (not just Mobile browsing)

b) The critical assumption in this report is: ‘The Youth are not adopting the Mobile Web’ - but That does NOT mean the Mobile Web is itself not taking off i.e. others (non youth) are driving the adoption of the Mobile Web

The Mobile Web (using my terminology as above) is alive and well and growing very fast. Increasingly, with browsers supporting Web standards like JavaScript and fixed rate pricing, the Mobile Web will grow.

Both Admob and screentonic have announced a billion ad impressions on the Mobile Web. So, the evidence of the growth of Mobile Web is there.

There is no evidence of Youth adopting the Mobile Web in the West .. but like I said .. that does not matter either way .. Because the Mobile Web is aligning to the Web and the Web is for everybody!! (In that sense, I agree with the Forrester report i.e. Youth are not adopting the Mobile Web)

So, like the Youth, let us grow up as an industry and not be defined by the past

At 3GSM, I spoke to a major Operator who said that their plans are now for ‘everyone’ i.e. services which can be used across the board. That’s right! That’s more money for the Operator. Youth have little or no money! So, expect to see Operators take up more holistic services.

Speaking of Operators – Operators have a great role to play here – as the Web and the Mobile Web become convergent, Operators can play a big role through technologies like IMS (that’s a major area of my thinking at the moment i.e. the synergies between Mobile Web 2.0 and technologies like IMS). If you have synergies between Mobile Web 2.0(User generated content, Mobile Web and network technologies like IMS), please email me at ajit.jaokar at

Mobile Youth, like I said, is irrelevant in the larger scheme of things and focussing on Mobile Youth means foregoing the larger revenue streams from the entire population


  1. Greg says:

    I have some thoughts and would appreciate your reflections – to these tentative declarations.
    Mobile phones use backhaul – all the internet they need.
    Youth is not interested in static content, but the real time photo,video, and text messaging so easy for most low to mid range phones and networks now. Email is still the killer app after voice, and all the subscriber services that can pipe through email.
    I think these are the same appeal to all demographics, and HCI must improve on the phone, older folks need bigger displays, and text input, and once these are in the phones, and the phone net is up to it, phone users will have access and open to more home office style apps.
    Japan is the example, I remember when they could send video over SMS packets, and now under Dococmo with a complete and well rolled multimedia network – most users don’t need PC’s.
    Many of them do everything with the phone – even post to myspace….