Catching Up On My Reading

After my last column on Amazon's new music download store, several readers asked me to provide the URL for the Amazon mobile storefront. I use m.amazon.com. But that reminds me how too much content is getting pushed to phones that none of us see, let alone critique. I thought it was high time I rifled through my own recent bookmarks to pass on some of the mobile sites that caught my eye in recent months. This time, let's see what the magazine industry is up to.

Playboy Mobile (wap.playboy.com): Playboy has played around with different on-deck models in Europe and seemed to have an application under perennial development here in the U.S. The company has finally come out with an ad-supported WAP destination powered by Quattro Wireless. Quattro's adaptive Web approach pulls select content from the Playboy.com pool to shape it into a mobile iteration. The "Playboy Advisor" can make for a long scroll, but other material like jokes of the day and of course the non-nude girly shots work well. Wisely, the designers keep the selection to four or so main content buckets. Interestingly, I find the product and media reviews the most interesting because they are refreshed and timely. But then, I am old. You have to be 23 and high on hormones to look for titillation on a 2-inch cell phone screen.

Style.com (m.style.com): In a sea of mobile ringtone sponsors for otherwise high-class content, it is good to see CondeNet matched advertiser with editorial in its mobile version of the popular fashion site. Chanel (which you don't usually see on a cell phone) is the launch sponsor of this very elegant brand extension that is smart enough to know this is all about the runway galleries. Style just pours them on but in a very simple interface that lets the user vote on their favorites among a gallery. I am curious to see if the less-is-more approach works as well here as it does on the runway. But I am thankful that I see a fashion sponsor whose name I recognize. My daughter had to repeat "Baby Phat" to me several times before I understood that it was an actual apparel brand. Yup, he's getting old.

Hearst's teen books, Seventeen (m.seventeen.com) and CosmoGirl.com (m.cosmogirl.com) are plain Janes compared to Playboy and Style. They pitch their youthful audiences with more variety, mobilized versions of many of the magazine and Web site features, some of which require some drilling down before hitting content. While Seventeen holds the content categories to five, CosmoGirl had nine that often led to a secondary menu of fewer rather than more choices. For both sites the horoscopes seem the most likely draws for mobile users. Neither brand is trying very hard to identify a core value that translates to mobile effectively. They seem to assume the users are already in love with some many aspects of the brand and that mobile teens want to drill and drill across many categories, but I am not sure. But then, I am...well, you know the rest.

In fact, I remain unsure whether most magazine brands really need to be on mobile, beyond their own brand vanity that forces them to "be everywhere the user is." Many magazine companies are still catching up to the Web, where endemic content models dominated in categories that the old media brands thought they owned. While the print bigwigs were trying to "extend their brand" to the new medium, the native providers already understood that replicating old media here was going to be futile. You needed tools or content that makes sense for the medium. I would rather see magazine brands take more of a flyer on mobile and try something really different with their brands, instead of merely stretching them.

But then again, I may be too old to know better. Who the hell else still uses "bigwigs" to describe anyone anymore? Well, other than my mother.

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