Opportunity on the Third Screen

I thought that the quote at the end of this announcement article yesterday by Motorola was spot on.

“It’s incredibly valuable real estate on the home screen of the [mobile] phone.”

Motorola was talking about its plan to release new dynamic idle-screen technology, called Screen3, by year’s end. The technology, “essentially pushes Internet information to a mobile phone’s main screen. Thus, users can get news updates or the latest weather forecasts with just a glance at their phones, without having to open sluggish WAP browsers or other applications.” Yes, I realized this offering was originally announced at CTIA six months ago, and that all of the Pointcast comparisons have already been made. But I don’t think that’s the most interesting angle here.

moto_screen3.jpgInstead, I believe that this announcement denotes another early milestone of a mobile major player aiming to capitalize on the immensely valuable real estate of the mobile phone screen. This 1”x1” display has until recently been overlooked as a vehicle for information communication. Always with you and referenced perhaps dozens of times per day, it carries a lot of possibilities with it. Right now my own background screen is terribly boring calendar. Updated news and weather information would be a great replacement, if only just a first step to more personalized content.

And along those lines, when there’s content, there’s an opportunity for advertising. It surprises me that advertising on mobile phones has barely begun to take hold. I blogged about it in my post, The New New Thing – “New New Media,” back in April. Since then, I’ve started to see a few ads when I’ve checked sports scores through my WAP browser.

For me, this development is interesting from both a consumer standpoint and VC one. How will the ads be displayed in a manner so as to not become too intrusive? Unlike a PC browser where ads and content can be displayed simultaneously, the physical space for advertising in conjunction with content is limited. How will ads proliferate in a manner not to propagate attention theft? It seems all too easy to annoy people if all they want to do is make a call or quickly check a piece of info. From a VC vantage, I am excited about the potential for infrastructure companies to spring up supporting this advertising medium, like mobile ad networks or ad insertion providers.

Dynamic marketing messages and (pushed?) personalized content – coming soon to come to a mobile phone near you.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.