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« Voluntarily onto the Digital Leash - role of data in mobile future | Main | Carlos Slim: World's richest person - made his money with.. mobile »

March 08, 2010



Hei Tomi,

Nice blog entry - as much as I'd like to, I can't quite agree especially with the 3rd level "context" fully though.

Still lot of the context and communication takes place outside the mobile sphere (think about chatting on your computer while e.g. watching TV - not everyone is necessarily using the SMS channel only) so you cannot capture all the necessary data via the mobile operator channel.

Nor do I believe that time & and the fact that someone has been communicating in that very moment necessary provides the missing link to particular content in another channel - maybe there is a high probability for that but no absolute certainty (statistics please proove me wrong).

NOnetheless, I believe that there are more and more possibilities for mobile data mining and clever MNO's will improve their capabilities in it - by investing into xtract products (if that's what you suggest? :)

But unfortunately its not quite that simple I am afraid. Consumer privacy groups will certainly have their say too.

In any case it will be interesting to see to what this develops into. But I guess it will still be a long shot.

Vasco Duarte

Great post. Really mind opening. What you suggest about the power to reach consumers is very important, but the MNO's need to create the opportunity for consumption not just use the data.

Take this example, if I am browsing for music in a carrier's store I am open to "suggestions"/ads. But I don't want to get the same suggestion via MMS when I'm watching the game in the evening.

Amazon's recommendations work because they are in the context of a search for product that they try to convert into intention to buy.

What are carriers doing today to create this "opportunity for consumption"? I don't see them doing much...

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Sanna and Vasco

Thank you for the comments, will respond to both individually

Sanna - good comments as always and we mostly agree. To start with, like you say, there are privacy concerns - and I am adamant about it, that all mobile advertising has to be permission-based. If the mobile operators were wise, they would totally eliminate any spam banner ads, spam SMS etc and make sure only permission-based ads transmit in their networks (as the major industry bodies have recommended literally for a decade now). But yeah, I totally feel it has to be opt-in, which addresses most of the privacy issues. If its used for snooping, that is hideously bad (as we've recently seen for example with mobile operators where management used phone records to snoop about their management teams - the hideous mess it made in Finland and now a little while ago in Germany - that led to the press etc covering the scandals... idiots!)

You make a great point about context happening also on other media, in particular on the PC/internet. Yes, theoretically we might be able to capture that info from computers - except, that even if you and I happen to have a personal PC that nobody else uses, that is not the norm on the internet. In fact most PCs are shared or only semi-personal. Almost all work-related PCs are owned by the employer and they have IT departments that manage them, install firewalls, read emails etc. And of home PCs, a good part of those are shared among family members. So right off the top, even though in many cases a PC may be (or may seem) personal, it is not. Whereas the mobile phone is not shared (except in the very poor areas like parts of Africa where a family gets one phone handset, which itself then has multiple accounts on it for hte husband, wife, kids etc)

So if that context is to be 'commercialized' and 'monetized' and we want to do it beyond one service provider (like Amazon) then mobile is the only way. Its not easy and few companies are yet able to do this - but some are - and very few have figured out how to commercialize the opportunity (so far), but this to me is the obvious direction where we will go. We already get consumption info for all digital consumption (by vendor) and will start to get more out of that through various means. We already collect near-perfect communication data on mobile networks today (but mostly not yet connecting those dots). Context is logically the next step.

But I agree with you, its not reality today and it will take time, and not all will even figure out how to do it haha.. And yes, Xtract is a good example of companies who have commercial products in this space and already a proven track record to capture such info as the user's profile in how they communicate, what is their level of influence etc. That is all around social context... Obviously Xtract is no longer alone in that space and we can see companies like say Google angling very strongly into this space as well as many of the Scandinavian/Nordic mobile operators, some handset vendors etc..

Vasco - very good point and we agree. Yes, that moment of when to make the recommendation is very important, and ideally it should not be 'automatically guessed' by the operator, but should actually be asked from the consumer - when do you want the ads. Or a little reminder that 'now I have something for you' a bit like the envelope flashing when we have received an SMS etc. Yes, we have to be very careful that we won't bombard consumers with ads at the wrong time and in the wrong context. Good point.

Thank you both for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Sheldon Nesdale

A bit wordy to be honest Tomi. Next time please use more bolding and bullet points. :P

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Sheldon

This is a complex industry. Often a superficial treatment is of no value to readers who expect to listen to a global guru who has written 9 books.

This is a blog, we have no advertising, I have no interest whatsoever in attracting you to this blog, Sheldon, or keeping you here, except my altruistic passion as per my motto 'in a connected age, sharing info is power'

If you can't handle this type of treatment of new topics, I have 'edited' text in books for those who want it in better formats. My regular readers know that what I blog about now will be in my books next year. So if you don't need to catch the latest thinking and are happy with 'very well organized' but somewhat out of date thinking, go ahead and buy my books.

If you feel this was not of value to you, please do not come back.

If you can appreciate it, that this is only a hobby for me, we get no income from this blog and all thoughts here are early drafts into next books, then like some who visit this site religiously, will put up with the fact that sometimes it is very late at night, I write out of a passion to share, and my style is long and winding.

We have readers of very varying degrees of competence and knowledge. Sometimes I explain things that to some readers seem basic - but for example Americans and Europeans have very different understanding of this space - yet most comments on this blog tend to suggest my readers appreciate the blogs. Perhaps you are out of your league here Sheldon.

We are often selected as the best blog of the week by our peers (the weekly changing hosts of the Carnival of the Mobilists). Like this week, my blog posting about Fools Gold was again voted best blog of the week. And it was typically a long Tomi Ahonen blog. What I do when I write, is to be inclusive, even when repetitive (even when that means I waste more of MY time doing so) to make sure our readers get the full story, not just jargon for the insider crowd.

I am a windbag, yes. You can also read other authors who cite me. There are 70 books that do so. That may be better suited for you. some of them have bullet points and pretty pictures. But they tend to cite my books from a couple of years ago, so your info is getting a bit tired by then.

But this is my passion. I apprecite it that you did not like the length of this blog. Too bad. This is my hobby and my blog. I will not go back to put it into bullet points or edits or bolding. And I dare you to show me one blog who covered this same very abstract, very complex, very bleeding-edge topic with less words prior to 8 March 2010.

Go away

Tomi Ahonen :-)


We have readers of very varying degrees of competence and knowledge. Sometimes I explain things that to some readers seem basic - but for example Americans and Europeans have very different understanding of this space - yet most comments on this blog tend to suggest my readers appreciate the blogs. Perhaps you are out of your league here Sheldon.

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