An Olympic Moment for Mobile Media?

    by Paul Lamb
    August 19, 2008

    There has been a lot of hype in mobile media circles about how the Summer Olympics are signaling a watershed moments in broadcasting and media access on the fly. According to Nielson, 23 per cent US and 17 per cent of UK mobile internet users will be tracking the games through their phone browser, and 45 % of US mobile video users will watch the Olympics on their handsets.

    Are those significant statistics and if so HOW significant? Depends on who you talk to. Based on the fact that only 3% of US cell phone users regularly watched video via their handhelds last year it doesn’t say much. But If you are a mobile carrier like AT&T you are probably smiling as the iPhone and other smartphones are driving mobile data revenues at a growth rate of 16% annually. That apparently equates to an increase from $24 billion in 2007 to $100 billion and 250 million data subscribers by 2017.

    But what does all this growth in mobile and location based services really mean for the news media and their advertising efforts? Despite various glib predictions like here, your guess is as good as anyone’s. We need to be clear that mobile media as a relevant business opportunity is hazy at best. It is one thing to throw around mobile ad spend dollar predictions and another to show models that actually work for XYZ media outlet. So what if 45% of US mobile video users watch the 2008 Olympics on their handsets if nobody returns the video host sites after the Olympics is over. And exactly how can my newspaper or your eZine capitalize on an iPhone multimedia addict anyway?


    At the end of the day mobile media, for all its promise, is still a mainstream wanna be. Look at this chart of the top 10 most visited mobile phone websites…how many of them have you actually heard of or seen?

    That said it still important for content producers and aggregators to keep their eyes on the mobile media 8 ball… because the WAY we experience media and TYPES of services offered are changing, not just the vehicle itself.

    As the iPhone has proven, there is a tremendous appetite for enhanced mobile interfaces and the freedom to create them. With the recent release of an iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) and others on the way from Google’s Android, etc. there are whole new classes of applications to be created which will radically alter the user experience and introduce services we haven’t even imagined yet. Here’s a taste of up and coming location based services, for example. The end result of innovation on the user experience and services end will be new opportunities to broadcast and share information that make mobile blogging and Twitter streams seem like a stone and chisel. Sure business models should be on everyone’s mind, and they are certainly on mine, but not at the expense of dreaming BIG about a new day in news and information that mobile tools makes possible over the long run.


    One useful place to start that dreaming is at AppVee, a site devoted to reviews of new applications being developed for the iPhone. Upon visiting it you will notice that many of the top 10 new iPhone applications are in fact News related (including a NYT application).

    Mobile computing may not be a contender for media gold in Beijing but by the time the 2012 Olympics roll around it could be a very different story.

    Tagged: android beijing iphone location-based services mobile advertising olympics
    • Mari


    • Paul Lamb

      Some comments from Miriam Boon (am posting on her behalf)

      “I’ve noticed that the buzz is that hyperlocal is hot.

      Obviously none of us can say once and for all “This is a good idea for a revenue-generating site.” or “This definitely won’t work.”

      I can tell you what I find useful, and I can tell you what I think makes sense.

      So, first, my personal preferences…
      I’m interested in knowing news I can use about where I live. Politics, crime, zoning changes or major building plans. If someone with many common interests moves in nearby, I’d like to hear about it, but otherwise, I don’t care. Really, the stories about people in my neighbourhood are not remotely interesting to me. But, your mileage may vary – different people have different preferences and interests. On the other hand, if you broaden the search area but include only news about people with shared interests, that might interest me.

      Second, what I think is logical…
      * The web is very grassroots and very organic. Looking at what has been successful may give us clues to what would be successful. Successful sites in terms of popularity seem to fall into several categories. (1) Topics that appeal to the lowest common denominator aka celeb type news. (2) Topics that appeal to the internet crowd (gadget and gizmo ‘porn’). (3) Websites with everyday life applications, such as home improvement.
      * In terms of revenue, hyperlocal sites will need to get local businesses on board. But how many local businesses are the type that would sign onto web ads or Google AdSense? Not very many, I’d wager.

      To be honest, everyone is talking about hyperlocal, but I don’t see any evidence to support the idea that hyperlocal is necessarily popular or profitable. Rather, I think that, celeb ‘news’ aside, useful news is what we want, even if it’s fantasist (i.e. if my bonus is big enough, I’ll need to know which shiny new gadget I want to buy). News about our hobbies, about how we can improve our home or our clothing or our decoration, news about the laws governing our homes and how those are changing, etc. And useful news is not necessarily hyperlocal, nor is hyperlocal news necessarily useful.

      Towards the end of your post you talk about how to measure hyperlocal’s success. I think its success depends on what your goals/expectations of it are in the first place. If your goal is to create tools that may someday be heavily used, then even if the initial test site isn’t getting used, if the code works it works. If your goal is to foster community, then revenue doesn’t matter. If your goal is to generate revenue, then a lack of revenue is a big sign that you’re on the wrong track — either because your implementation was lacking or the concept as a whole isn’t going to work out. In short, success can only be measured in terms of well-defined goals and expectations.”

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