We can all learn a lot from the digital decade of the twenty-ohs (as Josh Bernoff at Forrester Research calls it). Bernoff shared his team's insights in a recent blog I found worthy of a re-cap:
We have all been part of a transformational decade - the digital decade of the 2000s. Our obsession with the latest product from Google or Apple often clouded our recognition of the long-term effects of the decade's events. We all know where we are now. But many of us have forgotten where we were, and just how dramatically things changed in 10 short years.
In 2001, Bill Gates called this new decade "The Digital Decade." He was so right.
* When the last decade began, there were 2.6 million broadband households in the US, one out of every 40 homes. Now there are 80 million, or two thirds of the population. Broadband has gone from rare to ubiquitous.
* Starting from zero, digital video recorders reached 31 million homes and HDTV reached 51 million. Together with online video and video on-demand, these gadgets completely transformed the television experience.
* Mobile phones subscriptions are now 270 million, out of 307 million US adults. (For a comparison, mobile phones were in 51 million households at the start of the decade, and back then having more than one phone per household was unusual.) In 1999 phones were phones. Now they are iPhones, Blackberries, and Androids -- computers and Internet access devices.
* Portable digital music players have reached 76% of all US households. At the start of the decade, there were none, because the iPod had yet to be introduced. Mark Mulligan called it "The Decade That Music Forgot."
* And finally, it's worth commenting that Google just celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. In 1999, most of us hadn't even heard of it. And forget social technologies -- in 1999, a few people were talking in chat forums - and that was it.
As we look back on all this from the perspective of media and marketing, it's clear that consumers lead, media stumbles along behind, and marketers follow the media.
In 2009, consumers spent 34% of their media time online. As a result, digital marketing spending went from $6.2 billion in 1999 to $25.6 billion, or 12% of all marketing spending, in 2009. But marketers are still spending most of their energy and dollars on television, newspapers, and radio. (And you thought old media was dead!)
Within those industries, spending shifts much slower than behavior. Newspaper websites still bring in far less revenue than ads in printed editions. Video on-demand (VOD) and online video ad models are still only under construction.
What can we learn from the last decade?
First, consumers (we) move quickly, models move slowly, and marketing moves conservatively. When you see a technology shifting, that's the time to closely observe the models behind it. It will take years for them to take hold, and in those years, we all have a chance to learn. That's when marketing professionals need to experiment and figure out how things work, because that's when it's cheap and the competition is hanging back. Because when transformation happens -- and it will -- the best advantage is knowledge.
2010 passes the Advantage to marketers
According to Bernoff (and many others), the twenty-oh's were the digital decade for consumers. They predict that the twenty-teens will be the digital decade for marketers - meaning business is catching up. Being a savvy consumer has never been more important. Wouldn't you agree?