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The future's bright, the future's video

The future for the mobile content business is in video, and there is a gap in the market for publishers to exploit, according to speakers at an AOP forum on mobile last Monday, 16 July.

Download speaker presentations from the AOP Mobile Forum - members only

Addressing delegates, Mike Burgess, creative director of Emap mobile suggested that the future for the mobile content business was not in ringtones and wallpaper, but, as handset storage and screens continue to expand, in video. The man responsible for pioneering FHM Mobile back in 2004 said that Emap Mobile was banking on this trend by streaming four mobile TV channels. Video-to-mobile firm, D2See CEO Jeremy Flynn said that when considering video for mobile, it was crucial to think of it as “a fourth screen. not just a mini-TV.” Content should be “big, bold and simple” with an emphasis on face shots, and avoiding panning shots wherever possible. Flynn suggested there might be a gap in the mobile content market for publishers, with a greater understanding of their consumers. While only 20 per cent of users currently had 3G phones, the 3G customer base was nine times more likely to view video content than those on 2.5G. D2see are soon to launch a further mobile TV channel in conjunction with Emap.

Following the acquisition of YoSpace, a mobile UGC video service offering revenue share with users, FHM Mobile is to re launch in August 2007, taking user interaction even further. Burgess stressed that, for Emap, “the future is off-portal,” and in mobile advertising, though “this is not a brave new world – expect MySpace et al to be your competition.”

Burgess stressed that, in order to be successful, mobile content must always “be bespoke for mobile: 360 degree commissioning is bearing in mind the format it’s going to work on.” He cited the “mobile explosion” which had already taken place for mobile publishers in Tokyo. Flat-rate data charges, as with UK broadband, had effected this massive growth, pioneered by female consumers, and led by a proto-social networking product called Girlswalker. Traditionally, only services delivered via handset, such as ringtones etc. could be billed for directly, but, as Burgess pointed out, “Paypal has gone mobile: m-commerce could become a lot more interesting.”

Flynn said content likely to be successful included extracts of popular TV programmes, sports highlights and privileged “fan club-based content” such as out-takes, in addition to UGC, which taps an “inherent human desire to show off and share”, and was already proving very popular for mobile video dating services, not to mention adult services, which “lead all technology innovation.” Flynn pointed out that “mobile operators lost millions of pounds trying to be content producers”, one even losing as much as £125m in a year.

Dario Betti, international data marketing manager of T-Mobile, updated delegates on the developments in handset capabilities. Also speaking were Nick Lane, principal analyst for mobile content and applications at Informa Telecoms & Media on the current and future state of mobile advertising, and Tim Green, executive editor of Mobile Entertainment Magazine who provided an overview on mobile innovators.

“Don’t expect me to give you any answers” was the message from Betti. “You are the experts in making value for your users” said Betti, “if you want to charge extra for something, come and speak to us, if you don’t, there’s no need to come through an operator to mobile-enable your content.” He cited increased simplicity and value in charges, such as the adoption of flat-rate tariffs by the major operators and a £1 daily cap for internet use among those without prepaid contracts, as key to driving mobile internet traffic. For T-Mobile, widespread mobile internet use is “key to building customer satisfaction,” if not revenue.

Lane provided an upbeat assessment of the likely growth in the sector. Although currently accounting for less than 0.5 per cent of global ads, the market would be worth $2.17 billion in 2007, and conservatively estimated at $11.35 billion in 2011. “Mobile is the most direct channel to the consumer, faced with thousands of marketing messages every day… There is still the need, however, for a Neilson or a Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB) to give an idea of where the market stands.”

While Informa research showed that only 11 per cent of those surveyed were currently using the mobile internet on a daily basis, 75 per cent of this sub-group conduct searches via mobile, perhaps suggesting an information focus for mobile consumers which has yet to be tapped, with an immediacy the PC cannot offer. Interestingly, it was not only young ‘earlier adopters’, surveys suggested, but a wider 17-54 year-old age group, who would be willing to accept mobile advertisements.

In perhaps an indication of where the future of mobile advertising might lie, Green, cited the example of ad-funded mobile virtual network operator Blyk: it had found, in early tests, that targeted advertising, delivered via mobile, and largely in the form of special offers, could be viewed as useful, immediate information, rather than as interruptive advertising messages.

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