The Financial Times texted me

The Financial Times texted me

N.B. This is one of my guest contributor posts for Welker Media; I thought I might repost here while MIA on the blog.

I remember the year of the 2000s. As a teenager, I was eager to start using Internet Explorer on Windows 98 whose connections intermittently lagged. 

  • I remember I had my first email account with Yahoo and started using Yahoo Messenger. I remember being excited to receive an email in my inbox. I marked them all as unread, so it looked like I had more emails in my inbox.
  • I remember I was trying to collect more friends on Yahoo Messenger and patiently waiting for my friends to be online on Yahoo Messenger to speak to them.
  • I remember reading an article about the use of emails at the workplace and thinking to myself that it was ridiculous. Why would I send an email to my colleagues when I could just walk over to their desk a few row down?

Within the short span of over a decade, these reminiscences seem rather contrasting to today's experience of ours.

  • I haven't used Internet Explorer for many years.
  • My current mobile phone has better processing capabilities than the computer back then.
  • I have too many unread emails inbox because I have no time to clean them all.
  • I don't post on my Facebook anymore and have too many friends.
  • I use email for work on a daily basis. 

I moved from a position of eagerly exploring the information and functionalities provided by the internet and the associated technologies, to passively receiving them and utilising them. It is fascinating that the cheaper and more abundant they are, the less I value its benefits. In the world where everyone, from companies, media outlets to people, put in efforts to capture some of my time and attention, it is never the same excitement that I felt ten years ago.

The pineapple theory

This observation relates to what I call the "pineapple" theory. Christopher Columbus first spotted the pineapple's spiky crowns in 1493 and brought them back to Spain. People loved this exotic fruit and tried to grow them but failed due to the climates' difference. The only way for people to obtain pineapples was by shipping them from across the Atlantic Ocean. Pineapples were, therefore, very expensive, costing at least $8000 each piece in today's terms. For two centuries, in the 1700s and 1800s, the pineapple was a symbol of wealth. The public fascination with pineapples heightened with pineapple statues, drawings, poems and pineapple-shaped porcelain dishes and teapots. 

However, pineapple is no longer an especially treasured fruit today. With significant progress in shipping and agriculture in the 1900s, pineapples can be grown and shipped in abundance for consumption. As pineapple's price was decreasing with its falling scarcity and its increasing convenience and benefits, the love, attention and excitement for pineapples waned.

The same case could be happening in the age of consumer technology we have entered. The consumers are less excited and attentive about what is available and presented to them in the overcrowded means of social media and emails.

New approach

I am a keen reader of many news publications, one of which is the Financial Times. As I was surfing the site last month, I saw an FT notice on how to receive instant Whatsapp notifications from an FT chatbot. The chatbot will text me the latest featured stories throughout the day every day.

I have been using this system since and to my surprise, love it. Checking every Whatsapp notification is a habit. As I don't miss any Whatsapp conversations with friends, I read every single WhatsApp texts from the Financial Times. My engagement with them has significantly increased, also because no other publications have texted me.

This observation again reaffirmed the rise of instant messaging, in the age where consumer enthusiasm over social media and other media outlets has been waning. Over 2.5bn people have at least one messaging app installed. According to Activate, this figure will reach 3.6bn in the next few years. Putting into perspective, that is about half of the world's population.  From my experience and of others around me, youngsters spend increasingly more time on their instant message applications than social networks. While instant messaging makes a more convenient, real-time platform to notify subscribers of the latest news, I am surprised at the slow adoption rate of media outlets. On the other hand, the rarity of such tool sparks my excitements, which cause me to engage more frequently with those who first adopt it like the FT.

It is helpful to continually push and present information to consumers through traditional means such as social media and emails. To spike up the engagement, testing out different, less crowded platforms such as instant messaging could be the pathways to the future.

Illustrations: Pineapple with metamorphosis of bamboo page and twice-stabbed lady bird beetle , Transfer engraving, hand-colored , 1719 , Merian, Maria Sibylla, 1647-1717
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