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?


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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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.”


Filed under Advertising/Marketing, Content, Monetizing Mobile