The "less is more" principle seems to have been an article of faith among mobile content and advertising programmers. Back in the early days of podcasting (did I really just say "early days of podcasting?") some of the first developers used to tell me how they strained to make the shows shorter and shorter. Audiences responded so well to one and two-minute shots of content that five minutes of programming started feeling as relentlessly epic as a Peter Jackson film... or five minutes of Ellen DeGeneres' Oscar monologue.
Fair warning. Both my daughter and my girlfriend are fond of reminding me that as I get older (oh, so much older than they) I tend to get befuddled by simple things. This may explain my confused intrigue with Yahoo Go, the very promising mobile portal I poked at in my last column. Or, it may be that Yahoo has reached so far here in trying to aggregate so much onto a handset that it exposes a host of long-term issues the mobile content and marketing world haven't even begun to address.
As is its wont and tradition, Yahoo chooses the power portal approach of overwhelming you with data and options. I have been playing with their very ambitious Yahoo Go "Gamma" version on a BlackBerry for a few days now, and it is both maddening and impressive. This is as broad and deep of a mobile information app as I have seen on a phone, and (as is my wont and tradition) it raises a host of questions I can't answer yet.
Much of the mobile industry is in sunny, 60-degree Barcelona this week for 3GSM, gushing over mobile TV. Good for them. I sit here in frozen Delaware scrutinizing mobile usage numbers and squinting at all the new WAP sites and video channels these guys are announcing. Hey, someone has to do the reality check. Although I sure wish I could do it in shorts and sandals.
There is an apocryphal story about the great vaudevillian Ed Wynn struggling with the limitations of early radio. Locked in a booth with a massive microphone and not much else, Wynn performed one of his popular acts. When he was done, he scowled at the silent microphone and said, "Hell of a thing to get a laugh out of." I recall this shard of communications lore as I watch major media valiantly experiment with mobile extensions. This is a hell of a device to get some branding out of.
I had two phones holstered and ready for frantic texting during last Sunday's Super Bowl. I understood going in that NFL partner Sprint would have a lot to offer. Pizza Hut and Bud were tying mobile code hunting and ad voting into their expensive TV spots. And I was curious how CBS itself might get a piece of this on their mobile extensions. I must have been out of the room, talking to a cohort about the last tepid ad, or just getting my usual Super Bowl drowsies, but I pretty much missed any instructions to do anything of import …