The new Online is…Offline!

image courtesy —

Wait, what?

Offline Digital? If you thought this was a typo, its not!

Below is a typical scene that is ubiquitous in Delhi Metro

Not just an old mobile is taking over pic — offline videos have taken over

I have been travelling regularly in the metro for about a year now. People used to listen to music regularly (sometimes with earphones which leaked music like a loudspeaker!).

Over the last few months, there has been a noticeable shift to people watching videos.

And not downloaded videos taken on a SD card. Videos from YouTube, Hotstar etc — Series, episodes, whole movies.

Downloaded using the app’s ‘take this offline’ feature.

This made me realize — silently, the digital world is being brought offline for us. And we did not even realize it while this silent revolution was happening around us.

Start thinking about the digital things you can’t do offline.

But first. let me first list down the online things I can do offline

  • YouTube Videos — I can download videos for offline viewing. Only through the YouTube app of course and with all ads downloaded as well
  • Google Maps — I have the entire map of Delhi and surrounding areas downloaded. The only thing I dont get when I am offline is the real time traffic update. But atleast I dont get stranded at a turn just because my airtel connection gave up
  • Google Search — When I am offline, Google saves the search and gives a notification when the search is ready for display when I get online
  • Google Drive and Google Docs — My work gets saved automatically on my system via the drive app. And my edits go live the minute I go online
  • Google Keep — For making those quick thoughts on the fly when offline and having them sync across my devices when I go online
  • Facebook feed and Instant articles — I get the quite a bit of the facebook feed loaded on its app which i can browse when I have nothing better to do (or when the YouTube videos have not been replenished!). I also get the Instant articles loaded for reading
  • Facebook comments notification — comments don’t get downloaded (yet) but i have a choice to get a notification when they do get downloaded once i get online. So basically I can create a trail of my to-do when offline and I can get back to them through a specific link from Facebook
  • MOOC apps — like Udemy, Coursera, Udacity which lets me download my courses offline
  • Offline reading — I can save articles from anywhere to Pocket with a tap of a button when I am online and I can read them at leisure when offline

Now when I think about it, thats about 90% of my internet activity.

Notice how more than half of the list is dominated by Google.

Now, which apps do I have on me, find them useful and want to utilize but don’t end up using that much?

Here is a small list — eDX, Khan Academy (MOOC), Calm (a meditation app), Evernote (It wants me to pay for offline feature — which keep gives me for free).

To the original question, what can’t you do offline? My answer is — not much and what I cant do offline, I dont end up doing much of.

Whose loss? the answer to that is pretty clear

So how is this useful for us?

Its an indication of how the most savvy digital companies keep an eye on the ground (and to their analytics).

If you want to increase consumption of videos but are hampered with either patchy bandwidth in India or by the behaviour of people in preserving their battery by turning off data; give them a way to carry the videos with them — just ensure that the ads are downloaded as well!

Same goes with everything — Stickiness means more revenue, by ads, subscriptions etc

Its a win-win situation. For example, in case of videos, for the consumer, who is ready to consume massive amount of videos; for the companies, who ensure stickiness to their media platform (like YouTube); for the sponsors, whose ads are shown to a much more bigger audience than would have been possible if I was dependent on the death wheel of buffering.

So when we as digital guerillas are planning to create something, a good question to ask ourselves — why not give this offline as well? Google and other companies are already making this a basic hygiene for people. Soon, you might be an outlier if you don’t.

Its fascinating how insidiously this habit got inculcated and how it reached a cultural inflexion point, when suddenly like a culture meme, the metro going population encouraged each other to download videos by just displaying their own behaviour.

Btw Google has been becoming more ambitious with its offline feature for YouTube called YouTube Go. See this here — link

Coming back to the Delhi Metro. After watching a coach full of people silently chuckling to themselves (sometimes watching a Friends episode like a silent movie, surreptitiously peeking over someone’s shoulder), I decided to take the plunge.

Now my mobile is full of videos from a bewildering variety of sources — from TED, National Geographic, Code a Day to Why Japan is the weirdest place on earth!. Now I chuckle to myself :)

When a idea makes sense and is perfect for the time, you don’t need to spend billions to advertise it.

People do it happily while going about their daily lives. And become your brand ambassadors along the way

Google clearly knows this already!

So yeah — Victor Hugo was right…as always!



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