FT Forecasts 60% Readership Mobile by 2020 – Why They Are Wrong

Ronan Shields, New Media Age’s tireless correspondent, writes today that the FT are forecasting that 60% of their readership will be via mobile by 2020. However, I believe that they’re almost certainly wrong about this.

What, is Buckley getting cold feet about the rise and rise of mobile? No, not at all – they’re under-estimating the rate of change. I’ll explain my reasoning below, but firstly, congrats to the FT for thinking big and being one of the first publishers to appreciate that there’s a major change going on right now. From a management point of view, there’s no difference between assuming 60% in a few years or 100% – you’re still going to make mobile your Number One Priority.

If you’ve been to one of my speeches or read some of my posts recently, you’ll know that I (and many others) believe that we’re living in exponential times for technology. Exponential simply means that something doubles in a given period.

It was recently announced that the mobile web now accounts for just over 10% of all global web browsing. That has doubled since 2010 – actually, it has more than doubled as it was a mere 3.81% back then. There’s another report here, that confirms pretty much the same thing – mobile web usage has doubled every year since 2009.

If you buy into this theory then (and I do, barring a major catastrophic event), the growth will be something like this:

2012 – 10%
2013 – 20%
2014 – 40%
2015 – 80%

You can do the maths yourself if the real rate is eighteen months – or even two years, but you can see that the FT are being too conservative whatever happens. By 2016 or 2018 at the latest the mobile web will be the platform that matters. It’s not going to be “game over” for PC browsing at that point. There will be some quaint and old-fashioned retroistas. But for most people, most of the time, it’s all going to be about mobile.

For the sceptics among you, I’d suggest you might have felt the same way if I’d written that the mobile web would be this big today. It’s hard to understand exponential trends, as they’re counter-intuitive and we’re hard-wired to understand linear growth, not this ridiculously impossible magic stuff.

If there are any publishers out there yet to make the leap into mobile – you’re rapidly running out of time now.

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