In late 2012, smartphones, tablets and e-readers were scrambling over one another to make it into Santa's sack during the Christmas period (take Amazon's Kindle Fire price reduction to just £99, for example). But just how strong was the desire for these devices among young people, and how many were lucky enough to get the mobile tech they asked for? Crowd DNA's Laura Jones explores some new data on the subject.

Crowd DNA knows all too well that youths are a discerning bunch – particularly hard to please, acutely aware of what's hot and what's not, and determined to be accepted by their peers. Our experience in youth research tells us that despite their differences (and believe us, there are many, from Boy Racers to Fan Girls, Hipsters to Trackies – see our youth tribes work here), there's one thing that unites them, regardless of age, tribal belonging or background. The one thing all youths have in common is their insatiable desire for technology.

A mobile device, be it smartphone or tablet, equips them with the ability to remain constantly in touch with their friends, and provides typically unregulated access to the online world (it's more difficult for parents to keep track of their children's online activity on a smartphone, compared with a laptop or PC). As such, transportable technology is social currency for youths, and possessing the latest mobile device is essential.

It's not surprising, then, that nearly half of 11-24 year olds (46%) asked for mobile tech for Christmas in 2012. Tablets were marginally the most requested, with over a quarter of young people adding these to their Christmas lists (26%). Smartphones followed closely (24%), while e-readers were largely ignored (only 4% asked for one of these).

Younger youths were most likely of all to pester their families to buy them a mobile device (54% of them asked for a piece of mobile tech). For this group, tablets were notably more lusted after than smartphones (31% of 11-15s begged for a tablet, while 26% pleaded for a smartphone).

While simply owning a tablet and smartphone is most important, brand is also key among this savvy lot, and they certainly aim high. Apple is the most desired brand overall (51% of youths asking for a tablet want an iPad specifically, and 55% of youths asking for a smartphone want an iPhone), while second place for tablet goes to Amazon (17% would settle for a Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD), and Samsung takes silver for smartphones (20% of youths wanting a smartphone asked for a Samsung Galaxy SIII or a Samsung Note II).

The success rate of youths in their quest to get hold of mobile tech is quite staggering – 78% of those petitioning for a mobile device at Christmas were successful, unwrapping a shiny new smartphone, tablet or e-reader on Christmas Day (and while it may not always have been exactly the tech or brand they asked for, it's clear that pester power is effective!).

The Christmas flurry highlights the rising penetration of smartphones and tablets among 11-24 year olds; also that it's imperative for content providers and advertisers to develop and activate strategies to react to this unstoppable trend. If Christmas 2012 was a seismic one for mobile devices and youth, 2013 is sure to take things to a whole new level.


Yahoo! Livestand

With Yahoo! announcing the imminent launch of its Livestand system in the US, and confirming the European launch for early 2012, it will be interesting to see the impact it has on the publishing industry. It already has the backing of two titles in the US (Forbes and Surf magazine) and similar support is being touted for Europe. But is there room for another player in the tablet publishing market and, if so, what kind of changes will it inspire?

For publishers, it may well come as welcome news, especially considering the recent ‘issues’ with Apple’s publishing apps. The prospect of publishers being forced to remove the in-app subscription mechanic has caused many to reconsider the best business model for tablet publication.

The current situation involves publishers writing two separate issues; one Android and one Apple. This is a time consuming gripe for many of the bigger titles and often proves a major obstacle for smaller titles, who end up having to choose between platforms. It has also led many smaller titles, and even some bigger titles, to hold back from launching a tablet app until they can be more certain of which channel to adopt.

So how could Yahoo!’s Livestand – already being pitched as a ‘game changer’ - readdress the balance? While details of the exact offering are still sketchy we can think of some pretty big changes that could come about as a result of its launch.   

One of the big points is that it will be coded in HTML5 – the new multimedia centric coding for the internet – promising the end user a richer, more integrated web browsing experience without the need for tertiary plug ins like Flash. This opens numerous benefits in terms of a more immersive experience with the title, including the potential to support articles/issues with video and audio. But this also proves a key question for publishers in how far should they go into the realm of the multimedia.   

Added to this is the potential for Livestand users to choose the media they receive, in terms of the publication, the article/author and potentially even the deliverable. This makes Livestand sound like many of the current aggregator apps’ bigger, faster, ‘roided up brother, which could well see a more modular aspect to publishing as a result, where titles will have to provide a strong, instantly recognisable voice/presence to hook their audiences to.

So, there are two key benefits for the consumer. However, what about business? Should publishers be rubbing their hands or holding their heads? It could seem that Yahoo! is arriving late for the party, if it were not for one key aspect - cross platform functionality. The need to create two separate issues is no longer a hurdle to overcome; in fact titles can now move seamlessly from laptop to mobile to tablet, which could potentially see smaller publishers, titles and as yet uncertain bigger titles developing a multimedia publishing product. The market place could become considerably more crowded and understanding who to target and how to target them will be a key challenge for existing titles looking to consolidate their position, as well as new titles looking to make an entrance.   

In addition to this is the promise of a faster and easier programming process behind the scenes, ensuring that the focus can be on what to deliver, rather than how to deliver it (a fact that will not go unnoticed by advertisers). The emphasis will become less about crowbarring current content into a workable format – much less about making it work and more about delivering a truly integrated brand experience to the consumer.

So, despite the relatively patchy information out there, there are some key developments that we could see coming into play on the back of Livestand. From a business point of view it offers a more level playing field with big and small titles alike able to offer electronic versions. The reader experience will also change  – where readers will be able to effortlessly access visual and audio content regardless of the platform they happen to have access to at that time. Finally the increasing level of choice offered to readers and publishers will mean that brands and titles will have to work harder to stand out.

And there could yet be more strategic questions to be addressed by publishers, including:

  • Should titles consider delivering a modular offer and what are the ramifications of doing so?
  • How can brand values be delivered and reinforced via this new channel?
  • How to best meet the opportunity of launching a cross platform electronic version of the title – what are the must haves when turning electric?
  • How can those already delivering electronic issues defend their position and what are their key brand leverage points?  
  • To what extent will Livestand turn magazine publishers even further into multimedia content providers?
  • What are the implications of HTML5 – how far should publishers push the multimedia tools on offer?

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Dual Screen Behaviour

We’ve been banging on about the dual screen trend since last summer, when we did some research for ITV looking at the behaviour in relation to football fans.

We thought we'd head back out to do some voxpops and get a read on the current state of play; asking consumers about their online/social behaviour while watching TV.

In addition to backing up some of our previous research we learnt that consumers are now far more aware of this trend, and with a good grasp on its potential they’re excited about the future of broadcasting with a more ‘social’ angle.

Ultimately, TV has the ability to fuel online conversations in more ways than ever before, and consumers are ready and waiting for new innovations to engage with their favourite shows.

Over to the broadcasters, then…