Category Archives: Monetizing Mobile

How to make money with content and applications for the mobile phone and other mobile devices.

Networks/Broadcasters Look at Mobile Television

At the Future of Television in Hollywood a few days ago, a high-level panel took a look at the opportunities and challenges facing the television industry. Moderated by Bill Sanders, president, Pervasive Media, panelists included Tim Connolly, vp, mobile distribution, Disney/ABC/ESPN Media Networks; Kraig Baker, partner, David Wright Tremaine LLP; Jim Eadie, vp,

Bill Sanders moderates mobile TV panel

Bill Sanders moderates mobile TV panel

digital distribution, MTV Networks; John Lawson, evp, ION Media Networks;Steve Bradbury, vp, business affairs, GoTV Networks; and Jonathan Barzilay, svp, programming and advertising, MediaFLO USA.

Sanders started off by polling the audience on how many watched video on their mobile phone–streaming or downloading–or a weekly basis. As is typical for these casual polls, the answer was…almost no one. But Sanders wasn’t discouraged. “We need to move beyond it being a ‘gee whiz’ thing to where it’s a business,” he said. He asked every panelist to describe some development they’ve seen in the last year that has changed the game…or will change the game in the next 6 to 12 months.

Steve Bradbury, GoTV: I think when you go beyond the iPhone and start talking about the Android that’s come out of the box strong and will have a proliferation, that’s interesting. LG will do a store, Blackberry and Palm will have a store. The whole idea of carriers no longer being that central focus [is a game changer]. Handset mfrs trying to take back control of content is a coming trend.

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How to Make Money with Mobile Erotica

It helps to start off with a solid background in publishing. Holly Schmidt, co-founder of Ravenous Romance, a publisher of erotica aimed at women and Ravenous Books_Blackdistributed via cell phone (as well as e-books and audio books), has been in the print publishing business for 15 years for Rodale, Element Books and Quarto. Schmidt and partner Allan Penn joined literary agent Lori Perkins to start Ravenous Romance. MobilizedTV spoke to Schmidt about the ins and outs of digital publishing, online and on mobile.

Why did you pick the mobile phone as a platform for distribution?

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We’re fascinated by digital publishing. Lori and I, having spent decades in publishing, know that e-books will be the new mass-market publishing. It made sense to publish it digitally: less waste, instant gratification and the authors make more money. So we publish both online and on mobile. If you go to our site, it’ll tell you which format to download for which device from the Blackberry or iPhone to Kindle or the Sony reader. We’re trying to give people as many options as possible.

We didn’t start this business with the intention of just targeting the cell phone market. People are reading Ravenous Romance stories and novels mainly on digital readers or the computer, and we also offer audio books. Mobile is in its early stages and people are getting comfortable with it, whereas e-books have been around for 15 years.

The conventional wisdom [with e-books] was that the most popular books would be business and history and men would be reading. It surprised the publishing business that it was women buying e-books. Fifty percent of the fiction sold on Fictionwise, an online retailer of e-books, are romance.

Is there something about the mobile platform that made a good fit for erotica aimed at women?

I think it’s portable and discreet. The fact the reader can be sitting on the train and reading a dirty story and nobody knows it has an appeal. You can stand in the line at the grocery store and read it. You’ll get commuters and business travelers. We offer short stories that you can read in 15 minutes that you can read stuck in traffic. And everyone always has their phone with them,

A number of companies have achieved significant success in selling romantic erotica in the digital space, because it’s discreet. Whether you’re reading on your PC or iPod Touch, it’s not like carrying around a paperback book. That’s why this is the biggest category in e-books.

How did you recruit writers? I understand you’ve had numerous well known writers contribute stories.

We do. Through our connections, having been in publishing for a long time, we knew a lot of writers who had followings and a good track record in print and were willing to take a leap on this new technology. We’ve been in business since August and we have 200 writers already. We get writers from Romance Writers of America–and also those in traditional print publishing who are ready to make a leap into digital publishing. What we found is we’re getting writers from other genres: a well known horror writer wrote his first erotica for us. And non-fiction writers who have always written fiction but never gotten it published. Everybody has an erotic trunk novel, as Lori likes to say. You’d be surprised how many of these writers write erotica in their spare time. We are also taking unsolicited work and we’ve found good writers that way. We’re getting submissions from agents, without agents–we’re very open there.

How do you bill? Do you have arrangements with the carriers?

People are buying directly from our site. We don’t have a deal with carriers, although we’re talking to Global Reader about getting our books up on that. Stanza is the application for the iPhone, and you can buy our books through stanza, All Romance e-books has a deal with us, and they’re on the Stanza store.

Were any of the logistics in selling content over the mobile phone daunting? Has it been worth the effort?

So far it’s been pretty easy because it hasn’t been our primary market. Our primary market is people buying on the computer or their reading devices. But we’re hearing from customers that they’re reading on their iPhone, and people are downloading to iPod. In two years, everyone will be reading on their cell phones.


How do you keep track of metrics – who’s buying what from where?

It’s tough. We know what formats they’re downloading but beyond that we don’t know anything else. You can download a PDF and read on the Blackbery, so it’s difficult to track. We’ll track it better as we go forward. The scientific way would be to make it part of the check-out proces, or we could also do a customer survey. Our customers are vocal and we hear a lot for them. The majority of them now are downloading PDFs, which leads me to believe they are reading on their computers.


How do you market Ravenous Romance?

We’ve done a number of things. We do pay-per-click, through Google and Yahoo. We do PR. We do social networking, which is really where we’re going to put more emphasis in the coming year because (a) it’s free and (b) it is the best way to build a following of people who care about our brands and products. I’m on twitter as are many of my authors. Banner ads don’t seem to do all that much. There’s so much noise on the internet, people become immune to the banner ads, so I don’t think that’s a great investment. We’re trying to do more grassroots investment. And our readers are building their own tribes and writers groups; they build their own followings that adds up. We have a Ravenous Romance Facebook group and we’re on twitter and there’s a group on Yahoo where they can talk to our authors.

How much do Ravenous Romance stories and novels cost? And what kind of revenue arrangement do you have with these writers?

Every Ravenous Rendezvous short story is $1.99, every novel is $4.99, and every audiobook is $12.99. Authors get 38 percent of each sale.

So, is it possible then to make money on mobile with the written word?

It depends how you define money. Our authors make a higher percentage than in print. [Online and mobile publishing] takes more time to build, but in a year, two years, our writers will be making serious money. There’s no shelf space limitation. Barnes & Noble can only stock so many books. As we grow the site will evolve as well.

Any thoughts of expanding into rich media?

No, I think when we expand, we’ll expand into other literary genres such as scifi, horror, young adults–other genres that lend themselves to this model. When I think of this business model, I think of pulp fiction: things you want to read but don’t necessarily want to want to line your bookshelves with. These women read a book a day, and that’s a lot of shelf space. We need to target genres similar to that. We started with romance because it’s biggest, with the most voracious readership. With young adult, we might aggressively go after the mobile market–and that genre is next.

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Nokia Opens Hollywood Research Center

This morning, Nokia announced it has just opened a Nokia Research Center in Hollywood, headed by Rebecca Allen, who founded the Design/Media Arts Department at UCLA and previously held positions a rebeccaallen20041senior research scientist at MIT Media Lab Europe and “3D visionary” at Virgin Interactive Entertainment.

Other universities and research centers that Nokia Research Center collaborates with include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University in the US, the University of Cambridge, UK and Tsinghua University, China.

MobilizedTV interviewed Allen about the mission of the NRC and its potential relationships with and impact on the Hollywood film/TV industry.

MobilizedTV: Tell us a little about your background and how that serves you in your new position with Nokia.

Rebecca Allen: I joined Nokia in July of this year. I’ve spent many years at UCLA where I founded the Design and Media Arts Dept. For another 30 years I have been involved in emerging technolgies, particularly related to media and, as an artist and designer. I approach new technologies through my interest as an artist and designer but am also involved in and have fairly good knowledge of the technology as well. My feeling is if you want to do something creative with new technologies, you have to dig in and understand the tools. The better you know your tools, the more innovative things you can do with them. I also taught from way back that it was going to be important to have artists involved with these new tech were and have some kind of impact and influence on them, which is what got me to dive into research labs.

For me, it was an ideal job description. It’s rare that I can utilize the different parts of my hybrid background, and they were looking for someone with strong academic background in LA and with long-time experience working with media technologies in a research context. And they also wanted someone who was connected to the Hollywood community and that was something I felt comfortable with. And someone with a design background, or some knowledge of the design side. It is so rare to see a job description looking for these multi-disciplinary parts and exciting that I could bring experience to all these different areas.

MTV: What will the research center be doing? What’s your mandate?

RA: Our general mission is to look at what is unique about mobile media and where it might go in the future. Another nice thing, being in research, we’re able to be disruptive- to throw out new ideas and see if we can bring in innovation into the company. One focus we’ll have is “augmented reality.” What is important to me about the mobile space is that it takes us out into the physical world. It’s different from being locked up in a room staring at a monitor, be it a theater screen, TV screen or computer monitor.

With mobile, we’re allowed to be mobile–out in public places in the physical world. How can we have interesting and engaging entertainment using mobile? How can mobile entertainment be different from other entertainment we know? One thing we take advantage is the abilities of mobile devices such as GPS technologies. One idea might be a game where you play the game by going to different physical locations. You can connect that to social networking. We can use mobile devices’ cameras and GPS to, for example, take a picture of a building, have the computer can recognize the building and, in a game situation, it might be a clue.

I can also look at my display and see a virtual object that will give me a clue about where to go next. This is part of the mixed-reality technology where the computer is identifying some object in this space. Once the computer realizes it, it can bring up a fantasy object. The virtual objects or characters are clues that only appear when you’re at a certain location, or if you’re pointing your camera at a certain object. These are all ways to build up the augmented reality experience.

Another big area will be looking at new user interfaces, which is very exciting for me too – I’ve done a lot of work with human bodies, human motion, non-verbal communication. The idea of looking of this for more natural forms of interaction will also be an interesting area for us. When we’re out in the physical world, having a keyboard and mouse don’t make sense so exploring further the interfaces will make that particularly interesting.

MTV: Who are your Hollywood industry partners? How will you be working together?

RA: We haven’t announced Hollywood partners. I’ve been spending a chunk of my time talking to people. In the Los Angeles area, there are numerous interesting groups that look at technology tied in with media, often associated with media companies. We’re looking, in some cases, to collaborate with these media technology companies or even with a company generating media and interested in moving into the mobile space. We’re talking to some people and will talk to more who could be potential collaborators. Also, we’re looking at creative talent in the media industry. In my history, I’ve worked with talented artists who have always wanted to work with new technology, thinking about new ideas for mobile space. But we can’t announce anyone at this point.

Even in research, which is thought of very engineering/technology-focused. it’s crucial in these areas that you have strong creative design input all along the way from the beginning of your research. I’m comfortable with mixing these cultures; I’m a hybrid of these different cultures. This is why it’s important that we’re bringing in creative input from the beginning.

MTV: What would this look like?

RA: One thing I’d like to do is form a nice community of forward thinkers in Los Angeles. I’d like to organize a workshop or set of presentations for people to discuss new ideas. We’re in research, and part of our mandate is also to look farther out, where this will go, what will happen in five years in this space.

MTV: Will you work with the studios or bigger Hollywood institutions?

RA: I’m sure we’ll be connecting. I’m familiar with people at the studios. Even within the Hollywood environment, there are smaller compnies working with the Hollywood studios. I’d like to take advantge of that, to have some interaction with the larger studios but also a lot of work goes on in these smaller businesses. They’re often set up to look to the future. To be able to think and play with these new technologies, I’ll be looking at different-sized industries. Of course we’ll have the relationshp that’s started now with UCLA and USC.

MTV: What will be happening at the research center? What can we expect to see from it in the near future? Will this be open to the public or behind closed doors?

RA: I”m looking to have both public and behind-the-scenes. One nice quality of that in some of our research with the university, it’s intensively open to the public as well as research the university can share with other groups. And there will also be more proprietary work we’ll be doing that will specifically benefit Nokia that I won’t be able to reveal. We see a balance between those sides. By opening up some of the research areas, Nokia believes, it’ll help the whole field move forward. The feeling is that it’s good to keep innovation open to drive the future.

MTV: Where is the center? How many people are or will be staffing it?

RA: We’ve got a location now in Santa Monica where we plan to be for about a year. We’re also looking at a permanent location. Usually Nokia Research Labs are located close to a campus we’re involved with, but since we’re invovled with two campuses, we wanted to make sure we were central to them and a lot of media going on.

We should be at about 20 people, but we also have interns and visitors which will bring it up to probably 30 people . We’re getting staffed up, we’re actually hiring now. I’m looking for people who would come from both a user interface design, user experience and be knowledgeable about the technology and various areas of technology and development.

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Broadcasters Race Towards Mobile TV

MobilizedTV spoke with Anne Schelle, Executive Director of the Open Mobile Video Coalition about the work the coalition is doing to enable its 800 broadcast TV members to go mobile.

What’s new since NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) in April?

AS: Since NAB, we filed our trial results with the FCC. We tested three systems: LG/Harris’ MPH system, Samsung/Roeder/Schwarz’s AVS-B; and Thomson’s Micronis’ system. We announced that the baseline system we recommended was MPH but that we felt that there were aspects of AVS-B we felt would be beneficial to the standard. Then LG and Samsung announced a partnership on the two standards the day before we filed. How the ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Commitee) process works is, once the documentation is written for a standard, there’s a candidate phase where manufacturers build chips to the standard to make sure the standard works. On Sept. 25, ATSC considered the documentation to move it forward to a candidate draft standard.

Once approved to a candidate standard, it’s a four-to-six week validating process. You will see an announcement that a candidate standard has been adopted. At that point, it goes through a testing phase. We proposed that we’d assist with the funding and implementation of the testing. What happens during the testing phase is you set up model systems and enable streams to go out. Device manufacturers can pull them down and test them. We’ll also do interoperability testing to make sure all the layers work together.

When will we see real devices?

AS: The proposed date for the standard to be approved is end of May. Modifications and improvements may be made to documentation. LG and Samsung will have real devices at CES and NAB. Harris has already announced they’ll be able to have product by end of October. This is moving very rapidly. The other thing that’s interesting and different about this standard is that it’s allowing for versioning. So this is Version 1.0 with base features and capabilities. Then you’ll see a future versions come out that enable additional features. That means broadcasters will be able to react to consumers’ feedback and the ever-changing landscape of technology. The standard is very flexible so it’ll enable multiple business models.

Can you describe the beta tests?

AS: We’ll be doing consumer trials, which are a proxy for a consumer service where we can test out various device types and forms of programming. What’s great about the ATSC is that any video-enabled device can implement the technology: handsets, MP3 players, PC dongles. If you have a video-enabled phone, you do need to buy a new handset. But for a PC, you don’t. You could take your laptop with you, your dongle and plug it in and watch TV wherever you are.

How will this impact the mobile TV/video eco-system?

AS: I do see this as a big game changer. I was on an interesting panel called “Ask a Video Expert” with people from ESPN, NBC Universal, Ad Infuse and QuickPlay. The three points that were made by the panel were their frustration with having to go through the carriers today where they’re serving up content but the carrier systems are legacy so they have no clue who is being sold what. They get no reports back. Carriers aren’t really pushing entertainment. It’s all about ARPU for them. Their data plans were dismal five years ago, and they’ve turned down interoperability for texting five times. On the content side, similarly, the carrier decks have poor user interfaces. Sometimes you have to go six pages deep for discoverability. It’s very poor search because they block Google .

The user experience, in a nutshell, is poor and it’s not unified. Nothing is unified in fact. The content distributors have to deal differently with each carrier and sometimes they deal with different silos. It’s very complicated and from an end user’s perspective, it’s not the same experience to purchase a music video on AT&T as it is on Verizon. We just did a big literature review in US and Europe and found that users want what they get at home: ease of access, ease of use, commonality, the number of channels and experience they have at home, and none of that is being offered on the carrier’s deck.

Do broadcasters have any advantage in this environment?

We’ve got content, local and national. We have the ability to put together a fairly large national network that could offer up a unified experience, and in terms of awareness, who better to advertise for mobile TV but the broadcasters themselves? Their ability to self-advertise is tremendous. They can have TV talk shows about it, news shows about it, they can run spot ads. They can promote the heck out of it.

The alternative to the carrier solution is needed. At the same time, we see the carriers as partners. The user is going to be side-loading, purchasing clips and other types of content as they are today on the computer.It’s a multi-pronged experience. What’s missing-what drives all video-is live local television. TV built IPTV and the cable system. And live local content in terms of sports, news and scandals are some of the most watched programming out there. Those are all the benefits.

Many skeptics believe mobile TV won’t take off for a long time. What’s your response?

Free over-the-air broadcast will drive premium video service uptake. It’s early days if you think about it. The market is very early so there is a lot of opportunity and mobile TV really has a strong growth opportunity. The fact that it can be on almost any device that’s video enabled is really intriguing.

Take a look at the timeline of the standard. In 2009 you’ll see broadcasters building up. By Christmas 2010, manufacturers will come out with a lot of devices. My belief is that it’ll really take off in 2010 to 2011.

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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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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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