Anyone raised in '60s suburbia was well-acquainted with that emblem of faux cultural striving, the coffee-table book. I always felt sorry for the writers who actually composed full-length texts that no one read. The real art of coffee-table book design was the image caption and prose blurb. So when perusing the oddly satisfying Esquire Mobile application from Hearst, it struck me that the company had succeeded in translating the aesthetic of the coffee-table book to a phone and that it worked in ways that instruct both publishers and marketers.
Media executives and advertising types, who thrive on reusable phrases, seem to have latched onto "attention economy" this year, with the usual mixed results. The richer way of understanding the term puts emphasis on "economy," and recognizes that attention has become a scarce resource, owned and controlled by consumers. Understood this way, "attention economy" suggests that advertisers and even media programmers are bartering for attention, forced to offer consumers a fair exchange of value for some share of their finite consciousness.
When Myxer.com's co-founder/CTO Myk Willis and his partner took a meeting with a record label recently, they listened to the big media honcho brag about how much mobile content the brand was delivering. The Myxer boys listened to what the big label thought were impressive monthly sales numbers, quietly looked at each other and thought -- "We sell that much in a day," says Willis. In fact, the success of Myxer.com, a roll-your-own ringtone and wallpaper provider for independent bands is a prime example of an entire mobile content industry that is evolving off deck and under the radar of …
Web veterans will remember the "three Cs" of 1999. Every dotcom business model had them: content, commerce and community. I think of this 3C model when testing Virgin Mobile's new Headline mobile music magazine. It is that rare example of compelling content that seems to be an untapped marketing and merchandising opportunity.
Let's face it. User-generated content is a big pain in the ass for just about everyone in the traditional digital content value chain. I know we are supposed to embrace and love that wondrously democratic vibe it strums for us -- but the long-promised digital empowerment of the individual user blossoms finally in piano-playing cats on YouTube and relentless online polling.
Of all the mobile games I have tested and played over the years, only one really sticks in my mind -- Flying Toasters. Graying techies already know what I am talking about. Flying Toasters were the ubiquitous screensavers from software developer After Dark. A few years ago a game company turned the familiar After Dark brand into a one-button phone game that was the smartest, simplest mobile interface I have ever seen. All you had to do was keep the toaster aloft and navigate barriers by pressing a single button on the phone. It was captivating -- and a lesson …
What makes a good WAP site? Now that brands are pouring themselves into the mobile bucket, I get pushed to a dozen destinations a week, and it is clear to me that we are in new territory when it comes to designing to a handset. While I process a lot of these sites and try to figure out for myself what does and doesn't work here, I deferred to an expert to help identify some of the early learnings about the mobile Web. Steve Paddon, vice president of professional services at Trilibis Mobile, drove me through the major checkpoints.
I am not a geek. No, really. I fail the latest litmus test of geekdom. I neither appreciate nor understand NBC's "Heroes." I am not captivated by the premise (whatever it is) and I have not been drawn to any of the characters in the few attempts I have made to like the show.And so it is even more remarkable that I fully appreciate the "Heroes" WAP site, which NBC claims has gotten over 200,000 page views since its January launch. The site delivers not just by extending the brand but offering unique content.
Last column I ruminated about how mobile marketers should have as their goal making connections with their base on phones, not just exposing eyeballs. I really do believe that in some way the phone will embody and empower an important shift in the way we relate to media and brands. Consumer empowerment, user-driven marketing surely have their roots in the interactivity of the Web. But I suspect that it is the phone that will bring a lot of these trends home and really force marketers to deliver on their side of this "relationship" they say they want with consumers.
It seems to me that as the cell phone evolves into both medium and marketing device, so many of its most successful forms will follow the phone's basic functionality -- making connections. Every medium in the past century took hold with Americans in part because it embodied something important about our social and historical circumstances. The cell phone may represent that next stage of media, similar in ways to the Internet but much more intimate, much more about peer-to-peer connections, self-expression and feeling part of an important circle of contacts.