Drag And Drop World

by , Nov 27, 2007, 3:15 PM
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A recent TV spot depicts a man at a desktop computer dragging and dropping media from his monitor onto his car in the driveway, his MP3 player on the desk and elsewhere in his physical world. The bad news for the agency involved is that I can't recall what the ad is selling or the brand behind the message. It could be Apple. It could be a car company. It could be HP or Microsoft. I just don't remember. I guess this means the ad has failed in its central mission. Or it could mean my family is right about the early-onset senility as they push new versions of my will before me. Regardless, I am sure I will know the sponsor of this ad in about five minutes when ten of you email me the answer. Who needs memory when you have a willing audience of kibitzers?

The good news is that the creative itself is memorable -- even to this airhead -- because it strikes a cultural chord. For those of us awash in media and playback devices, the ad accurately envisions the way we want all of it to work. We are starting to imagine a drag and drop world where we simply push and pull the content we want into the technical platforms and the locations we want to consume them. I envision a simple cluster of icons on my desktop that lets me drag my video and audio content onto emblems for car, TV, stereo, iPod, iPhone, etc. This is what I want; you tech dweebs figure out how to do it.

Mobile will be a primary beneficiary of a more fluid personal content redistribution method. Not only is it the most personal device, where we can take our favorite content with us, but increasingly it is the most social. We are starting to use it more and more as a platform for in-person and remote sharing. At Thanksgiving dinner this year the conversation rolled around to my girlfriend's superbly rendered Halloween witch costume, and my phone had the images to pass around like a stack of snapshots. Likewise, when the conversation moved on to holiday songs, I had "Alice's Restaurant" on my phone to play back on the spot.

Finding ways to make our technology serve this emerging habit is going to be a key challenge over the next few years, but we are starting to see first efforts. Bango just launched a Web-to-mobile scheme that lets content providers large and small push content from a Web site to a personalized phone portal. These "Bango Buttons" are on a smattering of small sites right now like the Moonlife band page at Myspace (www.myspace.com/moonlife) and the Cartoonscape comics page (www.cartoonspace.com). The button takes the form of a green "Get on My Mobile" prompt. The first time you click on a member site, an overlay window prompts you to navigate to a unique URL on your phone's WAP browser (something like "getXXX.wap.com"). According to Adam Kerr, vice president of Bango North America, the likely targets for Web-to-mobile content are fairly comfortable with their WAP browser now, and they don't need the SMS link push from the site or other more complicated triggers. That initial SMS query is also an incremental cost to publishers that this approach circumvents. 

The Bango Button essentially fingerprints me on both Web and WAP sides at once and synchronizes the two in background. I get cookied by Bango at the Web site, so whenever I click on a ringtone or wallpaper on another Bango-powered button it automatically queues it up on my personalized WAP page. At the phone end, WAP.com fingerprints me so whenever I type in that URL it opens my personalized page of items I Bango-ed online.  At the WAP page there are mechanisms for sharing specific content or your favorites list with others.

The Web-to-mobile synchronization works well. I subscribed to a batch of buttons and had them all show up on my WAP page within seconds. It is a loose confederacy of stuff, however. There are wallpapers and ringtones, links to other WAP sites, and a few broken links as well. Initially, this is a play for the long tail. The button is free to publishers and gives them access to Bango's m-commerce system, which lets consumers buy the media through Bango's billing relationships with carriers or a credit card. Bango, which is a major provider to big media like Maxim, Cosmogirl and MTV, focuses on off-deck content distribution, and the buttons are designed to broaden the range of possible publishers and grease the Web-to-mobile wheels.

In theory, the buttons do this, and they are an incremental move forward towards a more seamless drag and drop media world. I am not sure if a hodgepodge of small sites scales effectively so that the buttons become common enough to be a mainstay of my mobile life. Just like all of those online micropayment solutions that floated around the Web for years, some of these send-to-mobile schemes risk wallowing in obscurity with no clear winner emerging to pull a lot of compelling content together in one place. Bango is onto a real opportunity here, for an online entity to create a network of mobilized Web content. One can imagine Yahoo or Google leveraging their existing relationships online to create widgets that push partner content of all kinds to phones from their toolbars or portal pages. Ultimately, a media sharing system will have to be as familiar and as ubiquitous as an email push or a Digg button to achieve the scale we need.  

I am too old to remember the sponsor of an ad I have seen twenty times. Clearly I am in no condition to remember which WAP portal I bookmarked and whether it is holding onto content I pushed from the Web.

I better stop before I call someone a whippersnapper and chase them off my lawn.

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