PdF: Forget the Internet, Think Mobile

Mobile technology, while still in its infancy, has gone from simply distributing horoscopes and ring tones to helping political and social justice movements quickly alert and even engage millions of people.
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Web 1.0 was static but made more information available to the masses.

Web 2.0 was interactive and allowed greater participation and more people to contribute.

The next stage of revolution is mobile. It's here and ready for you... are you ready for it?

Mobile technology, while still in its infancy, has gone from simply distributing horoscopes and ring tones to helping political and social justice movements quickly alert and even engage millions of people faster and in ways never before possible in the matter of a few short years. No other device has had the ability to reach individuals where ever they are at -- to instantly inform them of breaking political scandals, changes in voting locations, national emergency warnings, or other real time news alerts. It's the clarion call of the fire alarm that can now be segmented and directed to unique groups of the public to better organize. Whether the group is dissenting or distributing aid... the alert is transmitted!

Just as the printing press created the very first example of mass media and set the stage for the birth of the modern middle class and participatory democracy. Just as email and the Internet made turned small donors and activists into the engine of movements that could stand up to once unstoppable power and influence of corporate dollars.

So, too, will mobile change how we communicate and permanently alter the shape of all politics to come. Change is coming quickly and the old tools of politics are becoming obsolete right before our eyes.

The balkanization of not just new media, but all media, has been increasing. This also means an increasing number of ways to reach out to supporters and potential supporters, but also a decline in the usefulness of mediums of old media and Web 1.0 and 2.0 for reaching them.

Just as the variety provided by cable made broadcast television less valuable and just as TiVo, Netflix, and Hulu have made all television advertising more problematic, the massive overload of email has triggered the use of filters to make all email less effective - whether the filter is administered by the email provider or by just hitting the 'delete' key.

And do not think you are immune to this, simply because you have convinced someone to opt-in to their emails. After all, which of us has not deleted from organizations we support?

Most of us have even deleted emails from family and friends, assuming they are probably just jokes, inspirational messages, or even spam from a malicious botnet on our computer.

However, there is one tool that, for the time being, cuts through the filter: your mobile phone.
First of all, if you have not read the Pew study on Teens, Cell Phones, and Texting, then you should, because it very clearly lays out the future of political communications. Not only do 54% of all teens text daily, but among 17 year olds -- those kids just one birthday from becoming the next generation of eligible voters -- 77% text on a daily basis.

Before cable, the nightly news was the one sure way to reach virtually every American. Common wisdom now says no method can cut through media clutter the way the NBC, CBS, and ABC could back when the Beatles touched down at JFK airport in 1964.

But that is not exactly true.

Just as we could once be counted upon to gather around the television every evening to watch the evening news, you can now count on us to keep our mobile devices with us -- not just for a couple hours every evening, but upwards of 18 hours a day.

Obama for America used late night text messages to update supporters on the breaking results of state primaries. But if many of us were already in bed, how could this have worked? Because we not only keep our mobile phones with us during almost every waking hour, we also sleep within arm's reach of them, so when the texts went out, hundreds of thousands of voters rolled towards their bedside table to read the message.

There is almost no situation where it is not handy. Even in movies or at worship, when we are supposed to have them turned off, they are secretly on vibrate or at least in silent mode, when we can still see the tell-tale glow that alerts us of new messages.

And the mobile revolution will only grow in strength as smart phones become the norm. Your mobile device, not your computer, will be where you go to watch videos and surf the web.

In fact, if you have a smart phone, you might be reading this on the Huff Post app and you could be getting your news about the Obama administration from the White House app. And even if you do not have those apps, there is a good chance that you or someone you know uses Yelp, Loopt, and FourSquare on a smart phone to find out where to eat, drink, and socialize.

Strictly speaking, neither mobile nor any other new media will "fix" politics, but what mobile will do is provide the necessary tools -- the interaction and back and forth flows of communication -- to create positive change.

Text messaging done right is not just another form of email and it is not just a way to blast out your Tweets to people's phones. The best text messaging campaigns are not passive -- they demand a response from the reader. They ask you for your thoughts, answer questions, and force you to participate in democracy. They act in concordance with offline grassroots activism, volunteerism, and calls to mobilize. Mobile is more than just "new media." It is GOTV and field. It is comm. It is fundraising. And it is revolutionizing global politics.

Direct mail goes directly into the trash. Print editions of newspapers are struggling to find a new model for economic viability. Television and radio ratings are down. Even as the use of email has penetrated every level of society and is still the dominate driver of fundraising today...open and click through rates for email are at depressingly low levels.

In the midst of all these declines, text messages and push notifications boast an open rate of nearly 100% and an immediacy that it shares with no other form of mass communication.

The mobile revolution is here and the next generation has already signed up. The question is: are you still trying to reach them with the tools of the previous generation?

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