Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Neat UGC and ad applications

I met with a mobile development company today Roundpoint. Cambridge based with an office in San Francisco, they create mobile and websites.They also have some neat applications and services.

What i really liked was their understanding of the long tail. They offer web and mobile solutions for small (or large) companies to create useful integrated services, now.

I also like the All4One product.
It demonstrates they understand consumers.So All4one allows content providers to offer full personalisation of content, matching one of the essential requirements of mobile content delivery: focused and relevant.
The clever bit is the enabler (say a music site) and/or the end user can both make the site personal.

Users are in full control of their content selection (i.e. Jazz, not hip hop), however, the enabler can apply various security levels to the user. The levels can change based on say the user profile, or as an incentive for the user to interact i.e. free downloads.

One other thing to catch my eye was the SanDisk application. Now live in the states.
This is a potential white label UGC solution, where a company such as Emap can create a mobile site. The user can enter, browse content. Nothing new there then, but wait.
The user can then take a picture (say at a gig) and upload it within the mobile session.

It' quick and simple. It avoids MMS and the pitfalls that go with memorising the long number, cost and also hoping, praying that the operator delivers it!
The really clever bit, it links to the website. Therefore the user can braodcast live from an event, to a mobile and web audience in seconds.Nice one.

There were other good things about Roundpoint such as their mobile advertising server that can deliver a campaign based on a specific time. Mmm specific time..

I had one of those moments of genius. Well not quite genuis.But good.
My idea was using SMS to drive people to an ad campign.

So let's take a famous bar chain with a happy hour incentive. The consumer receives an SMS. The SMS contains a link to a mobile site, with a message 'click here for half price drinks tonight'.

Consumer goes to the portal, downloads his voucher (barcode, QR voucher pin code..whatever) He gets directions to the nearest bar. Texts his friend the link or even updates his facebook and hey presto.

Tageted, useful advertising, on your phone, with a viral option.
The possibilities are endless... really

Friday, 25 January 2008

Cool SMS services? You tell me.

I am looking to compile the five best/most useful mobile services that are run on SMS. I.e AQA ask a question service.

SMS is the common mobile languague. The volumes of consumers sending SMS is huge, yet people who recieve really useful SMS services, appear to be very low?

If i am under the wrong impression and there are loads of really good/cool SMS services please let me know.

If my view is echoed, let's try to compile a list of what is really good.
Equally if you have a suggestion for something new- SMS based, let me know.

So after a little research here are a number of services i have found:
-At John Lennon Aiport in Liverpool i can text Flight to 60030 to be updated on out bound or in bound flights, just add the flight number.
-The National Farmers Union launched a service to update farmers on the Bluetongue and Foot and Mouth epidemics.
-Snow alerts are common across Europe
- SMS Weather Alerts
-eHound direction service in Australia
-Car Valuation Service- value the car you are thinking on buying when you are with the seller, then knochk his price down!
-Sat Lav- text to find the nearest toilet in London (well it's funny)

Utilising SMS is a good way of engaging more consumers and building the mobile industry.
Please add in your thoughts.

New stuff

I'm seeing RoK today. They seem like a good outfit. Innovative, hungry, smart, global.

I am hoping to get a project off the ground with the guys. This may just help move the needle in mobile content- it's early days but i have an idea that could just fit the bill.
We all want to innovate, but timing, content and/or a useful service that the consumer really wants is key.

It's exciting times in media and mobile at the moment. The trick so they (people in the know that is), is backing the right horse.

I don't no much about horses, but my instinct tells me the pedigree of RoK is pretty good, the thing i like about them is they are doing things across the globe.

They are also full of possible creative solutions, some may be too early for the U.K market, others are really logical like delivering video via MMS, this would work for a brief news bulletin (and the consumer avoids high data costs).

Pre loading memory cards with lots of good TV content is already happening across Asia, sounds good to me.

So a proactive day is in store i feel. Hopefully they don't see my blog before the meeting, otherwise my negotiation strategy is doomed to failure!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

The power of the people

Last week, there was an average football club in the U.K. who appointed an average manager, you know the sort, doesn't win any trophies.

The thing is the football club was Newcastle, second only in support to Manchester United. The manager Kevin Keegan, former Newcastle and Liverpool legend, dodgy perm in the seventies and eighties (nineties?), the guy who quit the England job, you know the one.

The thing about this announcement was it gained mass exposure on TV, mobile and web, for days. More so than even the new England manager, Fabio,? wassis name.

So how did Newcastle break the news of this appointment?

They sent an SMS to their fan club members before putting the announcement on the web and before holding a press conference.Smart move, keep the audience engaged, build crm opportunities such as wallpapaers, tickets, shirts etc..

I can just imagine the toon army (Newscastles hardcore fans)going into mobile overdrive and spreading the message virally, out scooping Sky and the BBC along the way.

Now that is... the power of mobile meeting with the power of the people.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Mobile advertising to generate $10 bn by 2010

Great headline, but how is this going to acheived?

One theory is better tools to serve and analyse ad campaigns. This gives the advertiser robust reporting, which in turn breeds confidence and should open up the network to give exponential growth on advertising... as i say, it's a theory.

The other thought is media owners running intergrated web and mobile sites and selling the total inventory, after all they know how to sell ads, it their job.

Strategic tie ups between ad sales specialists and content owners is also a step towards monetising traffic.

This is all well and good but what level of traffic growth is required to deliver exponential growth? Penetration of mobile internet usage is low in the U.S, well under 10%, the U.K performs better but is still only around the 20% level.

An observation that all is not well in the U.K is the lack of mobile adverts on operator decks. On my Orange homepage for example i have yet to see a compelling advert or leading service. I do see, however, plenty of mobile game adverts, not exactly encouraging. (if you look out my earlier blog on consumption of content you will note i do not use mobile games).

So many operator's see mobile games as a bigger money spinner that mobile ads?

You see, that is the problem.

I am sure if someone like AdMob asked the operator's to take the risk on pay per click adverts on their home page the answer i suspect... is a quick- no thank you.

AdMob is interesting: Globally they have served some 16billion ads since launch.They are growing quickly, 2bn will be served in January alone. Impressive.

Targeted? more targeted than Orange trying to sell me bloody mobile games!

However, not targeted enough i suspect, for now.

So who else will join AdMob in leading the charge towards the $10bn pot of gold? and is the growth in mobile internet traffic suffiecient to meet with the demand of advertisers?

I suspect that long tail and social networking content will be far more compelling in 2010 than it is now, thus driving awareness and usage, hopefully... off portal. Not that i have anything against the operators. I just happen to believe in giving the consumers what they want.

How will this extra traffic be monetised?

I really like the Blyk model it's dynamic and targeted.

If free content or data or texts or whatever is offered to drive the consumer profiles, then serving useful adverts on the mobile should be a walk in the park.

If Blyk can deliver quality and AdMob can further segment the quantity then that is a good start.

So are these combined offerings enough to shift mobile advertising from incremental growth to exponential growth over the next two years?

Ask the ad agencies.. better still ask the operators.

Oh i forgot to mention two names, who i suspect know exactly how this will play out.

Step forward Google and Yahoo

$10bn ad industry in two years =
work in progress... for now

Texperts won the Innovative Company of the Yearprize at the Real Business/CBI Growing Business Awards late last year.
There is something about the simplicity of this service that makes it a compelling mobile product.Essentially the consumer can get an instant answer on pretty much any topic at any time almost immediately.

For busy people on the go i think textperts could become a habit, questions such as what time is the next train? what is the cheapest way to get to Paris this weekend? what are the best odds for Ricky Hatton to win and of course where are all the girls? need answering so why wait to be near a computer?

These type of services (AQA, RoK etc..) are growing massively month on month, the consumer is happy to pay a fee and interestingly the profile of the user is being built over a period of time with the average user asking between 4- 7 questions per month.
Making a possible ad model very attractive.

Imagine if a consumer uses this service 6 times a month, that is 72 bits of data in a year on consumer behaviour, it is also £72 mobile content spend, more than double the cost of a typical magazine subscription.

How many consumers are spending £72 on mobile content at present?I wonder if the possibility of increasing the lenth of a text is a good way of increasing the use of texperts, after all 160 characters cannot help me diagnose a fault with my car or give me an insight into the latest government white paper.
Maybe, though simplicity is the key.So the next time i'm stuck for an answer i sure will text 66000, its as easy as abc, maybe many more consumers will do the same?

ring ring........

After another hectic week in the zone formerly known as 'publishing' my good lady asked me what ringtone i currently deploy.

After the initial look of bemusement it dawned on me that the ringtone in question, is hardly ever heard when i am in her company or indeed ever. You see, what happens is that during the week the phone could be on silent as my colleagues hate to hear my phone chirping away, it could be on vibrate, especially when i am on public transport or when it is on i tend to answer it on the first ring.
At weekends, the mobile never rings. It's not that i am unpopular, though i could become paranoid on this.
It is becuause weekends is my time and i don't want to spend it talking on the phone. Thus people who know me, know this and so we exchange SMS.

Contributing as i do to the 1 billion SMS sent each week in the U.K. My point and there is one, the ringtone market is losing it's novelty. At times it is an annoyance. It is no longer value for money for people (like me) and for media companies (like mine).

We need to replace the early and easy revenues that will be undoubtedly lost from the ringtone market.

So if SMS is where the consumer need is then let's start creating value around this.

SMS is not a novelty, it gives consumers access to the outside world 24/7 and unlike the ringtone an SMS can actually brighten up your day! So when will publsihers and content providers grasp the nettle?

Me? ... I'm on the case!

Friday, 11 January 2008

The Consumption of Mobile Content.. is it any good?

I have observed the usability of mobile handsets for some time and have come to the conclusion that an industry standard of consumer behaviour does not exist and it probably never will...

My schedule of mobile usage on my N95 centres around, in this order 1. Voice. 2 sms. 3 internet browsing . 4 camera. If i added other functions to my daily usage such as playing music or mobile games and watching videos- my battery would pack up halfway through the day.. most days.

That forces me and many others to make choices.

Handset Manufacturer's understand this with specific models majoring on a point of difference. The N95 offers a big screen + great camera. The Sony Walkman... well it’s a music player with great brand heritage... isn't it? Of course the i-phone, does everything... well i can browse the internet... using wi-fi, but not 3g.

So does the handset ownership give us an insight into consumer behaviour? Err no, not really. With the prediction that more people will own a phone that has internet access and actually use it vs. their PC by the end of 2009, this is an important issue.

There are many variables with the consumer such as, pay as you go tariffs, owning a second phone, the use of a PDA, restricted company mobile etc... So when it comes to consumer behaviour on content consumption, I become very concerned.

Does the industry know what the consumer need for content really is?
Does the industry monitor what content is available vs. than what sells?
Do consumers only want to view news, sport music and babes on their phones?
And is anyone remotely surprised or concerned that Tetris is still the best selling mobile game in such a dynamic, fast paced innovative industry?

Even the national press have Sudoku as an alternative to the Crossword!Things change, products evolve, consumers make choices... assuming they are giving the opportunity.

So what is driving the traffic within operator portals?
Sky Sports? yes.
Mobile TV? not really.
Downloads, yes but in decline.
User generated content? possibly but not really through MMS - as you don't get MMS in bundles unlike SMS!

It's great that I can update Facebook, it’s not innovative though. It's a bit yesterday.
eBay on mobile, is poor. Really poor. Can I really snipe at the last minute to get a bargain with any confidence? I don't think so. Do i know the devil in the detail before bidding, no i can't view that.

Not good.

Whilst data charges are still high and the take up of flat rate data is still low, consumer browsing remains low. Therefore... the operator continues to deliver content of the low hanging fruit variety.

This can only lead me to think that the industry doesn't understand the consumer behaviour.
The desire of consumers to create, share and consumer content that is unique, timely or interesting on their mobile...

Or if they did they would educate the consumer via something good. FREE data and FREE MMS packages. Pre loaded useful mobile content. Encourage genuine two way interactions between consumers and content providers.

Now that would be a little bit more compelling than playing Tetris on your phone...

.. surely?