Category Archives: syndication

Going Off (Portal) in Vegas

lasvegassignNext week I will be attending my 25th CTIA conference. This year’s Vegas show will occur with the twin backdrops of the overall economic mess coupled with the positive trends in mobile application use.

On Thursday April 21, I will be on a panel discussing the Off-Portal business models. The irony is that although I have made a living for the past several years in the Off-Portal marketplace, I believe that this model is not relevant to the future. Let me explain.

For those who are not familiar with the lingo for this segment of the mobile business, let me define a few terms. (If you know all of this you should skip down)

Mobile Carrier Portal – This is the homepage on a handset of a carrier’s wireless Internet service. The carrier determines what services are promoted and placed on the portal. verizontodayh4webThis is also referred to as “on-deck” or “on-portal”

Off Portal – This is any service that is available to the subscribers of a carrier that is not linked to the carrier owned homepage and direct links. This service is usually promoted through use of a shortcode.

Shortcode- a five or six digit number that is used to provide information or other services via SMS

Premium Shortcode – A five or six digit number that is connected to a service that the subscriber will pay a one time or monthly payment.

The mobile value added service market has been divided for the past 5 years between “on-deck” providers and “off-portal” service. The services were predominately information and news services, coupled with fee based ringtone, wallpaper and games services. The advantage of being an on-deck provider was free promotion for your service by being within the captive (or semi-captive) carrier internet web service.

Alternatively, off-portal services were promoted with a mix of traditional web advertising and search engine optimization, coupled with television, radio and print. The off-portal application and content providers also promoted their services via premium shortcodes. To use an off-portal service the subscriber sends a message such as “join” to the code, goes through an opt-in process and gets subscribed to a service such as monthly ringtones. The billing of these services is provided by the carrier.

It seems that regardless of a company’s portal status, they had envy for the other model. On-deck providers wanted the “freedom” to promote their services and drive even greater traffic to their site, while off-portal services desired the free promotion model of the on-deck players.

ovistoreThis game is largely over. Just as the original AOL closed portal gave way to the general Internet, the protected closed gardens of the carriers are done. If their portals are “done”, then off-portal, as a concept is done.

The explosion of smart phones with powerful standard browsers, large screens, pointing devices and keyboards renders a pre-installed carrier bookmark almost valueless.

If you have a fee based service that is on a carrier’s portal, you will have to promote that service with investment that will eventually approach the advertising investment of the off-portal services. This trend is further accelerated by the 3rd party application store trend.

The application stores are filling the promotion void created by the reduction of prominence of the carrier portals.

So on Thursday I will sit on a panel to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the off-portal business model. This business model has made 100’s of millions of dollars for application and content providers and, of course, the carriers.

My opening comment will be that this model is in its end days.

My next article will be on what a carriers and application providers should do to manage this transition.

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Filed under android, Apple, economy, mobile, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, mobile games, Open Network, Ringtones, shorcode, Smartphone, subscription servcies, syndication, Verizon, wireless

Traditional Media Goes to School on New Media

The traditional content companies (NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC, etc) have used the research, development and “trial and error” investments of many new media, web and mobile oriented companies to learn what networks4works in digital content, commerce and advertising.   They have transitioned from fighting the term “new media”, to adapting it, and in many cases becoming dominate players.

I was a witness to the first stages of this schooling in the early days of the dot.com explosion.

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Jay Chiat

In April of 2000, I had just joined the quintessential Silicon Alley content company, ScreamingMedia. Our well-funded company, had h the superstar and Ad icon Jay Chiat as Chairmen and a hard driving entrepreneur founder, Al Ellman.    Jay Chiat was famous for such ads as the 1984 Apple Superbowl commecial and the still-going  Energizer bunny.  

The company  hosted  its own new media content conference at the Chelsea Piers.   This was called the “Malcontent” conference.   The conference was organized to be a debate of new (web oriented) vs. old (TV, Radio, Newspaper) media.

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ScreamingMedia Founder, Al Ellman

We had luminaries from both sides of the assumed divide, including Dan Rather.   As a new executive at ScreamingMedia, I gave the case for mobile and its role in this new media landscape.   The one thing I was sure of, any media or content on a phone would have to be “new media”.

The value of ScreamingMedia was grounded in content syndication.   At the timeit  was technically and legally difficult to syndicate content on the Web.   ScreamingMedia (aka Pinnacor) was eventually acquired for about $150M.

Of course, this was pre-RSS days.  By today’s standards the media giant of syndication would certainly look old.

The debate (new vs. traditional) lasted well beyond this 3-hour event.  The crash of the dot.com industry in 2000-2001 took this off the techno blogs and webmags for a while, only to emerge again and again throughout the last 8 years.

Initially “new media” – which is loosely defined as anything related to the Internet started to make inroads against old media in digital ad spending.  Viewership, commerce and piracy flourished in Internet land.  My observation was the traditional media sources were slow and ineffectual in their digital  efforts.  

This had had the appearance of the classic innovators dilemma.  Traditional media profited from their “traditional” revenue sources.  Any admission that the model was changing threatened the status quo, or more likely the careers of those who made their fortunes in the pre-Internet era.

For the media giants, innovation was largely a content and storyline effort. Distribution was the means to theater tickets (movies), CD sales (music), and Ad dollars (TV and radio).  Innovation in distribution was in cable television, DVDs, and some simple web sites. The new media models were the domain of those who wished to destroy this traditional model.

Over the past couple of years I have met with many in the media industry on this topic.  I have to admit trad1that I have been perplexed that it took them so long to come around and really capitalize on the new distribution models.  My advice back then, and now, is that the big media companies still have the best, most wanted content.

The strategies and techniques that were pioneered by the new media innovators, such as ScreamingMedia have been adapted and extended by the general media industry.

With all due respect to a dancing baby on YouTube, a Tina Fey SNL skit on Sarah Palin will get more viewers, on the NBC website, then watched the actual Katie Couric interview.

All the TV networks have embraced online video of their shows, big time.  The online video versions of their lineups are ad supported and provide a much better experience than the pirated versions that float around the Web.  By embracing the model, they do it better than the previous amateur attempts by others.

So now what was “old” is “new”, and what was “new media”, is just another distribution channel for creative content, most of which comes from the media giants, with a secondary node to the entire world of user generated content.

We have now come full circle.  Good media companies observed what worked in the digital domain.  They capitalized on the considerable investment made in companies that originally were designed to compete with them.  In today’s market some of the most compelling digital content and applications are coming from the “traditional” media outlets.

Good Content is Good Content- From the days when the distribution model was cave drawings, to biblical stories, to the art and literature of the Renaissance, Shakespeare, Novels, Radio, TV, Movies, Internet and yes, mobile.

screamingmediavig

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Filed under advertising, CEO, Content, location based services, media, mobile, new media, syndication