The iPhone launches tomorrow in America. Already several first reviews based on a couple of weeks of trial use, are published in periodcals from the Wall Street Journal to the International Herald Tribune. The hype is totally everywhere. Tomorrow the blogosphere in America will explode with iPhone reviews and ratings (and ravings) by those who get their hands on an early iPhone.
Its much like we predicted, the hype is still growing louder. But clearly the hype around the iPhone has validated the concept, that a pocketable, converged device, a media player, internet device and phone - is totally viable. And with it, many of the IT side (PC makers, software companies, internet players) and the media side (from TV to movies to print to advertising etc). So already today, but even more tomorrow and next week into July, there are lots of CEOs of major IT, internet, media and advertising companies who suddenly demand a mobile strategy. What is your mobile media strategy?
As luck would have it, I met today with my good friend and fellow author, Dan Applequist, the Strategy Director at Vodafone here in the UK (for those of our readers who might not be very familiar with mobile/wireless - Vodafone is the world's largest mobile operator (carrier) group, they are a dominant operator in most major markets such as UK, Germany, Italy etc and have a significant ownership in Verizon in America, a smaller ownership in China Mobile the largest single mobile operator (carrier) in the world, and until recently owned an affiliate in Japan; clearly of the global players in the operator space, Vodafone is the biggest. So Dan's thoughts are definitely always very insightful and he's a really worthwhile speaker by the way, if you ever get a chance to see him.
But returning to our theme today, mobile content. Some of our discussions were also on the informal side - such as Dan's strong interest in helping the Mobile Monday concepts thrive - and I strongly support him on this - any "newcomer" to mobile, and mobile media and mobile internet very specifically - and all who admire the "new" opportunties from the iPhone - please note that Mobile Mondays are wonderful opportunities to meet and mingle with the real "doers" of the mobile space. There are very active MoMo chapters in many countries and they feature really top notch speakers and are a fantastic way to get familiar with what's happening in mobile and who are doing it in your neck of the woods, without paying the often excessively expensive conference fees or buying viciously expensive industry reports etc. And as a personal plug - I'm for example giving the keynote at the Mobile Monday event in San Francisco in October.
And then Dan observed something about the iPhone buzz and hype in America right now. The "conventional wisdom" of the IT and internet side, looking at the iPhone, and thinking "at last, what we didn't want was the lousy WAP experience or SMS on a cellphone, now with this iPhone we can have the real internet on our phone."
This is so wrong. Its the first reaction, and it has some merit. But it misses the whole big picture. Its like seeing an automobile, having worked in a coal mine, and thinking - I am sure I can make millions selling those cars to pull out coal rather than having people push coal carts. (The first trains were used in coal mines, long before they pulled humans as their cargo). The BIG picture. Don't focus on trying to squeeze the internet to the cellphone screen. Why bother. There is already an excellent metaphor for that - a PC.
What we need to do - and regular readers of our blog know this has been a long-term theme for Alan and me - is that for mobile we should not try to copy concepts from legacy media (and yes, today, even the internet is a legacy media, when mobile is the 7th Mass Media). What YOU should do - is build a strategy for mobile - what is the POWER of the phone. Don't see the limitations of a small(ish) screen or small keypad. Think of the POWER of the mobile. As a Mass Media, mobile has six unique benefits, that are not able to be copied anywhere else. 1 - Mobile is the first personal mass media (even the internet is only semi-personal). 2 - it is the first always carried media. 3 - It is the first always on mass media. 4 - Mobile is the first mass media with a built-in payment channel. 5 - It is the first media device available at the point of inspiration. And 6 - mobile is the first mass media with near-perfect audience information. Not perfect, but as AMF Ventures reported, on TV you capture 1% of the audience data. On the internet, you capture 10% of audience data. But on mobile you capture 90% of audience data !
This is the holy grail of media ! You get 90 times better info on your audience than on TV; and 9 times better info than on the web ! What are you WAITING FOR? The iPhone has validated the mobile media and internet as a concept. Now you need to get into it, before your competitors do. If you are a media company, and consider those 6 listed benefits in the above, you can see that you can improve ANY of your media offerings, in MULTIPLE ways, by incorporating only some of those elements.
It doesn't even touch upon the fact that ALL media can be replicated on mobile. Music, gaming, TV, movies, books even (80 million dollars annually on mobile books in Japan alone..). And the full internet can be replicated on mobile, including the interactivity and the social networking of the web, and including search.
So what we here at the Communities Dominate blogsite have been advocating for a long time - and ask for in our book Communities Dominate Brands - is to create the new for this new mass media, what is not possible before. Don't try to copy the "real internet" to mobile. Yes, it can be done - but you are abandoning your competitive advantage. Its like the transition from radio (4th mass media) to TV (5th mass media). On radio, in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, a very common form of content was the radio play. People would listen to actors speak out a play, with sound effects. The actors would all be in a studio, some actors would play several roles (with different voices of course) and some technicial would be providing the sound effects, rain falling, the shot of a gun, a door slamming, sound of running feet, a car pulling away, police sirens, etc)
Now, if you do the "real internet to mobile" thing, it would be like taking that radio play - with the actors in the studio, huddled around their microphones, and one technician with the sound effect recordings - and you point ONE camera at the studio. This is "picture radio" - but NOT television. If we take the same story, we apply what is possible on TV, we have the camera cut between the actors, showing their faces and expressions. We see the action of the person shooting, running out of the room, slamming the door, etc.
If you - with an existing media strategy, whether in print, cinema, recordings, radio, TV or internet - and you now are considering what to do about the iPhone - we urge you to think beyond the existing. Invent the new. Think of cinema for example. Today on TV we have all movies ever shown in the cinema - obviously old media can be repurposed for a smaller screen. But what are the killer apps on TV - reality TV like American Idol or Big Brother; talk shows from David Letterman and Jay Leno to Ophah and The View. Music videos, 3 minute ultra-short clips, in continuous rotation. These are all new content formats invented for TV, which would not be viable on cinema !
We want you to invent the new content and services for mobile as the 7th Mass Media. What is truly radical and new, so wonderful, people feel it is like magic.
Like magic? Yes, invent the magic. Let me give one example. Kamera Jiten from Japan. Imagine if I gave you a printed magazine in Japanese with your picture in it. And you'd ask, what is the text saying about you. But I don't speak Japanese, I can't help you. Now, get Kamera Jiten. You point your cameraphone at the magazine article (all Japanese and South Korean cellphone owners have cameraphones and they are internet enabled today). You take a picture of the page and Kamera Jiten thinks for a moment, then it displays the text of the same page for you - in English. Magic ! It is totally impossible in any other media or any other device. You can't do it on a laptop or iPod or digital camera, wave it over the magazine page and get it to show you a translated page in another language. But on mobile you can, Kamera Jiten launched already in Japan, where the first translation was from English to Japanese. These kinds of services are not only possible, they are economically viable - and will be the new killer apps which make much more money than re-purposing existing media formats, like TV short clips or legacy internet pages - onto mobile.
Take Flirtomatic, which has the gift element - you can give gifts to your dating partner, send a bucket of roses to her, or chocolates, or she can respond sending you the image of twirling the bra, suggesting you'll have a hot night. Now, obviously you could do that on a web based dating/fliting site - but then they would be free content (you can't charge 50 cents on your credit card every time you send a rose to your girl). But remember, the fourth of the 6 benefits of mobile is the built-in payment mechanism. Flirtomatic makes tons of money out of these kinds of gifts. And the recepient really does value them. Not as much as a real rose, of course, but a virtual rose - where the recepient of course knows that it cost the guy sending it real money - does have considerable romantic value. As the tens of thousands of Flirtomatic users who generate 100 million page impressions per month (Flirtomatic is already the 10th most popular independent mobile internet site in the UK)
Or take breaking news. Any news junkies out there feel compelled to turn on CNN on any hotel room, and whenever they get home from work etc. Need to know whats going on. The most urgent feed on CNN and all 24 hour news channels is the live news ticker on the bottom of the screen. Now do it on the only mass media which is with us 24 hours a day (60% of all humans sleep with the phone in bed with them; 72% use the phone as their alarm clock) - and recollecting that there are twice as many mobile phones as TV sets worldwide. What happens when breaking news migrates to mobile. The news ticker - but on your idle screen. Whenever you lay your phone on the table or desk or glance at it from your pocket, rather than display your screen saver, the iMedia service by NTT DoCoMo in Japan will give you customizable news feeds. Want sports news, or financial news, or world news, or gossip about celebrities and Paris Hilton, or pop music news, or whatever. Get it on your idle screen on your phone ! And better than the TV - if you want more info, all you do is click, and you are immediately connected to the related news page. If its really breaking news, only a short blurb WAP page, but as the news story is developed, you get pictures, video clips, sounds, etc. Better than the news ticker on CNN, because now the user gets to select which stories to get more info on.
Is this a success? You bet. In 18 months NTT DoCoMo has 8 million or 16% of its customers subscribing to iMedia, paying 200 Yen per month (1.70 USD) - so just this ONE news service earns an annual income of 163 million dollars. That is massive revenue migration if you're a newspaper or other news media organization.
This is what we mean when talking about a strategy for the 7th Mass Media in a post-iPhone Era. Don't minimize your chances only copying what you are currently doing, squeezing it to mobile. Think big, invent the new, build services utilizing the unique benefits of mobile, make it magic. And yes, to help you, Alan's company, SMLXL has written a great White Paper, called - Mobile as the 7th Mass Media - and you can get it for free simply by e-mailing Alan at Alan (at) smlxtralarge (dot) com