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April 13, 2006


Lalit Sarna

Hello Tomi,

I discovered your blog by following the links on your tribe profile. I just
ordered a copy of “Community Dominate Brands” and am looking forward to
reading it. I am a 3G technologist and founder of the team that created 3’s
video streaming solution. I also have a strong interest in community-aided
connected consumption. I realized the power of communities 2 years ago when
I organized a charity fundraiser event through my network on Myspace.
Despite no money spent on PR, we were able to put together an event in 15
days, and attracted 150 people, raising raised $3500 for homeless kids.

In terms of your thoughts on Disney's experimentions within the converging
media/telecom/internet space, while I agree that Disney's move to offer
their content on the web for free will have a huge impact on the media
industry, I am not sure if it is the right strategy. I will present my
arguments below and would love to hear your thoughts.

Disney has powerful content.. and now also have a new medium of
distribution. However what they do not have is the attention of users for
their new medium. Putting up video content for isolated downloads is perhaps
not the best use of the attention they get in this new distribution

Disney's relationships with its users remains very one-on-one, where users
come to the portal, get the content they want, and leave. One could even
argue that they are highly diluting the value of TV networks. If producers
of the shows can have a direct relationship with online users, the TV
network has very little value to add. Now lets compare this to a
community-aided content distribution site like Myspace.

The content on Myspace is provided by users, who actively help captivate the
attention of other users. The solution feeds the interaction between the
users that in turn powers the whole value chain. Myspace created a sticky
affinity-based consumer space around music, directly fueling user interests
and interaction by connecting them around bands, Myspace parties, etc.
Allowing users to interact with the bands, and around the bands, brought the
attention of their peers to both the content, as well as Myspace. With the
in-built switching costs of losing the relationships built around the
Myspace brand, the company is monetizing the sevice in ways that are
relevant to the users. For example, adding mobility (Cingular deal),
providing ads that do not disrupt their interaction or media experience.

Applying this example to Disney, an alternative approach for Disney could
have been to create interest-focused communities that aligns naturally with
their content. By using content as a fuel to generate water-cooler chats
around their brand, I strongly beleive that they would have enabled
consumers to build organic relationships around their brand.

With this conviction, I quit my job as Director of technology at Vidiator
Technologies Inc (Hutchison Whampoa’s video platform company) on January
31st to start ConntectedMix. ConnectedMix is developing a platform that does
just that. While Myspace and Youtube have been very successful in capturing
the attention of the 14-24 age segment, other demographics and user
interests currently remain a nascent and untapped market.

Our vision is to enable brands to create interconnected, interest-based
communities with a consolidated backend. We are striving to enable users to
build affinity-based relationships around the brand, and to rally the
attention of their peers around the brand. Furthermore, we help brands to
create vertical social search engines by linking their users across various
affinity based, interconnected, branded communities, that are accessible any
way any where any time.

I would love to connect with you to discuss my ideas and get your feed back. If this is of interest to you please let me know what would be the best way to reach you.

Lalit Sarna
[email protected]

Tomi Ahonen

Hi Lalit

First, I'm very happy you found us and thank you the very insightful and extensive comment.

Briefly, I'll obviously write to you also off-line, as some of that discussion goes beyond what is worth blogging here in the open.

But even before that, for you and anyone who happens to read this discussion: please also join us at Forum Oxford, the free discussion board for mobile that was set up seven months ago by the leading authors and bloggers and experts in mobile. We've grown already to over 700 members and the discussion is very deep and insightful. Anyone here at our blogsite who is interested in mobile, is most welcome to join. The website is and for your first time sign-up you will need an "enrollment key" for which you enter the single word "forumoxford". Welcome.

Lalit. I would warmly invite you to re-post your thoughts from this comment, to us at Forum Oxford, and get more than just my thoughts on it, there.

Next, on what you wrote... I agree very strongly with what you said. Disney is a powerful brand, and very adept at creating content for the media it is familiar with (TV, movies, comic books, games, etc). But the power of mobile (and the web) is much more the sharing, than the interactive. So the big successes in mobile will invariably be those services that feature an almost compelling element of sharing. Myspace is a brilliant example of just that - Alan and I have blogged about Myspace many times as a shining example.

So on your pursuits, I am so happy you found us and engaged in discussion with us simply for the fact that we admire what Myspace is. Further I wish you the best of luck in your new pursuits, and hope you will keep us informed, so we can blog about your next offerings.

Back to Disney. I think American companies tend to be very competitive and customer (marketing) driven. The moment they "get it" about community and customers (eg with cellphones) they can become very powerful. The sad case with Disney is, that they were quite literally the first big Western media brand to find commercial success on mobile (via i-Mode in Japan back in 2000). Yet for whatever internal communication inertia, that leadership was never capitalized by the parent organization. I've had a base case Disney MVNO etc offering as one of my "obvious winners" for the industry for years, yet only now they are making moves in that direction. Why the delay, I honestly cannot say.

So with all that, while it may initially be more of Desperate Housewives and Lost episodes on cellphones (and the Mickey Mouse clock as a screen saver?) that corporation will not take long to discover the true growth in mobile. Expect them to discover either by plan or by accident, the power of sharing. Of community. Of involvement. Of engagement. Of advocacy. And when they do, they will become a powerhouse in mobile.

I like to point out that mobile telecoms is not only bigger than music or videogaming or hollywood or the global advertising industry. Mobile telecoms is today bigger than global TV... (and ten times larger than the global internet industry, broadband and narrowband; content and access combined) So for any Disney executive, this should be the big prize they aim for.

Thank you for writing Lalit. Please join us at Forum Oxford, and I will write to you also directly

Tomi Ahonen :-)

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    Tomi Ahonen is a bestselling author whose twelve books on mobile have already been referenced in over 100 books by his peers. Rated the most influential expert in mobile by Forbes in December 2011, Tomi speaks regularly at conferences doing about 20 public speakerships annually. With over 250 public speaking engagements, Tomi been seen by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people on all six inhabited continents. The former Nokia executive has run a consulting practise on digital convergence, interactive media, engagement marketing, high tech and next generation mobile. Tomi is currently based out of Helsinki but supports Fortune 500 sized companies across the globe. His reference client list includes Axiata, Bank of America, BBC, BNP Paribas, China Mobile, Emap, Ericsson, Google, Hewlett-Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, LG, MTS, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Ogilvy, Orange, RIM, Sanomamedia, Telenor, TeliaSonera, Three, Tigo, Vodafone, etc. To see his full bio and his books, visit Tomi Ahonen lectures at Oxford University's short courses on next generation mobile and digital convergence. Follow him on Twitter as @tomiahonen. Tomi also has a Facebook and Linked In page under his own name. He is available for consulting, speaking engagements and as expert witness, please write to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com

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