With more and more consumers, particularly younger consumers, purchasing smart phones and tablet computers, the Internet, and especially entertainment and news websites, are changing to meet the demands of this new era of powerful and multi-functional mobile devices.
Just a few years ago, the internet was mainly used for communication and information, and the computer still took second place to the television and DVD player in terms of entertainment. Now, mobile devices are used for emailing and texting as well as listening to music, watching movies and even watching television shows.
Watching a movie on one's computer used to mean putting a DVD into the drive of a desktop or laptop. Now movies can be rented online from services such as Netflix, Hulu, Sony and Apple's iTunes Store. Rather than a laptop, many computer users now have tablet computers, which are even more portable and designed to be powerful enough to play HD movies and support graphics-heavy gaming. Websites such as news sites and major blogging sites must plan to make their sites mobile-device friendly. Smart phone and tablet users want to be able to stay informed on the go, and crashing apps and difficult to read sites that haven't been updated to fit the screen of a mobile device are a major turnoff. Mobile device users will go to the sites that work smoothly with their devices and abandon sites that are clunky and don't change with the times.
However, making sites more functional for mobile devices can be a bit of a problem for traditional computer users, especially those on slower Internet connections, because many sites have become so bandwidth-heavy that older or cheaper computers and laptops have trouble loading many entertainment sites and news sites. Left out in the cold by video-laden sites such as CNN and MSNBC, users with older systems may turn to the old standby, their local newspaper's website, in order to get news content on a site that's likely to be simpler to load and navigate.
Some websites provide so much video content that it becomes frustrating to those who prefer to read news stories rather than watch them. Hearing-impaired consumers are slighted when news stories are only available in video format. News websites must strike a balance between the streaming video content desired by most mobile users and the needs and preferences of other users for text-based material. Providing a link to a transcript of a video article, perhaps even one that opens in an e-reader, would seem a simple solution.
Consumers can also watch television shows through services such as Hulu and iTunes, as well as catching last night's episode on the network's own website. Devices such as iPods and tablet computers, with storage capacities up to 64GB, allow for the storage of thousands of songs, movies and videos. Companies such as Apple and Sony are in constant competition to come out with faster, more powerful and sleeker tablets with more features, such as still and video cameras and support for business documents, in order to reach a wider consumer base.
Tablet computers and smart phones are also used as e-readers with free apps such as the Kindle app, and the Internet is quickly replacing bookstores as the place consumers go for the latest book releases. One online company that has had trouble keeping up with the e-book buyer's desire for one-click ease in shopping is, surprisingly, Amazon.com. Amazon recently removed their buying feature from the Kindle app, which necessitates buyers opening and signing into the Amazon store in a browser app, then downloading their purchase to the Kindle app. Since the online entertainment consumer expects easy and immediate service when making a purchase, they are likely to switch to a competing site if shopping is easier and hassle-free. Online stores which sell e-books and movies need to keep their shopping processes as streamlined and simple as possible in order to keep their customers.
Since mobile devices are now so popular for watching movies, listening to music and reading books, a new era of electronic piracy is causing enormous concern amongst artists, writers and entertainment companies. Several years ago, music-sharing sites were the target of the recording industry, and several highly publicized lawsuits have mostly brought illegal music downloading to an end. Movies are still popular targets of people with the software to rip them from DVDs, but now it is authors who have become the new targets of online theft. Websites pop up regularly offering free e-book downloads. This type of theft can be particularly damaging to independent authors who self-publish through sites such as Amazon. Publishing companies and sites that sell e-books must take a proactive stance towards book piracy in the same way that the music industry did in regards to file-sharing sites.
Staying abreast of the needs of all their consumers while protecting the artists and writers who produce the material that drives the entertainment machine that is now the Internet is the new challenge for those who run news, entertainment and shopping websites. Sites that keep up with constantly improving technology and the online consumer's need for instant, easy shopping will be the ones that survive and thrive. Offering apps for mobile devices while keeping the website itself convenient for the PC user seems the best solution to please all users.