GenuineVC David Beisel's Perspective on Digital Change

November 18, 2005

This past summer I posted a piece entitled, After the Garden: Mobile Carriers Opening to Off-Deck Content, in which I wrote,

“In the last few months, many have begun to predict that the U.S. industry will eventually emulate Europe’s model in which the carriers’ remove their walled-garden in favor of an off-deck distribution… [T]he potential end of the walled garden creates opportunity for innovative content and applications from startups that have only begun to proliferate under the current industry structure.”

It looks like this scenario is starting to come to fruition. Yesterday Cingular announced its “Media Net” service which, according to Wireless Week,

“…not only reduces the number of clicks, it lets subscribers personalize their phone by allowing them to put their most important information on the phone’s home page… [T]he new Media Net service will allow consumers to develop their own deck. “We are handling over control to the user,” [Vice President of Consumer Data Products at Cingular, Jim] Ryan says. “It’s not our decision to limit who is on the top deck. The individual can construct the services as they like.””

In other words, Cingular customers will be able to put links to any WAP site on their mobile home page, not just carrier-promoted ones. And as Wireless Week editorialized, “This revamped strategy is great news for content providers.” Indeed. Rather than being limited to vying for on-deck carrier placement or buried in a WAP browsing experience, content providers should now find that the ease in which they can directly reach the end-user significantly increases. This move places more choice in the hands of consumers, and is bold strategic move for the company.

This change also opens the door for unique and innovative WAP sites to reach consumers in a way with much less friction that just wasn’t possible previously. It is my thesis that as new content emerges, so will an advertising infrastructure to support this content which isn’t being sustain by carrier agreements. As I argued in Opportunity on the Third Screen, mobile advertising is coming to your mobile phone. Many have worried (with legitimate concern) that mobile ads will be unduly intrusive and annoying. But if people are choosing free content in a WAP browser on their mobile, just like they are choosing free content in a PC-based Internet browser, then the ads aren’t completely unsolicited or unwarranted. Just like all other media channels and types (television, print, web), models have evolved so that content can be “paid for” with subscriptions, pay-per-use, or ads. I don’t see strong reasons why the last option shouldn’t be one for mobile as well.

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