Monthly Archives: October 2008

Digital Hollywood: Mobile Commerce & Content

Santa Monica, CA—Last night I attended an opening event at Digital Hollywood, namely the party celebrating nominees for the upcoming Mobile Excellence Awards. At the Loew’s Hotel on the beach, guests were treated to a spectacular sunset, a view of the neon-lit Ferris Wheel on the Santa Monica pier and, of course, drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Enthusiasm is high for the actual Mobile Excellence Awards, coming up on December 8th.

Today, I attended a panel on Mobile Commerce & Content, moderated by Steve Bradbury, GoTV vp of content strategy and business affairs and featuring panelists Cheng Wu, Azuki co-founder/chair; Brian K. Johnson, senior vp, Americas and Asia Pacific for mBlox; Larry Berkin, vp of ecosystem and corporate business development for ACCESS Systems Americas; Virgin Mobile USA director of brand development & partnerships Ron Faris and AirPlay Network chair/CEO Morgan Guenther.

GoTVs Steve Bradbury

GoTVs Steve Bradbury

At Loew's Hotel

At Loew's Hotel

Sorry to say I missed the first part of the panel but came in at a perfect moment: when the discussion turned to advertising. Moderator Bradbury asked panelists what advertising model will work in the next 6 to 18 months. “Now it’s the original model of TV: we’ll give you content to get you from one set of ads to the next,” he said.

Guenther agreed with the “TV model” assessment and pointed out that his company’s model was focused on the live event. “When there’s a pause in the action, you look at the mobile phone and match it up with what’s happening in movie theatre or TV screen,” he said. “It’s all abut pacing and what the customer is anticipating.”

Virgin Mobile USA’s Faris admitted that his company doesn’t have the scale, but instead has a niche focused on youth. “Reach and frequency are tenets of advertising, but to bring relevance we’ve had to bring depth of experience,” he said. “We’ve looked at different ways of advertising. When we launched Sugar Mama, a model where you watch content in exchange for free minutes, we didn’t thave the scale to be able to compete. We were up against Google, AOL and so on. We tried to bring in WAP banners and text blasts to bring up the numbers. They were great for reach, but for depth of engagement, which is what we’re using, we were reincarnating things that annoyed us on the web. The WAP banner is nothing more than a banner ad. Text blasts are nothing more than spam. Geo-targeting is great but why do I care? If I get a text blast for Nyquil and don’t have a cold, why should I care? From our perspective, you have to understand what’s relevant and create a deep engagement. I don’t want to keep going in this direction – we have to move into a sponsorship model.”

Berkin pointed out that everyone is in the early stages of mobile advertising. “I come from the download pay- for-application model. It’s a scale business.” He also revealed that ACCESS Systems Americas has created a widget platform that’s ad supported that will roll out on smart phones across the world.

Johnson noted that the text message ad-supported model has taken off. “We’re watching that carefully,” he said. “We see a big increase in free-mium, where you get something for free but maybe you’ll pay something more if you like it. Micro-payments are our biggest growing segment, for example to pay 99 cents to send someone virtual flowers. A mixture of micro payment and ads will pay for content.”

Azuki’s Cheng said that “the mobile ad ecosystem is completely fragmented and totally isolated from advertising.” “Mobile is different from desktop,” he said. “You can’t put 30-second ad for 30-seconds of content. Advertisers have an inventory of 30-second spots, so their resources aren’t fitting the mobile ecosystem.”

One panelist noted that “before we see a truly ad-funded content model, I’d like to see a flourishing one online. “We’re closer to having that scale in the online context, for music in particular,” he said. “There have been attempts for fully ad-funded models but the numbers don’t work. Content costs are steep, and we’re a ways off until we see truly ad-funded mobile content.”

The last word came from Bradbury who spoke about metrics. “Metrics in the online world stink. The numbers are inconcistent. Metrics have to be much more standardized and effective. The same thing in the mobile space, so you can go to a media buyer used to seeing things in a certain way and give them numbers they understand in order to justify putting money into a mobile buy. Then you’ve got a viable campaign. But, for now, metrics are still a big issue.”

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Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls” Delayed

A few weeks ago, ON Networks announced that they were launching Smart Girls at the Party, a new digital series actor/comedian Amy Poehler created with friends Meredith Walker, former senior producer for Nickelodeon’s Nick News, head of talent for Saturday Night Live, and Amy Miles, recording artist and performer, host of PBS children’s show LOMAX: Hound of Music. The original release date–sometime in October–has now been pushed forward to mid-November due to the fact that Poehler is about to give birth.

Serendipitous for a show that celebrates young girls, with the aim of helping them find confidence in their aspirations and talents. In each episode, Amy interviews a girl with a unique talent, community interest or point of view. In their interviews, girls offer witty truths and demonstrate ways that girls can make a difference in the world.

MobilizedTV sat down with Meredith Walker and On Networks’ co-founder/chief content officer Jen Grogono to talk about the series.

[All episodes will be available to watch or download exclusively through ON’s AllScreen syndication partners, including iTunes, Adobe Media Player, and a set of targeted Website, digital TV and mobile partners.]

MOBILIZEDTV: How did you and Amy come up with the idea for this series?

MEREDITH: Amy and I are best friends and one of the things we bond about is talking about our younger years. We found with our friends how hard those ages are between 9 and 13, when you’re starting to morph to fit in or not. Those are such important years to feel heard and sometimes that’s not around. We thought, wouldn’t it be great to offer up anything we learned from that and help anyone we could? Wait, that could be a show! We read studies about that age group, and we talked about what helped us the most, which was when older girls cared about what we thought and asked us questions about ourselves. We knew then that’s what we wanted to do: to converse without talking down. to have a real conversations with real girls.

MOBILIZEDTV: What’s the format of the show?

MEREDITH: The show is various lengths between 5 and 10 minutes. It’s like a Charlie Rose show but not as serious. We talk to interesting girls so there’s a level of fun. I’m the producer so I’m off-camera, but occasionally I’m on.

MOBILIZEDTV: How did you “cast” this show?

MEREDITH: Once we put the word out, people came to us. The first season was shot in New York, and we’re producing this in various cities.

MOBILIZEDTV: Jen, what’s the distribution model?

JEN: We intend to put the show across the three-screen network, the AllScreen syndication network on TV, computer and mobile. The reason is quite simply that there is significant audience on new digital platforms, particularly with the younger audiences and even the parents.

MOBILIZEDTV: How did you produce for three very different screens?

JEN: We shoot it all in HD. That’s important. You want to make sure that it looks just as good on a 52-inch plasma as a 3-inch cell phone. We also made sure the pacing and tempo is reflective of the audience’s viewing habits. You want that common denominator: the person who doesn’t have a whole lot of time to sit and watch but will make time for what they’re passionate about. If you have the right pace and tempo and the program is compelling, they’ll be interested in a 2-minute piece up to 30-minutes or longer. We probably will create longer versions of this. Meredith has great ideas for season 2 to experiment with the platform, genre and format.

MOBILIZEDTV: Who are your mobile partners for the series?

JEN: We’re talking to a number of mobile providers now. Apple iPhones obviously, BuzzWire, Verizon, AT&T, and iTunes are our biggest. We have a number of other mobile companies we’re in discussion with, both on deck and off deck.

MEREDITH- I think mobile is very important. It’s so new and I feel that’s where our audience will be watching it. It’s the device they have with them all the time. -They’re always texting. So that’s where they’re going to be. That and the PC of course.

With regard to TV, right now the series is on Apple TV, Tivo, Time Warner (the San Antonio market for VOD), Verizon FiOS, and AT&T U-Verse. We’re still in a number of discussions.

MOBILIZEDTV: What’s the business model? How will you monetize it?

JEN: It is a sponsorship model. We’re talking to select brands, not dissimilar from 1950s TV. We’re holding out for the right sponsor. It’s unlikely you’ll see a diet pill.

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Fox Reality Channel Launches On iPhone

Reality TV fans just got news that may have them rushing out to buy an iPhone. Fox Reality Channel, the all-reality, all-the-time cable/satellite network within the News Corp. with 50 million subs and climbing” just launched a WAP site for the first Apple iPhone mobile video service to feature reality-only content. “It was important for us to have video on the iPhone, which makes it easy to build community,” says Fox Reality Channel vp, business & operations, Ed Skolarus.

Fox Reality Channel is all about the video: Skolarus reports the channel does “over 170 hours of VOD on a lot of different platforms” including its exclusive partnership with Hulu and, for mobile users, a MediaFLO channel. “The iPhone is great for video,” he adds. “You can watch it and share it easily. Being in the video business, we’re about video advertising.”

That’s where Transpera, a platform for monetizing web videos on the mobile platform, comes in. “We power Fox Reality Mobile Video soup-to-nuts,” says Transpera founder/CEO Frank Barbieri. “They give us the videos and then we format them and deliver them to the iPhone along with targeted display and in-screen rich media ads like pre-rolls and overlays.” Current Transpera customers include MTV Networks, Discovery Networks, the Travel Channel, CBS News, Associated Press, and Accuweather.

Much of the content on the mobile Fox Reality Channel will be original, says Skolarus, who notes that they produce five original series a year as well as acquire content from Fox, CBS and NBC. Reality fans will get real-time updated information and original “bonus” content for original series “Battle of the Bods,” “2008 Fox Reality Channel Really Awards,” “Solitary,” “The Academy,” “Gimme My Reality Show!,” “Reality Binge,” and “Night Club Confessions.” A Send-to-Friend feature allows users to share their favorite video content mobile-to-mobile.

“Within the application, there are nine different categories, with 10 to 15 videos in each category, so it’s quite a lot of video,” says Skolarus. “My boss David Lyle, former president of Fremantle, understands that from the initial kick-off meeting you have to have the other platforms. involved. It’s not just repurposing what you have. It’s about having content shot for a lot of digital avenues.” Since its launch three years ago, Fox Reality Channel now has 2,500 digital episodes in the can.

For its original series, Fox Reality Channel has another crew working side-by-side the main crew, shooting content specifically for broadband, mobile and Hulu among other platforms. “It’s a big commitment,” he notes. “We’re lucky enough that reality is a good lean-forward experience with high engagement and it also skews well for iPhone.”

At time of launch, Skolarus and Barbieri declined to talk about specific advertisers, noting that many still play a wait-and-see game when it comes to new media. But Barbieri points out that mobile “gets higher engagement across the board.” “The mobile phone is such a personal device and commands so much attention of high-consuming audiences,” he says. “We see great recall numbers, great brand attribution numbers, much higher than on the web.”


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The Future of Mobile Browsing

From the Mobile Content & Marketing Expo

San Jose, CA–Skyfire CEO/co-founder Nitin Bhandari gave the conference’s last keynote address, on the future of mobile browsing. From his position at the head of Skyfire, a free, downloadable mobile web browser designed to make the mobile Internet experience identical to that on the PC, Bhandari identified what he called “mobile web megatrends.”

Nitin Bhandari

Nitin Bhandari

Is good mobile web browsing an oxymoron (with the exception of iPhone)? That’s the issue that got Bhandari motivated to create Skyfire. If you look at what has happened in the industry in the last few years, things have changed, he said. Three years ago, 45 seconds into a page load, your browser would crash. Two years ago, Nokia brought the webkit-based Minimap to market, highlighting the potential of full web on mobile. It was a phenomenon and a great credit to Nokia,” he said. One year ago, iPhone delivered on the promise of the mobile browser. Eighty percent of iPhone owners browse the web on a regular basis, he reported, and that’s an amazing statistic. “For the first time, the web browser is front and center,” he said.

Now, there’s a great deal of innovation in mobile browsers and the ease of mobile browsing has become a decision-making factor for consumers shopping for a mobile phone. Going back to the evolution, Bhandari pointed to WAP sites, with extremely limited experiences, no CSS or Javascript support, and proprietary markup languages. “Pages link to other pages on the Internet, and you didn’t get that here,” he said.

The mobile web was more, with HTML, and the user could accomplish transactions, such as getting scores on the ESPN site. The full web provides PC websites with HTML and Javascript, but no plug-in support. The concept of the PC web gives full PC website support with full plug-in support, including Flash, Quicktime, Real, WMF and Silverlight. “That’s the cusp we’re on now, moving to the PC web,” said Bhandari. He showed a chart of what products look like with PC web browsing.

Chart of content on devices

Chart of content on devices

“Better browsing is a disruptive force,” he said. “If you look at the entire lifecycle of creating, distributing, measuring and profiting. It has a profound impact on all of those” First, creating an app can be done two ways: looking for reach to many devices with limited engagement, or lots of engagement but to a limited range of devices. “This is no secret that the mobile world is highly fragmented,” he said. “Very quickly, you’re talking about millions of dollars.” The second way is to write a web app. “Flash is coming to all these mobile devices,” he said. “We have our way to bring it, and Adobe is working on their way. Then what you’ve created is leveraged across the PC and the mobile device. We believe everything is going to writing for the web. Write it once and run it everywhere.”

Discovery is better on the web, which levels the playing field, said Bhandari. The traditional model would focus on a biz dev team and staying on the deck, whereas open web search provides an effective marketing tool and advertising to acquire users is efficient. “It’s not mobile web, it’s mobile access to the web and there’s only one web,” he continued. “Yes, the screen is small and you might have to do something to optimize for the screen, but it’s still just one web.”

Do users prefer the mobile web or the full PC web? The jury is out, said Bhandari, although he admitted that he’s prejudiced. “Skyfire data says the full web,” he noted. “They can zoom, scroll and interact with the content. How many people will justify a mobile web budget? Very few people, so the concept of one web is great from the point of view of budget. Mobile web won’t just go away. The 90/10 rule applies: the massive amount of engagement will come from the top 10 percent of the devices, which are definitely becoming very capable.”

Widgets are another disruption. They moved to the web, but people began to question that. “If you add one more layer of fragmentation, it’s too much,” he said, “People are saying, why build a custom widget If I super-impose something else and it only reaches 4 percent of the market, why do it? Why not just build widgets as you do on the PC, with iGoogle, Netvibes or Facebook, which are all based on web standards?” Widget + Web = the best of push-pull experience, added Bhandari.

Bhandari stated that the definitions of content licensing will change. Once you’ve created a killer application, you need analytics, he added, and analytics are going to change. “Server-side analytics was a stop-gap, but now we support Javascript and AJAX,” he said. “We still need to know the device and carrier mapping, and we need to track new things like zooming and hotspots.”

Finally, advertising will change, into the model Bhandari called “OneAd.” “It will all start to converge, there’s no reason in the future for them to be silo-ed,” he said. “Mobile inventory isn’t unique because of LBS (location-based services). No, it also happens on the PC. That’s a myth that location makes mobile advertising different. There’s a myth that there are different ad units that work on a mobile screen. True, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There will be a convergence in terms of creativity and technology. Is mobile inventory unique because of downloads? Perhaps, because of different download files, but maybe not, because download files are different between Mac and PC, and no reason why it couldn’t be extended to mobile.”

He stressed that he doesn’t mean that the same ad will work on mobile and the PC, and talked about some of the things that don’t make sense on both platforms. “Rich advertising – if all units are treated as one, they can have interactive banners, pre-rolls, post-rolls,” he said. “It’s in everybody’s best interest to converge these. If people are going to access web content through the phone, we need a new “zoom unit,” vector graphics or what have you, so the ad is legible is you zoom in or out. But there’s no reason why we as an industry can merge into one ad inventory system.”

The formula for profit: profit is in direct proportional to clicking intensity. Click intensity is related to page load speed and directly proportional to content support, including plug-ins. The user experience is nebulous but very important. “There’s a reason why people would rather use iPhone than…fill in the blank,” he said.

“Better mobile browsers are here and we can all profit from it,” he said. “The key is too much fragmentation makes it too expensive to do anything and no one makes any money. The more we bridge the gap between the PC and mobile world, the more we have the chance to make money.”


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TV on Mobile: Is there really an audience?

From Mobile Content & Marketing Expo

San Jose, CA–Moderated by Skyfire‘s Ray Singh, QuickPlay‘s Mark Hyland, thePlatform (Comcast subsidiary) Chris Drake, GoldSpot Media‘s William Ganon and MobiTV‘s Kevin Grant discussed the state of mobile TV.

Mark Hyland (L), Chris Drake (C), William Ganon (R)

Mark Hyland (L), Chris Drake (C), William Ganon (R)

Singh suggested that there are numerous definitions for mobile TV, and asked Hyland what is definition is. Hyland broke it down into true broadcast and IP. “We see activity in all those things,” he said. “There has to be a sensible user experience. There’s an essence of content we’re all working for: it has more to do with communication. VOD, getting what you want when you want it, recommended by friends, is probably a pretty good way to work with mobile video today.”

Kytetv and mywaves are two ways that people are using to publish their own video, said Skyfire’s Singh. Why hasn’t that been [more] successful? Drake said that “we’ve limited mobile to just mobile.” “We’re seeing trends that content providers and media companies are thinking more holistically,” he said. “Yes, there are a lot of technology limitations, but it has to do with consumer awareness and accessibility. We’re starting to see more cross-promotion about what’s unique. It’s complementary to the website,”

If you look at the video space today, there’s content that people pay for, subscribe to and get for free. Is mobile advertising working? “I think mobile video advertising is starting to make its way into the mind of the consumer,” said Ganon. “It’ll probably be linked to whether the user thinks they’re getting value. There’s really not any one player that can do it all, but if operators can be flexible with their pricing scheme. If technologists can deliver a high quality experience, yeah, mobile has a really good future.”

How do you track engagement and what is a click through, asked Singh. Hyland said it was initially all downloads of premium video. “It took you two minutes to download and the operator would charge you $2, but early adopters did it,” he said. “As prices got cheaper and content got better…that’s an acid test. Then we moved into a subscription or streaming model, often bundled with a data plan. Essentially, instead of a nickel and dime model, it’s all you can eat. And we saw service explode with that. We see anywhere from one-quarter to one-half on any service engaging with us, and that’s an important metric. If they go south, that means they’re not getting value.”

Drake addressed the earlier question of what mobile video is. “We’ve seen a shift in the definition,” he said. “It was mainly streaming and occasionally downloading. But a lot of those variables have changed and so have the mobile phones. It could be a phone, an iPod Touch, etc. Content delivery has also changed and addresses some of the clogged network issues. This is still so early now and a lot of these issues and limitations are based on today’s levels, which will hopefully go away. We saw the same issues with broadband in the 1980s.”

Returning to the topic of advertising, he addressed GoldSpot Media’s Ganon. “There is no greater difference in a business than between zero and a penny,” he said. “The fact that people can look for content in an untethered environment – then we’ll see how much hours people watch, what shows they watch. The minute they know they have a $20/month pre-charge, it’s not a great landscape for television, The more free content we can get out, the more we inculcate people with the notion of watching video on the mobile.”

If you look at your TV at home, very few cable providers are offering it for free, pointed out MobiTV’s Grant. That business has been around for a long time. “I don’t think the ad budgets will triple,” he said. “These guys will still have a limited amount to spend, and we all have to cut into it.” Does MobiTV become an HBO? “What MobiTV does is we definitely use what we can out of the advertising space to subsidize the technology to make it work,” said Grant. “You don’t forkload mobile video on a mobile network without spending a big piece of cash. There’s a happy medium: you make free content available so people know it’s there, and you subsidize it with advertising. And you make premium content available for more. Advertisers can’t pay it all. From an ad perspective, it’s a miracle, because you know they’re watching the video when they’re watching video on the phone. We know they’re turning it off on their own. It’s compelling eyeballs. So we maximize the advertising spend to help the content providers and companies like us. But I don’t think it’ll be free, everywhere.”

Long-tail content hasn’t been a big player in the mobile space, noted Hyland. “We’ve been working with producers of Hispanic content, religious content–avid audiences but not big enough to make it on a carrier’s deck,” he said. “You have to blur the lines between on-deck and off-deck, so you can find it. But now it’s naturally skewed towards higher-end content.”

Mobisodes was a stage in the development of mobile content, observed Drake, on the way to developing made-for-mobile content. “We learned you can’t make programming from the footage left on the cutting room floor,” he said. “You have to take into consideration the consumer, where he is, what his user profile is. We’re seeing interesting things with our customers. CBSNews is doing a lot with consumer journalism, for example. The paradigm shift is changing from one-to-many to many-to-many, with users sharing content, tagging it.”

Talking about mobile ads, Ganon noted the general consensus that 30-seconds is a little too long. “If we don’t bring an interesting solution to this game, we can just forget about it,” he said. “If you make targeted TV, that’s an interesting discussion. The mobile audience has no tolerance for the ad-roll.”

MobiTV’s Grant noted that he’s seeing the minutes that customers are watching grow at a much greater rate than the number of new customers, especially election and financial news. “They’re aware of the fact that they have this on their phone,” he said. “The fact that the minutes are growing is good across the board. News has been amazing lately. You don’t see a debate double our minutes. The size of the minutes is so large it would take a pretty big feed to double the minutes. The Olympics is the Holy Grail of content, but that was a unique channel and it did really really well, but it didn’t necessarily double our minutes. All boats are rising. The long-tail is so important. You need the big brands, and long-form like “Ugly Betty” does very well. A lot of people in our base are religiously watching these things. We haven’t opened up the YouTube library or mywaves, because we work with carriers and their restrictions. But big brands bring them in and long-tail reduces churn and keeps them there.”

Hyland reported that we’ll see numerous different models for introducing and paying for video; handset manufacturers will subsidize some of it. “Awareness and pricing are two big barriers to mobile adoption, but there’s a lot of opportunities to package it up differently,” he said. “If you can package video with the phone, it’ll make much higher usage. The day pass or the “free previews and sign up for 20 clips” will be two of those models. Lots of experimentation and no answers formed yet.”

Singh asked panelists to describe what people are watching. Ganon said he worked at MediaFLO and “if it’s live, breaking now” it’s big; sports seems to be a big draw, if you can get the access/rights. “We had experiments where people were watching movie,” he said. With the iPhone, we hear that people are sitting and browsing for an hour, said Singh, who asked if people are really watching movies on the mobile phone. “It’s difficult for me to comment but anecdotally we see different levels and types of usage depending on how the user is discovering and accessing that content,” said Drake. “We’re seeing content that’s being side-loaded which gives a better user experience. We’re seeing long-tail video like a Homer Simpson video. Then there’s the discovery around genre-based content. The ability to set content alerts is also at work.”

The iPhone has done a lot to let people know that they can go on the Internet. “We’re seeing an awareness factor,” said Grant. “We’ll start to see some big numbers.” Singh finally asked: what’s your favorite mobile TV show and what do you see in the future?

Chris Drake said he loves Sony Pictures Television International‘s minisodes, which creates 5-minute versions of classic TV shows. Hyland likes “Entourage” on mobile. Ganon, who watches YouTube, thinks the DTV transition will be a game-changer. Grant says his favorite show is “The Office” and CNBC on mobile.

“If you look at access to the Internet, alot of it will be wireless in a little while,” he said. “And that’s where we see huge opportunities for growth, with all kinds of mobile devices. We’re very keen on this market but it’s a long term battle.”

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Open Access: What Does it Really Mean?

From the Mobile Content & Marketing Expo

San Jose, CA–Moderated by Frank Bernhard of OMNI Consulting Group, the panel included Andrew Shikiar of the LiMo Foundation, Sagar Golla of AppVoyage, Faraz Syed of DeviceAnywhere and Michael Kurtzman of Sybase 365.

Shikiar (left), Golla (center), Syed (right)

Shikiar (left), Golla (center), Syed (right)

The LiMo Foundation was launched in February 2007 by six leaders in the mobile industry; three key goals are centered around creating a mobile platform centered around Linux. “There are three key areas we’ve had our eye on,” he said. “The first is to engage with the mobile industry, and our organization now has 50 active members. Secondly, the platform itself has been developed, with the first version finished and second version ready by end of this year. The third goal has been to distribute devices into the marketplace. We’ve quietly introduced 23 LiMo handsets to different markets, now in the hands of tens of millions of consumers. We’ve been expanding the LiMo ecosystem, and now see interest from mobile content providers and many others.”

Golla described AppVoyage as a mobile web application gateway to simplify and personalize complex
web applications for mobile use, providing an ecosystem with personalization so that people can engage in mobile applications. DeviceAnywhere, said Syed, enables remote testing of mobile content on 1,500 devices. “We see an increasing surge of interest in the mobile Internet,” he added. “It started with the iPhone and now with all the other similar phones coming out. It’s encouraging people to browse, whereas in the past it was mainly downloadable media.”

Sybase 365, the mobile subsidiary of Sybase, has a primary focus on a couple of areas: one of them is inter-carrier messaging, mobile banking and connecting content providers to carriers. Kurtzman related that he works in the mobile marketing group.

Bernhard made a pitch for OMNI’s publication, slated for release in January 2009. Mobility and Factors Driving the Broadband Economy will show how consumers are using the devices. “The work we do is based around econometrics,” he explained. “It’s important to get the historical perspective as well as looking forward. We look at subscriber profiles, service provider scales and where voice, data and mobile content is going.”

Convergence of platforms was the first topic addressed. “What we’re seeing is that while handset manufacturers are still trying to differentiate themselves, there’s also convergence,” said Syed. “More developers are focusing on limited sets of platforms or operating systems. At the same time, we’re also seeing increasing fragmentation. When Apple comes out with iPhone and Android and LiMo…all these smart phone platforms are gaining ground. The other proprietary platforms are still there and growing. From what I can tell, I don’t see the market collapsing into a few standard platforms, but more developers are focusing on the smart platforms.”

Shikiar noted that Linux phones have been in the market for years but that the LiMo foundation is designed to standardize the operating system for all Linux-based phones. “In addition this is creating greater efficiencies inside companies,” he said. “We’re seeing a move towards consolidation here.” Sybase 365 Kurtzman asked how we get the rest of the handset market to follow. “The demand and opportunity is to find a forum where all the parties can communicate in a fair and open way,” Shikiar said. “Governance doesn’t sound exciting but it’s the key to collaboration and to the model itself. It’s imperative that the OS reflects a number of companies and interested parties in the mobile ecosystem.”

The smart phone evolution creates a new user paradigm of mobility, said Bernhard, who asked how the device itself can come to fruition. Syed said the biggest promise of the smart phone is to enable a better mobile Internet experience. “People will start shifting away from downloadable stuff,” he said. “These smarter platforms are powerful enough to deliver a rich experience over a web platform. On the other side, how do you leverage their capabilities? Creating awareness in the consumer space about what’s available is also needed. Most people aren’t aware of what’s available. Apple’s app store brought awareness to all these great apps that could be downloading. Marketing channels and discovery mechanisms that are more cutting edge is needed for smart phones.”

Content rights and digital rights management was another topic that the panelists addressed. The discussion quickly turned to privacy rights. Kurtzman noted that there are two schools of thought. “That if a user wants to make their information made public, their actions can be tracked to a certain degree, as long as it’s relevant,” he added. “There’s a good case for being able to share that information.” Security is an important aspect of his company’s work, said Golla, who pointed out the other “case” to be made for privacy issues. “If you don’t respect consumer privacy, no one will come to you,” he said.

Bernhard asked what strategic role the industry plays in determining the future of application and device standards. “Very honestly, handset manufacturers wants to participate in standards bodies, but the fundamental thing they’re also trying to do is differentiate themselves from one another,” said Syed. “My feeling is that any kind of standardization in the hardware is far from reality. I don’t see standardization taking over the industry quite yet.” [As Kurtzman noted, DeviceAnywhere is predicated on that lack of standardization.]

“We tend to not see that reverse flow of information coming from subscribers telling us what they need and want,” said Kurtzman. “It’s from the top to the bottom.” With Google Android being launched, Bernhard asked Shikiar what will happen with competition. “Android is an example of how Linux is relevant,” he said. “We think openness is a profound trend that the industry is moving towards. I believe people will begin to understand the importance of a truly collaborative, equal forum where all companies can collaborate for a common code layer to be implemented across devices.”

How change is impacting the relationship of carriers to application providers was addressed by Kurtzman. “The carriers want the garden walls to fall,” he said. “They see the future. We think they’re resistant to change, but it’s just hard to change. The direct relationship between the app provider to the consumer is a chicken-and-egg scenario and I don’t know how you fix it so it’s more like a PC experience. No one calls their Internet provider if the application doesn’t work. But it’s a different environment. Maybe we need a consortium to help educate the consumer that he or she can get to these applications directly.”

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How to Mobilize Existing Content

From the Mobile Content & Marketing Expo

San Jose, CA–Kevin Davis, president/CEO of, Russ Lujan, president/COO of New Media Broadcasting Company and Nitin Bhandari, CEO/co-founder of Skyfire, moderated by Mark Jacobstein, CEO of iSkoot, talked about one of’s favorite topics: how to mobilize existing content.

Russ Lujan and Kevin Davis

Russ Lujan and Kevin Davis

The panel discussed the best examples of mobilized content. Davis lauded a competitor, Flixster on the iPhone. “What they do effectively is give context around a transactional decision,” he said. Bhandari, a self-described sports nut, praised ESPN’s mobile offerings on his phone. “It doesn’t just give you scores but engages me with other information,” he said. Lujan liked the Twitter mobile solution, which incorporates the community aspect of dynamic media.

With regard to revenue models, is advertiser-supported. Davis pointed out that iPhone applications are hot for sister company “A graphic ad gets lots of click-throughs because it’s the only graphic thing on the ad, but that will change,” he said. “If it’s the one graphic thing on the page, people will click.” Bhandari said that long-term, advertising has a lot of potential. “I think there is no reason why CPMs and CPAs can be as good as those online,” he said. “There’s intense personalization and you can do click-to-call. As I see it, there is so much inventory, people are experimenting. It’s not a line-item budget. Everybody is aggressively optimistic that that model will work.” Lujan noted the shift to IP-based communication. “The business model is monthly re-occurring revenue and revenue sharing which could be ad-supported or subscription based for premium content,” he said. “There’s a whole new set of opportunities for the IP-based content, where you by-pass the telco structure.”

Technical and business changes in the next 12 months that will impact mobile content include all-you-can-eat data plans, pointed out Jacobstein. “You take advertising, and add context and already your CPMs are higher,” said Davis. “Technologies that know where you are and can give you something based on that have tremendous potential. The more accurate and behavioral we can get, the better.” Lujan noted that content collaboration, with mash-up capabilities for users to co-create with professional content and pass it a long, is a game changer. “In addition to that, how do you manage all your content?” he said. “You can synch your data, but how to you access it, store it, collaborate with it. This goes to key areas.” The open handset is focusing every other manufacturer to open up. “When the Sony Ericssons and Nokias sell those, it’ll be interesting to see what they open up to,” said Jacobstein, who noted that these manufacturers’ handset sales dwarf Apple’s.

Is the mobile phone a PC in your pocket? Jacobstein asked the panelists if they agreed. “This is a fundamental question,” said Davis. “We went through a major re-design, and even on this most amazing device that changed my life [the iPhone], it doesn’t work. We have to decide where this fits into our business model.” Bhandari joked he should try it on Skyfire, to laughter. Lujan said the PC and mobile phone are converging in some ways but not all ways. “We’re nearing earlier generation PC platforms on the handset,” he said. “It does have the mobility factor. If you’re a professional content producer, you still have to tune the content for the different devices, and there has to be a content management system to get it out to all those different devices. We’re probably a generation or two out from the mobile phone being what the PC can provide.”

“The technical answer is that the mobile phone is absolutely a PC,” said Bhandari. “It’s not as good as the PC of today that we’re all used to. But then part of me thinks that thinking of it as a PC is a failure of imagination. It’s so much more. It’s always on, always with you, nobody else uses it. It’s way more than a PC.”

In a discussion about creativity and the mobile phone, Davis said he foresees something scary in the future: mobile stalking. “It’s not unforeseeable,” he said. “The paparazzi culture is already out of control.” The possibility of instant communication has been used to great and positive good in places like Southeast Asia. “But instantaneous can be a problem too,” agreed Jacobstein, noting the panic on Wall Street.

Education, training and other potential uses of the mobile phone were also touched on. “Why give the child a laptop when you can give them a mobile phone?” noted Davis. “Information services where time-to-market is important is another area of content for the mobile phone,” added Lujan.

“The big picture is, are there ways that we can help facilitate the community aspect?” said Davis, with regard to strategies to monetize “We see devices much differently than younger people. Long-term we need to think about more ways that content can be used. My job is to look at the ways that people are using phones that I don’t myself.”

For Skyfire, it comes down to feasible tests, said Bhandari. “You can get anything on the web onto this mobile device, but we want to do more,” he said. “Killer apps are entertainment, communication through social networks and email, and transactions. Those are the three things we focus on. We’re content agnostic. YouTube is a big site for us, but so is”

With regard to the NFL, Bhandari noted that made a big deal with Sprint, making the games only available to Sprint subscribers. “We think that’s wrong,” he said. “Information wants to be free.” The moderator said that discovery was a big driver for him. “Finding content is key,” he said. “There’s a lot of great content and applications and a lot of people don’t know how to get to it.”

One audience member asked Bhandari why we need a proxy-based browser in the mobile world. “I feel over the last two years, browsers have come a long way,” he said. “What’s happening is that it lowers the cost of development. The 90/10 rule applies here: 90 percent of your engagement comes from the top 10 percent of devices. I feel like everything moves into the browser because it makes discovery easy, development less expensive. It’s expectations. We talk about mobile as a PC, and then you expect it to behave like a PC, and it’s not. That’s why we think that at least for now, the proxy browser.”

Jacobstein disagreed with Bhandari, noting that he didn’t think the browser would be ubiquitous on mobile for some time. There are intrinsic limitations to what browsers have access to, even on the PC, he added. “I would argue that the most interesting services that people will build will be completely integrated. The coolest thing on iPhone is that level of integration, and that takes more than a browser.”

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Creating Content for the Mobile Platform

From Mobile Content & Marketing Expo

San Jose, CA—Assaf Tarnopolsky, vp of mobile programming & digital product development at Sony Pictures Television International, gave the afternoon’s keynote address. SPTI is heavily involved in creating and distributing original mobile content, from the immensely popular “After World” to the new “Gemini Division.”

Assaf Tarnopolsky, just before keynote

Assaf Tarnopolsky, just before keynote

Tarnopolsky recalls when he entered the industry in 2005; when he told his friends that he was going to be putting TV on the phone, he remembers getting a lot of very strange looks and comments as to why anyone would want to do that. “Luckily, it seems to be working out,” he said. “People do want and need that, and you’re here because you believe that.”

“Media services–music, movies, TV–will become ubiquitous on mobile devices the way that mobile devices themselves have become ubiquitous and features like cameras have become ubiquitous on those devices,” he said.

Tarnopolosky tried to give attendees the studio’s view of creating mobile and digital content creation. “We’re experimenting, we’re trying new things and in the process learning,” he said. “We’re trying to be in the vanguard as models and new consumption patterns emerge.”

The good news is that metrics are moving up, said Tarnopolsky. “Telcos are making massive investments in new networks like 3G, the new standard. The overall growth rate of subscriptions is slowing due to saturation, 3G subscriptions are expected to double in the next couple of years.” He also pointed to the advent of 4G and its promise of broadcast video, and new handsets enabling companies like Sony Pictures Television International to deploy rich media.

The biggest game changer now is the iPhone, he said, adding to the chorus of others saying just this today. “There’s been a fundamental shift in the public’s understanding of media-on-the-go,” he said. “Even my mother and mother-in-law see people using mobile media and understand the utility.”

Since SPTI is an international company, Tarnopolsky has a view to what’s going on with mobile TV in places like France with telecom provider Orange. “In South Korea, there’s a ton of usage and a lot of money being made,” he said. “They’re to be 20 percent more business with one-sixth the population. It’s big business and moving in the right direction. Twenty-two percent of their population watch mobile TV on a regular basis and for over an hour today, versus our more snack-sized mobile content.”

Looking into the future for the commercialization of mobile content, Tarnopolsky suggested looking at fast-growing markets in India, China, and Brazil or even at the youth in the USA. “These are kids who probably watch broadcast TV, but few have laptops of DSL connections but a whole lot of them have mobile devices,” he said. “With 1.2 billion mobile devices will be sold over the world this year, it’s easy to see that mobile devices will be the connective tissue of modern communications.”

Content is king, goes the adage in Hollywood. “It is a critical link in the chain of getting people to want to get involved,” he said. “Time saving and productivity applications will be the killer apps for some time to come.” But, as mobile devices become more ingrained in our lives–lifeware, so to speak–everything we’re used to doing on the Internet we’ll also be doing on mobile devices.

Tarnopolsky said that content that has done well so far on the mobile platform is generally live or almost-live and short. “Current events, sports and finance are the kinds of things that drive trial and adoption of mobile media today,” he said. “It’s that perishable information, and that’s totally logical.” Brands also drive adoption, he noted. “When you go to CNN Mobile and know Wolf Blitzer is going to be on, and you know and trust him, you’ll feel good.” Short content from music videos to stand-up comedy also does well because it’s consumable in snack-sized pieces. “Personal and relevant will be the two kinds of content that will succeed moving forward–and those are the two words that describe the mobile phone itself.”

The studio’s challenge is to make that content that’s personal, relevant and, of course, good. It has to be easy to find and use, and we’re not really there as an industry. Wouldn’t it be nice if it had DVR functionality like my Tivo at home? And even better if it were free. “It’s clear that the mobile version of “The Godfather” has arrived, unless you think “Chocolate Rain” is as good as it gets, which I don’t,” he added. “At Sony we have boots on the ground around the world so we can try things in different markets.”

The four pillars of what SPTI is doing is original digital content, games, networks and catalog extensions. Catalog extensions is the attempt to mine the existing content sitting in the archive. Minisode Network is “the shows you love, only shorter.” SPTI takes classic shows like “Charley’s Angels,” “The Facts of Life,” “Starsky & Hutch,” all the classic shows, and edit them down to 5-minute minisodes. “They’re eminently consumable on the mobile phone.”

With current TV programming, SPTI is looking for ways to extend the programming onto the mobile phone, with shows like “Rescue Me,” “The Tudors” and others. “What kind of mobile programming could we deploy that people would watch?” he asked. “We’re spending time thinking about that.”

Outside the U.S., in 50 countries, SPTI runs three principal network brands: Animax, AXN and Sony Entertainment Television. SPTI is deploying the mobile version of these linear channels. “These brands are composed largely of U.S. content,” he said. “And we typically don’t have the mobile broadcasting rights, so we acquire those rights or do new deals for new content, or programming our own original programming.”

That project started 18 months ago and they’re in 20 countries, primarily with Animax, with shows anime and other animation content to the 13 to 24 demographic, the ones least likely to have control of the remote control at night and also the ones most likely to feel comfortable using the mobile phone to watch content.

“Mobile games are a no-brainer,” said Tarnopolsky who said they’ve created games for Hancock, Spider-Man and other properties. “This is an obvious way for us to extend our brands and make money in one of the most established areas of mobile.”

Last but not least is original digital productions, what he calls “the forward looking” part of the strategy. They’re trying to create properties with story-driven features that engage audiences and work across multiple platforms. Audiences interact with media in different ways; the native-mobile and digital audiences feel at ease watching a TV show and texting or IMing their friends while they watch. “We’re trying to bring a modern sensibility to what they watch,” he said, “And have what we’ve learned inform the production process. It’s also to do our part to push along our clients and their clients, the advertisers, to attach themselves to new media knowing it’s been produced by a top professional entertainment company.” He noted that big companies like Proctor & Gamble will have a hard time buying against YouTube, “because they don’t know what they’re buying. A new media environment from a company like SPTI is a more likely match.”

“Afterworld” was SPTI’s first mobile product, with 130 episodes telling a hero’s journey in a post -apocalyptic world. The protagonist tracks Russell Shoemaker’s progress home from New York in a world in which people and technology have vanished. The animation was created with mobile distribution in mind, so the shots are tight and the movement is slow, to accommodate the networks and phones of two or three years ago. “And it came with cool stuff on the web, with deep engagement story complements,” he said. “It hadn’t really been done before, and the challenges in producing it and deploying it were many. We made some money, our client made some money and we learned quite a bit.” “Afterworld” was also sold to broadcasters, telcos and other platforms.

The first licensee was TV One in Australia. They operate the SciFi channel and an online sci-fi website. “As the episode was being played, new story elements were posted to the website, to watch consumer patterns,” he said. “As we hoped, when the episode was done, audiences flocked to the website and page views spiked and view times were 50 percent longer than before. The next day, catch-up episodes were available, and people were downloading those episodes, so many that it was just behind “The Simpsons” and “The Family Guy”.”

The next original mobile series is “Gemini Division,” exclusively on in the U.S., and co-produced by SPTI which is distributing it everywhere outside the U.S. “This takes the lessons of “Afterworld” and makes a better story,” he said. “We started with a great story – a sci-fi story set 5 ninutes into the future,” he said, noting that the lead is played by Rosario Dawson, “a bona fide movie star.” “She’s a NY City cop who falls in love with a mysterious stranger. “Then things get weird,” said Tarnopolsky who urged viewers to go to and find out more. “We discovered with “Afterworld” that 130 episodes was just too long,” he said, “Consumer attachment waned at the half-way point.” For “Gemini Division,” they added more casual games and a graphic novel, ancillary story elements that consumers can interact with.

“And we took it a step further,” he said. “If you’re a registered member, you’ll receive text messages from characters in the story that are clues. If you’re into sci-fi and conspiracies, you can follow the clues down the rabbit hole into an alternative world where you can try to discover what’s going on and help solve the mystery.”

Next up is tackling the funny: “Woke Up Dead,” a modern vampire tale, following a young man who wakes up and discovers he’s dying. He and his intrepid band of friends try to piece him back together.

“Coming full circle on the mobile media industry and why it’s taking so much longer to blow up than we hoped,” he said. “Why is that? It would seem all the pieces are in place for the industry. I think there’s a vicious cycle of mis-aligned objectives among the stakeholders. Consumers don’t want to pay more for content that they feel they can get free, carriers don’t want to risk their networks, and content owners want to get paid every time they distribute a piece of content on any platform. So the advertisers are left out of an industry segment they should be licking their chops over, one where the connection to the consumer is relevant, personal and constant. New technology allows advertisers to know exactly what their consumers are doing. To me, it’s mind-boggling that advertising hasn’t come in sooner.”

“Subscription costs are still high, discovery of content and how to use it is behind, consumers aren’t flocking to the content because of this, and advertisers naturally stay out because the business is small and there isn’t a critical mass of users. That has got to change. Studios always want to make premium content. The networks and cable systems rely on advertising as a core piece of their business. I’d argue that this TV/cable that we’re so used to will, in some shape or form, come to exist in the mobile eco-system, and as advertisers come in, it’ll be the rising tide that lifts all of us.”

“I can imagine a carrier, a studio, a handset manufacturer working together to try to blow the business open,” he concluded. “It could look like pricing data services lower, a studio taking less up front or handset manufacturers providing video-enabled devices at cheaper prices. As consumer interest spikes, advertisers will come running as fast as they can, and then the advertisers will be in this business as well. As JupiterResearch perfects reporting and metrics, advertisers will benefit from that. And the whole industry will move up.”

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How to Make Money from Mobile Content

From the Mobile Content & Marketing Expo

San Jose, CA—How can you miss with a panel on making money? This session, with Joe Laszlo, director of advertising at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), moderating a panel made up of mobile video executives, was packed. Each executive spoke about his or her company’s business model. Susan Cashen, vp of marketing at mywaves described the company as a handset agnostic mobile video service that delivers video around the world. “Because we’re free, we’re dependent on advertising,” she said. “We’ve also recently launched commerce with entertainment. When a consumer is immersed in an entertainment experience like watching a free Beyonce video, it’s a natural for them to be able to buy Beyonce content, both virtual and real goods.”

Transpera CEO Frank Barbieri described his company as “building the largest premium ad-supported mobile video network.” Networks in Motion is an applications and platform provider for the mobile phone, focused on search and navigation, with a subscription-based model. “Navigation and search is alive and well on the paid platform,” said CEO Doug Antone. Bytemobile CMO Adrian Hall said his company provides services to the carrier as an enabler to the end-user. “We basically enable the mobile Internet for the end-user,” he said. “And we see user-profile information which is useful for contextual and behavioral targeted advertising.”

On the advertising front, asked Laszlo, are advertisers are willing to pay a premium for mobile? Bytemobile’s Hall said the one thing that appears obvious is that the more targeted the ad, the more valuable. Barbieri said that mobile has far more focus of attention than the PC, where the screen could be displaying several windows and other distractions simultaneously. “For brand advertisers, that increased attention leads to better numbers,” he said. “I think the news is fairly good in these early days.” Cashen said about 6.5 million unique come to mywaves every month; they come twice a week and spend 20 minutes, watching 2 or 3 minute segments. “A 30-second pre-roll just won’t cut it,” she said. “In the short term, there are big opportunities to connect with consumers via direct marketing. There’s genius to leverage the video entertainment on the handset from the point of view of a brand. Taking what works on the web on mobile is taking baby steps,. You have this incredible storefront on the handset. Click-to-call, click-to-buy: there’s no better measurement. Leveraging the entertainment to create action is where we feel good.”

Cashen said that transcoding video for the consumer gives her company information on the consumers. “We have the ability to target by DMA, time of day, and type of handset,” she reported.

Everyone is trying to drive personalization and the consistency of brand across multiple devices, noted Hall and more personalized advertising based on user needs will create a dramatically stronger click-through rate. The mobile marketing campaign has to have ways to interact with the user, said Barbieri. “We work with our brand advertisers to brainstorm the mobile marketing campaign and how to target the audience.”

Antone observed that his company’s business model is different in that the user pays $10/month to navigate. “It’s no longer how you get from Point A to Point B,” he said. “We want someone to turn it on in the morning for real-time traffic information. Not just where’s the local movie theater but what’s playing and when. It’s all available on your client-server application on your handset. See us as a publisher that’s getting your content out to people. Our customers are the carriers, who sell to their customers. That’s our strategy. All of them have this $10 price point. At some point it’ll be $5 and beyond that it will be zero, a free application. The relevance of this is that when someone is mobile, they’re also motivated. When you’re in a browsing application and looking for a restaurant, you’re motivated to go. Targeted, pertinent advertising that can happen during that search is what we’re focused on.”

But to get the numbers, the only way the carriers can make that work is to draw in big percentages of their users. To get 50 to 60 percent, they’ll have to change the pricing model. “We’re betting on the idea that they’re going to try to do that and not roll over,” said Antone

Focusing on how the Networks in Motion product will one day be free, Antone talked about the challenge. “It depends how good we all are at creating the economics on the back end,” he said. “That listing of Italian restaurants in your neighborhood, for example. Would you find it offensive to get a manipulated search, where the restaurant that’s farther away pays to be listed first? When do consumers say, Forget it – you’re giving me something I don’t want. We have to do this in a way that there’s enough economics but the consumer still likes it.”

Finally, panelists spoke about the role of the carrier, between the extremes of a dumb pipe and a walled garden. “There is a smart pipe concept where there’s a tremendous amount of marketing and merchandising power that any one would be a fool to ignore, because they have a connection to the user with billing inserts, with product marketing on the deck,” said Barbieri. “There’s a relationship that can be used to promote content well. We have to move from a programming-type mentality of carriers to more of a merchandising, marketing and retail type of relationship. And that’s good for us and for the consumer as well. We have yet to get to the point where there are tremendous marketing and retailing competencies at some of the carriers, but that’ll change.

The carriers could move faster,” added Hall. “They are desperately trying to be smart pipes and it’s incumbent on us to work with them to become smarter. While they’re starting to recognize they’re sitting in a unique place and make smarter use of the user profiles they see. By doing that effectively, they’ll continue to be smart pipes or, in some cases become smarter pipes.”


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Social Networking: Money Maker or a Collection of Address Books?

I think it’s pretty obvious at this point in the game that social networking is likely to be a component of much if not most of mobile content. This panel on social networking was made up of Keith Katz, whose Cellufun company creates games with a strong social component; John Poisson is president of Tiny Pictures that allows users to share photos and videos among friends; Mikael Vinding at, which allows the user to create interactive mobile campaigns, and Christopher Ngyun at Bluepulse, a mobile messaging service dedicated to the mobile web. All the companies are ad-supported except for Bluepulse which is transaction-supported and which offers a mixed model.

Moderator Julie Ask at JupiterResearch noted that most people think of Facebook or MySpace when they think of social networking. She asked how social networking played into what each company is doing. Poisson says it’s defined as going into a community space, whether it’s a MySpace or Facebook type of model. Tiny Pictures is a much smaller version: your real social network, the ones you’ve called recently on your mobile phone. Vinding says he feels that what they does competes with Facebook in terms of an application, although they’ll never beat them at their game; but what his company does is built around the mobile platform rather than the “add-on” that Facebook is doing, said Vinding. “Everyone can create personal clubs online and free,” he said. “Through our service via mobile messaging, you can find a list of people from your torn, for example, and in a safe and anonymous way get to know them.”

Social networks are nothing more than a collection of address books, said Bluepulse’s Nguyen. But when you add mobile into it, the game changes. “Mobile is with you all the time and connections are much more likely to be interactive and maintained,” he said. “Add the 4 billion subscriptions we’re at today, and the really interesting opportunity is the mobile social networking space.”

Vinding disagreed with Nguyen’s belief that social networking is nothing more than a collection of address books. “You can update your status, which is stored and logged and can be data-mined,” he noted. “It’s a whole knowledge compendium of what a person is and what they like.”

Nguyen asked to respond. “Behavioral targeting is already proven as something that can make money, but is no where near as effective as [you think]. The value of looking at your yahoo mail traffic is a hundred-fold more important. The time aspect, not the relationship aspect is what people want, and mobile gives you that.”

Cellufun’s Katz said it boils down to the definition of social networking. “Social networking can be a group that has an interest in something and come together in large groups to pursue that,” he said. “We have millions of people into playing casual games on their phones and have learned it can be more fun doing it with a group with similar interests.” It would be hard to describe any part of a group that gets together with similar interests as not being social networking, added Tiny Pictures’ Poisson.

How do you monetize social networking? asked Ask. “You have to have a lot of folks doing it to make it work,” agreed Katz. “We have a pretty simple way of making money which is through display ads. We also do things that we can do because we’re more than a portal. We have a virtual economy, to play games or buy various goods. We’re now incorporating real brands into that mall. So you have to have a lot of people and find other ways of advertising aside from banner ads.”

Most of the growth of his business has been word-of-mouth, said Katz. “There’s also the stickiness factor and that becomes a more compelling message to advertisers.” “The nature of our business is based on the intimate nature of the phone, and it’s naturally viral because you have to get your friends to sign up,” said Poisson. “But you’re much more likely to come back because if I don’t send photos or comment on my friends photos, people will wonder where you are. It’s built into the nature of what we do. People get into the habit of checking every few hours. We’re a totally free, advertising-supported site.”

Tiny Pictures' Poisson talks; Cellufun's Katz looks on

Tiny Pictures' Poisson; Cellufun's Katz looks on

The most interesting revenue-creation model in his world is to be able to deliver sponsored content into the stream; the user could opt into a “Tropic Thunder” channel, which gave them behind-the-scenes footage of the movie in addition to their friends’ photos. Then consumers had a conversation around that comment. “That speaks to what these media-rich devices can do,” he said.

Social networking is like a big distribution channel, said Vinding. The vast majority of revenue on a Facebook is advertising. Yes, advertising is an immediate thing that can be done now, he said, but don’t just look at this as a social networking site on a PC, because the mobile is also a payment device, especially with premium text services that exists in every country. The third prong they’re looking at is media polling or surveys.

“You make money from the verbs not the nouns,” said Nguyen. “Facebook is a big noun, not a verb; it’s in the action that people express an intent and that’s where the money is to be made. We’re perfectly happy not to have our own social network. I fail to see the significance of social networks as a major money maker; it’s a collection of powerful address books.”

Will social networking on the cell phone be an extension of what goes on on the PC, or something quite different. “I think it’s a very different experience, with the always with you factor, the constant connection,” said Poisson. “Sharing bits of information with your friends all day long, engaging on the go is very different than what’s on the computer.”

Ask noted that teenagers and young adults want that constant checking-in. Will this kind of social networking be limited to youth, or to vertical communities? “I think it feels most relevant to the youth market: they’re comfortable with the technology and comfortable sharing,” said Poisson. “I would never have told my parents what I was doing every day, but my 25 year old sister is constantly texting, calling, sharing. And my mom is now sharing what she’s doing. It spreads from that.” Vinding said he’s seen vertical applications of that, from automotive to medical. “It’s around a specific interest or condition and it expands from there, incorporating all ages,” he said.

Why is the immediacy of the cell phone important for this kind of vertical content? “You can stay in touch, if you’re going someplace,” said Vinding. “The method of access is also important. Not everyone has a PC. Everybody has a mobile phone. If you were doing something where people needed an easy way to update everyday, it’s easy and it’s in your hand. It’s not just immediacy–it’s accessibility.”

“Immediacy is the one thing that’s different with the mobile phone and not on the PC,” agreed Nguyen. “It’s something that you just don’t want but because everyone else has it, you have to.” Do we really need things immediately? “Let’s not conflate immediacy with urgency,” said Poisson. “There is something about immediacy that strikes us all as wasteful or ridiculous. The best example with the younger generation is text-messaging which seems like a stupid, stupid way to communicate. But it has by all measures supplanted every other form of communication for this generation. It doesn’t interrupt you (although you can argue that) but a big part of its value is its immediacy. It’s not about urgency, it’s about now.”

Nguyen said “I think people will die without this stuff.” “I agree with John but I’d push the point further. Immediacy does mean urgency. Let’s say we need to know the population of Zimbabwe. A few years ago, it was reasonable to come back with an answer in a few days. Today, if you can’t come up with an answer in 5 minutes, you’re gone. In the future, if you can’t come up with the answer in 5 seconds, you’re gone. Immediacy is fundamentally transforming media.”

“What the iPhone does is – the UI is completely different which encourages more usage, people who use it are more likely to use gmail mobile and the WiFi platform: all those things conspire to say that we’re at an interesting shift,” said Nguyen. “I don’t think that in a few years we’ll dispute whether you need that piece of information in 5 minutes. You’ll need it.”

Ask asked the panelists if location play a role in social networking services. “We’re trying to figure that out,” admitted Katz. “We’re creating a world travel game, and what we’re doing is implementing a guide system so that if you live near that city you can be a guide and earn extra points for doing that. We think that will create more of a bond. We already see that people with sub-interests beyond gaming are forming their own groups on the site. For example, on their own, hundreds of people are participating in a site on mobile pets, virtual pets, that people are feeding. We’re trying to find ways that can help our users forge alliances based on geography which we think will increase the stickiness of the site.”

Vinding said that location is fun and interesting but in terms of social networking, one of the great benefits is that you can talk to people around the world. “I don’t necessarily want to talk to someone near me unless it’s dating or meeting local people to have beers,” he said. “We don’t see a lot of demand for location-based demands.” The scale and scope issues of location often aren’t discussed, said Poisson. “Location has the potential to be industry and experience changing but there’s a big difference between regionality and sitting in Conference Room 1 at the Marriott. Even with my closest friend, that’s a tough value proposition to get. People don’t even want their close friends to know where they are.”

One-quarter of teens want to track where their friends are, said Ask. They don’t want to be tracked, but they want to be able to track. “If I have taken 10 pictures in a restaurant in San Francisco and Ian and ten of my friends also take those pictures, maybe we’re at the same birthday party and put those pictures together,” said Poisson “I think that’s a lot more interesting than Where’s Ian right now?”

It’s not new to know where you are, said Nguyen. “If you’re late for a meeting, you’ll be able to give a status update,” he said. “Occasionally information about time will be useful but won’t add much to the transactional basis.”

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