I’ve often said that mobile media today is where the American television industry was in the 60s. After WWII, American’s started buying televisions en masse. In 1942, there were 5000 televisions in American homes. By 1953, there were 20 million. That explosion is not dissimilar to the smartphone boom over the last 12 years. Decreased costs drove much of this. From Wikipedia:
Television usage in the western world skyrocketed after World War II with the lifting of the manufacturing freeze, war-related technological advances, the drop in television prices caused by mass production, increased leisure time, and additional disposable income.
It wasn’t until the 60s that the cable and satellite television started emerging:
The development of cable television and satellite television in the 1970s allowed for more channels and encouraged businessmen to target programming toward specific audiences. It also enabled the rise of subscription television channels, such as Home Box Office (HBO) and Showtime in the U.S., and Sky Television in the U.K.
It took a while before the media industry caught up to the fact that television was a mainstream entertainment habit with very unique constraints, and that content needed to fit those constraints. This led to innovation like the 22 minute format with 8 minutes for advertising:
[The 22 minute format is] a concept that’s existed on network television since the 1950s, when televisions became a staple in the modern American home and advertisements were built into television’s DNA. I Love Lucy (1951–57) remains a quintessential sitcom of American television history, and its episodes were in that 23-to-27-minute range, supplemented by sponsored programming. Other shows — both half-hour and hour-long programs — existed within a similar framework, when networks first sold advertising spots alongside its programs in the 1960s. For sitcoms like The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–66) and Sanford and Son (1972–77), 22 to 24 minutes was par for the course. TV’s most legendary sitcoms of the past few decades — Cheers, Seinfeld, Frasier, Friends, the American version of The Office — also created within the strictures of this framework […] There’s a formula to 22-minute episodes that, perhaps in part because we’ve been trained as viewers, produces extremely pleasing, comforting results.
Mobile is in the same place. In this first decade since the smartphone has emerged, it’s become the biggest channel across all media products - gaming, video, reading, music, and more.
But user entertainment habits on mobile are very different. More importantly, the capability of a mobile device allows for so much more than what existing content providers create. Essentially, mobile devices are highly underleveraged in terms of our entertainment options. There are many new studios and products that are changing this, and it’s amazing to see the change happening so quickly.