Tag Archives: portal

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

Note to the New CEO of Yahoo – Mobile desktop matters

What is your mobile homepage? And does it matter?

jerry_yangThe exit of Jerry Yang from Yahoo got me thinking about the implications, if any, it would have for mobile.    In the desktop browser world, the fight for your homepage has been waging for years between Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, AOL, and anyone else who managed to hijack it.  The theory is your homepage selection drives page views, which in turn drives advertising revenue.  More views equal more bucks.

So, what does this mean in a mobile device context? Does homepage matter?

What is particularly interesting in the mobile domain is the competing paradigms for driving traffic.  There is the “traditional” browser homepage war, the mobile desktop icon, a range of Java or Brew applications, and widget portals.

The key question is what to you want to do with your mobile device when you access the Internet and how best to get the answer you want.

A second factor is despite the proliferation of full keyboard mobile devices; the long-winded entry of URL’s and the point and click model of a desktop still does not translate well in the mobile arena.

The specific models at play on the Blackberry are:

1-    Set your homepage
2-    Download bookmarked Icons for specific sites and services
3-    Java Applications that mange collections of information feeds
4-    Widgets and Portals that are a collection of widgets.

Here is my solution – let me know if it matches what you have or you have a different use model.

When I access the Internet on my mobile it is usually about answering a particular question or reading a specific newspaper or blog.

I have my homepage set to the minimalist Google mobile.   I can enter anything I want in the search box, from a website I want to visit to a question.  This is a very functional model for me when I need business information or just want to impress family and friends with some arcane trivia.  Did you know that the state bird of Alaska is the Willow ptarmigan?mybb1

For routine information and entertainment I use the very easy downloadable bookmark icon.  The icons I have on my device are:  NY Times, Washington Post, ESPN, MLB, NY Yankees, Weather Channel, CNN, CNBC and ABC News.   This library of information is great for those commuting train trips.  In 25 minutes I can catch up on the news, read my favorite editorials, and follow the local sports teams.  This is very efficient for sites I visit often, and much better than bookmarking these sites within the browser.  This is another good example of the difference between the desktop and mobile experience.

Next, I have certain downloaded applications that I use often.  My favorites are VZW navigator, followed by Google maps and iskoot (for Skype).  For navigation applications I am asking my device a specific question and getting a specific answer.  It is either, “How do I get to….”, or “ Where I am and how did I get here?”  I use Skype on my desktop and there are rare occasions that I us it contact a business associate.  Iskoot works well and is free.

The next category of applications isthe content aggregation portal.  I have two examples that I have on my device.  The first is a very good RSS reader called Viigo.   You can easily set up the blogs that you follow and they also have pre-loaded feeds that you can keep or easily delete.  If you want to follow this blog on your mobile device, this is the solution.

I have also downloaded a specific RSS reader from “The Hockey News”.  If you read this blog regularly you know I am a big Hockey fan.  I am sorry to say the Hockey New RSS portal is poorly executed and rarely gets used.  This should be bad news to the editors at the Hockey News.  If a diehard mobile guy who is also a diehard hockey guy finds your mobile application to be poor, it is time to rethink.

Note to the Hockey News:

I make the same offer to you as I did to the New York Rangers.  I will volunteer to fix your mobile application.

yahoo1Lastly, the widget portal that I have downloaded is “Yahoo Go! “.  In my view, this is a good implementation for the wrong paradigm.  Yahoo Go! Is a mobile version of the  “My Yahoo” desktop homepage.  It has lots of general information categories in a very slick carousel interface.  What is interesting is that, although I have used Yahoo as my desktop homepage for 10 years, I almost never use “Yahoo Go!”.   The reason for my low use of this service is simply that I have no reason to use it.  It does not function as a way for me to get quick answers (Google), quick information (Icons), or navigate (VZW).

It is interesting to speculate what Obama had on his Blackberry?

The Iphone, G1, HTC and other large screen devices can easily enable similar models.

With advertising revenue the ultimate goal, understanding the mobile desktop paradigm is step one.

We can hope that the successor to Jerry Yang will re-think the mobile environment to be truly mobile and not just a transposition of the desktop.

Will the Yahoo and Google be the only advertising game in down, or will quick footed start-ups like Mojiva make even bigger inroads in this lucrative market?

Please share with me what you have on your mobile desktop.  I will collect the input for a future blog article.

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Filed under advertising, CEO, Google, hockey, mobile, obama, portal, widgets, wireless