I have been doing the usual round of year-end phoners with executives in the mobile world, surveying them on the state of the industry, the emerging trends, yadda, yadda. My impression is that except for one major trend, we will spend a lot of 2007 in wait-and-see mode for the sexier developments.
I was going to devote this installment of my series of mobile content check-ups to cell phone gaming. But then I realized that there hasn't been much excitement at all in recent months over this once-promising category. There have been precious few mobile titles that excited anybody, even the PR guys who are supposed to flack this stuff. From what I could see, the usual gusher of press releases surrounding each and every title started drying up earlier this year. Man, when the kids in PR lose interest, you know something is up.
Nothing enjoyed more hype and less real innovation than mobile video. I have had both Verizon's ridiculously overpriced VCast and the scattered mosh pit of Sprint TV in my pocket for months, and for the life of me I never remember that I have them. Revisiting the platform after a number of months, it all seems eerily familiar. Apparently there are entire divisions of emerging media that didn't get the memo about advancing at breakneck speed.
I am a big fan of comebacks. John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Wink Martindale: I just love when minor talents get second acts. So you know I am just loving the resurrection of Fabio in the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter campaigns. Now Fabio goes mobile in the very clever and effective WAP microsite that Crisp Wireless constructed for MindShare Interaction and its client Unilever. The branded entertainment riffs and goofs on the Fabio ethos.
Nielsen Media Research tried to send a chill down the spine of the mobile video industry yesterday by reporting how few of the people who can view video on the go actually do. In its first Anywhere Anytime Media Measurement study of remote media access, Nielsen claimed that less than 1% of content played on iPods is video.
As anyone who ever signed up for an online calendaring program or contact-sharing network well knows, it is hard to keep up good intentions in the digital world. More often than not, we promise ourselves that this time we will keep up with these little digital conveniences, and diligently add our contacts into the database or maintain our public calendar. In the end, the success of technologies, soft or hard, boils down to habit.
This idea that we now explicitly trade directly with consumers for their attention, and even put monetary value on it, is only going to become more important as the consumer-centric media environment evolves. Of course all of this boils down to whether the advertiserssubsidizer has something of real value to trade for a few cells of my consciousness.
There is a lot more potential to mobile marketing than pushing pithy text messages to TV viewers and serving micro-banners on WAP sites. In one of the few mobile marketing research studies to move beyond the gee-whiz-this-is-gonna-be-big conceit, Datacomm Research's "Mobile Advertising: Opportunities and Illusions" explores how the entire marketing cycle can benefit from wireless, and how many pieces of the wireless content value chain benefit from marketing.
I have been seeing so many ambitious plans for using the mobile platform lately, from mobile TV to full article downloads by newspapers and magazines, it is refreshing to see see a handful of new mobile launches that respect the art of brevity on handhelds and understand that less is more.
I can't say that I personally understand the appeal of the Sprint Friends Lounge. When I pop into this mobile chat and community service, it just looks like a bunch of random posts organized into a few themes, demographic groups, and regions. Dozens of fellow cruisers are in any of these rooms at any time, and cruising is precisely what it seems they are doing. A long scroll of posts are mostly one and two word come-ons: "Whassup?"