From the Mobile Content & Marketing Expo
San Jose, CA–Kevin Davis, president/CEO of Hollywood.com, 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 MobilizedTV.com’s favorite topics: how to mobilize existing content.
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, Hollywood.com is advertiser-supported. Davis pointed out that iPhone applications are hot for sister company MovieTickets.com. “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 Hollywood.com. “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 NFL.com.”
With regard to the NFL, Bhandari noted that NFL.com 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.”