Cut the cord they say. Just stream everything. Join Netflix. Don’t buy music, just listen to it from iTunes Radio, Pandora of Spotify. Move on to the new revolution of gaming, where platforms like the XBOX One require an always on connection so you can download content…on demand.
In theory this sounds amazing. And the geek in me relishes that promise. As a digital marketer and dad, I’m always connected. It’s part of the lifestyle. This morning, I was checking emails, while both kids were streaming Netflix. There were no hiccups. No congestion. No buffering. Everything just worked. Then again, I was in Minnesota, not at home.
We recently moved back to Chicago. It’s a big city, right? We bought a condo. Our building is awesome. It’s in a fantastic location. It has indoor parking (a rarity in Chicago). The combination of hardwood floors, high ceilings, big windows and awesome views make for the perfect new home. Well, not perfect. Almost perfect. There’s 1 big problem. Get your small violin and kleenex box out. The problem…the bones of the building are a bit old and we’re stuck with DSL. At present, there’s a “Cable Committee” (GIANT eye roll) investigating alternatives, because I’m not the only one feeling stuck in 1997.
So you might say, well, what’s so bad about DSL? Great question, glad you asked. Before I answer, let me take a step back and provide some context. My first connection to the web was via AOL 2.0 on a 28.8 modem. We graduated to a 36.6 and we were blazing! When I left home and went to college I had my first taste of a T1/T3 setup. The entire University of Minnesota was wired for speed! Of course, these were the days when infrastructure outpaced demand. Well, until Napster, Grokster and Limewire appeared. As sharing networks like that gained traction we had finally had a situation where demand/usage matched the speed of the infrastructure. I’ve always been pretty fortunate when it comes to internet speed. Be it Omaha, Minneapolis or most recently, Camden, NJ, the pipe has been wide. At our last place in Camden, we were operating on a 100mbps connection. That’s just ridiculous. More ridiculous, we paid less than $60 a month for that. Today, we get about 12mbps at a cost of nearly $75 a month. Think about that…1/9 the speed for 25% more cost. How does that make sense? It doesn’t, but that’s a topic for another day.
For the past month, we’ve been living the DSL life. Is 12mbps slow? Is it really that bad? Well, based on the current global speed data, that puts us in the company of Aruba, Mexico, Kazakstan and Vietnam. For even more context, that’s just above Guam, Brazil and Qatar, but well below Uruguay, Ukraine and Slovenia. The United States speed average is 21mbps.
Ok, so now I’m off the soapbox. The 460 words above were equal parts rant and context. Similar to my experiment a few years back, when I deleted by Facebook account, at about day 3 of living with DSL, I started to ask myself, how can the experience make me a better and more informed marketer. There are 4 things I’ve taken away from the experience:
- We’re years away from a truly connected home that relies on the cloud. It’s not desire. It’s not interest. It’s not consumer spend. It’s something basic: infrastructure. I wrote on the subject of infrastructure strangling mobile’s growth in 2009. It did. It has. And, the recent changes to net neutrality are keeping mobile from becoming dominant. Companies should be “designing” heir experiences to a lower common denominator. Microsoft is the biggest culprit here. The XBOX One was designed as an always on experience. It’s constantly checking for updates and downloads. This was annoying on the 100mbps pipe in NJ. It was damn near catastrophic in the new place. I purchased a new game. Inserted the disc. Instead of playing immediately, it needed to download an update. That update took almost an hour. By that point, I didn’t even want to play. I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling. As we think about new experiences to create for consumers, a major filter for me will now be, are we designing it to the right lowest common user?
- I’ve become less connected and more selective in what I do on the web. If you’re crippled by speed you have to adjust and change your behavior. For example, I’m back to a behavior I had in the mid 90s. I now setup all my updates before I go to bed and let them do their thing while I sleep. Before, I would have multi-tasked and done these types of things while I was also streaming a Netflix movie, after dinner. Speaking of Netflix, I haven’t watched 1 single thing. The experience is simply far too compromised. We need to create experiences that inspire a consumer to choose interacting with us, than all the other things they could do on the web. That’s a high bar.
- I’m thankful I never got rid of, nor did I stop investing in “analog” content formats. The 50,000 songs I have on my computer enable me to not rely on streaming Spotify. The 100 or so DVDs I own mean I’m not stuck waiting and waiting and waiting for Netflix, HBO GO or Hulu+ content. We think the world is digital and that digital provides a benefit over analog. Often times this is true. But, we need to consider that sometimes analog is faster, easier and better. My favorite example is list creating. No matter how cool a list making app is, it’s rarely faster or easier to use than a pen and a piece of paper. That’s what we’re up against, every day.
- The future is clearly mobile. I’ve used my cell phone or iPad, both on Verizon, as hot spots, more in the last 4 weeks than I ever have…combined. Seriously. As I looked into options to move off of DSL, the only consistent and real option was to use a LTE whole home device. I think it’s likely, I’m going to head in that direction. With that in mind, the consumption of content will happen more and more, away from home. In my role, it reinforces the need to make sure content is liquid, linked and loved.
This post wasn’t written to make you feel sorry for me. If you do, great. I certainly appreciate it. If you can set me up with something faster, I’d really appreciate it – no, this post was more about forgotten technique of walking a mile in your consumer’s shoes. IDEO’s famed Method Cards are designed to get consumers to look, listen, ask or try. As marketers we can get so caught up in the data, spreadsheets, decks and white papers that we forget to simply act like our consumers so we can understand them better. While I can appreciate that, I’d still really love to have my fast internet speed back…
First world problems, indeed.