An interesting observation from the reliably-fascinating Ben Thompson at Stratechery:

In other words, while the old Dish Service – and every other pay-TV service – was delivered to an address, Sling TV is delivered to a person. It is Mobile First.

This reminds me of an observation I read a few years ago: before mobile phones, you called a place and hoped that the person you were looking for was there. Now, we have the ability to call the person directly. It is a fundamental shift.


People who moved around a lot would regularly call back to base - home, office, or wherever - to check who had called for them. Travel meant creating a contact schedule: "from the 15th to the 17th I will be at Grand Hotel de Oooh La La, then from the 17th to the 19th I move to the Dump Motel", and so on. Less organised travel meant being entirely out of contact for days or weeks at a time.

I am barely old enough to remember these days. For my high-school graduation, I went interrailing with a good friend. If you're not familiar with the concept, an InterRail pass grants unlimited travel across Europe1. Then and now, summer equals scruffy yoofs with huge backpacks zigzagging their ways across the continent.

The difference is that today they mark their progress with social check-ins and photographs uploaded from café wifi along the way, commenting on each other's trips and planning rendezvous in this city or at that music festival. Back in the Pleistocene when I was on my own InterRail trip, neither of us owned mobiles, so plans were extremely vague and communication back home almost entirely limited to occasional postcards. A key part of our itinerary was literally telling someone "we'll be in Kiel some time in the second half of August, set up something cool" several weeks beforehand and then just showing up, with no further communication or even knowing whether we had anywhere to sleep.

I'm not going to wax nostalgic about "living in the moment" (that time we slept in the squat in Prague powered by an illegal tap off the street lights?) for fear that my children might read this one day and use it against me. I just wanted to point out how different it is that today we can call up a person wherever they may be, without knowing or caring about their precise location.

"Mobile first" is all about this shift away from connecting places to one another, and instead connecting people with each other. I think we have another generation to go before we truly understand what has happened - and indeed, is still happening to us.

Image by Aurélien Bellanger via Unsplash

  1. At the time of my trip, Europe was divided into "zones". Now, it seems to be either pan-European or per-country.