Ringtones were an $881 million dollar business in 2008. Last year, the business shrunk by $130 million and according to research firm IBIS World, by 2016 paid ringtones will go the way of (take your pick) the DoDo Bird or Palm’s mobile software.
Why? According to Fortune’s Kim Thai, who writes the magazine’s Tech Talk column, the reason is pretty straightforward:
“Cellphones simply don’t ring as much as they used to…. In the past two years the average number of text messages sent by each U.S. cellphone user has more than doubled, to 584 texts per month from 218 per month. In that same period the average number of calls has decreased almost 15%.”
Here’s the larger point: Just as digital music allowed consumers to go around the record companies’ short-sighted business models, so too has the “democratization” of mobile technology allowed consumers to bypass companies peddling ringtones. It’s a lesson the FCC should heed as it considers whether to regulate “neutrality” into the public Internet, VPNs or both.