“What will users think of next?” is how the recent report Broadband: What’s All the Fuss About? concludes. Interesting choice of words and keen observation in terms of how they ended the report that began by asking the central question “Why does a high-speed connection at home matter”?
Excerpt from the Pew Internet report:
As the Pew Internet Project first pointed out in 2002 in The Broadband Difference, broadband users are far more likely than dial-up internet users to create or post content to the internet. This means having a blog, posting photos online, or contributing to chat-rooms. Back then, when just 12% of adults had broadband at home, it was possible to imagine that the user-generated content phenomenon was mainly an artifact of early adopters.
Some modest fraction of leading edge users would demand bandwidth to post content online and that would be about it. User-generated content did not, however, stop with early adopters. As home broadband adoption grew, posting and creating content for the internet became more widespread. The Pew Internet Project reported in a 2006 survey that 44% of home broadband users had done at least one of the following activities that involve user-generated content: having one’s own blog or webpage, working on group blogs or webpages, remixing digital content and re-posting it online, or sharing something online created by the user (i.e., artwork, photos, stories, or videos).
Let’s look at that figure again – “44% of home broadband users” have created, shared or been otherwise involved in active participation within the medium. This is not simply clicking on a banner, forwarding an email or using Google to search, it is much much more. And, it is not just young people as “31% of those over age 50 with a broadband connection at home had engaged in at least one of these activities.” It is quite amazing and, in the words of The Carpenters, “We’ve only just begun“.
Teaching the Canadian Marketing Association‘s eMarketing Professional Certificate Course, I led the first session of the course by discussing the growth in broadband and what it means for us as marketers and as users. Last week we took a look at Social Media, Conversations, Communities, Content. The tough part in teaching last week’s session was simply that there was not enough time to cover all of the information. This area is growing daily and it gets more and more exciting to work in. (Don’t worry, we have ten more sessions to address it further).
It made me think about one of the topics we discussed: Online Virtual Worlds. We used Second Life as a point of reference and the general tone (say about 75% of the class) was still a bit dismissive of the idea that it was anything to pay attention to. Still for nerds who don’t have a first life and a novelty with no bottom-line for business applications.
While I tend to look at Second Life pragmatically and see it for what it represents, not what it is necessarily today, we need look no further than the Pew Study to validate that the digital experience is shaping up to be more rich, immersive and rewarding than we could ever have imagined. And that is the whole point really, that we need to re-imagine what is possible and prevent ourselves from putting limits on where things will go. It is quite evident this train is not slowing down anytime soon.