News

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Debunking two US myths

So, the US is behind on mobile web adoption. Right?

Wrong.

So, the US is the home of advertising. Mobile advertising must be flying. Right?

Wrong.


The two are interrelated. First, let’s look at the market.

During my recent trip to the US I felt like an evangelist for the US mobile market which was a strange position to find myself in: persuading Americans that use of the web in the US is actually stronger than the UK and Europe.

Over the years, the general perception is that the US is behind and that thought has stuck. It is not true however. If you look at the off-deck market (that is services which are promoted without the operator’s marketing aid but simply using their network backbone) you will find a large number of US publishers generating significant page view numbers. The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Reuters, ESPN and others are all generating page view numbers which would make their counterparts in the UK blush (with the possible exception of the BBC).

While it is true that the American market is larger and therefore you’d expect higher numbers, there is a scaling factor on US traffic which means that it punches above its weight. There are four times as many people using the web from their phones to find news and information (Source: M:Metrics) but these US publishers are often generating over 1m page views per day. Their UK counterpart is driving a tenth of that volume.

What are the differences which explain this result. Brainstorm mode here:

- Pricing. All you can eat bundles are prevalent in the US. Nobody is constrained when using the browser.

- The use of the browser is much more ingrained in the US than in the UK – see the traffic generated through Google search as an example (similar to the publishers, a ratio of 10:1

- The persisting skew in the UK market towards ringtone, wallpaper and games downloads rather than internet browsing.

- A more open market in the US where the operators already command far less market share in internet browsing

- More devices with big screens: BlackBerry, Treo and now the iPhone.

Whatever the causes, the fact is that a number of publishers have cracked the mobile web (as they call it) and are looking for more innovative ways to further grow their traffic. BTW, this is where Mippin plays a role for these more advanced players by acting as another distribution channel – and one which is free to use, enables branding and monetisation.

So, onto the second issue:

Their only frustration is the inability to be able to monetise this traffic. It stands to reason that if you have a lot more inventory that you have a job to do to sell that inventory to achieve a decent sellthrough (the amount of ads served as a percentage of your inventory).

However, it is deeper than greater supply. There is a structural issue in the advertising market in the US which means that this extra inventory is an oversupply, depressing sellthrough and revenues. As a good counter-illustration you need only look at the UK where there is a multitude of smaller mobile advertising agencies (a number of whom are being bought – Screentonic and Enpocket).

For these smaller players a deal of £2,000 is a big deal and they are willing to fight to get it. In the US, such players are few and far between leaving the market dominated by the larger online agencies. For these players the extra effort required to understand mobile coupled with the smaller deal sizes - compared to online - means that it is always more convenient to place money in online rather than mobile.

It is not all bad news. There is a sense within the industry that mobile is now on the agenda as a channel – it is playing a part, being considered, in the high level planning.

And, this is a real advance.

That said, do not expect there to be a turnaround in the short term. An unstable financial system and the prevailing gloom in NY (the centre of the advertising industry in the US) will ensure tighter budgets and a flight away from experimentation. The money flowing to mobile will continue to grow but slowly until the shackles come off. I think the realisation of the industry that mobile is a channel where real impact can be made with top brands in significant volume will not be long in coming once confidence returns. Until then, wait out the storm.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Being a regulator is a tough gig

Just back from the Westminster Media Forum event at the Imperial War Museum. This was an interesting event pulling together a wide range of participants - and certainly not the usual mobile fare - to discuss and provide insight into Ofcom's most recent mobile sector assessment (MSA). Feedback is still welcomed, if you are quick, before the 6th November.

You can find the agenda above. The discussion was stimulating and avoided the usual trapdoor around the slowness/lack of cooperation from the operators. Indeed, some very good insight was provided by the operators into some of the challenges they face.

During a brief discussion on number portability both Three and Orange eloquently and reasonably put forward opposing views on whether a two day turnaround was enough or insufficient (highlighting some substantial economics for them as a result of each answer).

Even coming from the industry and having worked for a carrier - and thus one would hope with some insight into the right and wrong - it was easy to be sympathetic to both views. It left me admiring Ofcom for their ability to move at all in such a complex environment particularly when, in a number of cases, the participants are not so quick to share their views.

One also had a sense that Ofcom were listening hard to the views being presented. There were representatives from Infrastructure Providers, Operators, Investment Banks, Consultancy, Law Firms, PR, Device Manufacturers, Publishers and the odd start-up.

We were asked to comment on three topics briefly:

Whether new entrants and new tech could alter the shape of the market place?

To which my answer was "could?!"

I showed this graph which highlighted the coolest brands in the UK last year. Of the top ten, the top six are either an internet business or owe their success to the internet. Ten years ago none of these companies would have made the list.

Why would we imagine that the mobile world would be different? Particularly when there is a general acknowledgement that the existing incumbents cannot innovate quickly enough or are restricted from re-positioning radically because of shareholder commitments.


The second question was: the impact of instrastructure sharing on changing the commercial landscape for mobile operators

I attempted to provide an alternative answer to this than just citing the MVNO deals of Blyk, Tesco, Virgin, BT et al - though nobody actually mentioned these so I would have been on safe ground.

My argument is that operators will be forced into infrastructure sharing because of the troubled economics of the access business. I illustrated this point with some fixed line stats regarding the iPlayer showing escalating costs of carrying the traffic. What is an issue for fixed ISPs today is an issue for operators tomorrow. Or rather next week as iPlayer is coming to mobile over WiFi from next Wednesday (or using Skyfire now over 3G). I do not see how the operators can maintain profits at a healthy level without infrastructure synergies.

Finally, Ofcom invited comment on the growing importance of consumer protection issues.

I argued here that there needed to be a change in perspective in data protection issues so that it was supportive of the ways in which a new younger networked generation were using it. Simply halting sharing of information is old school.

Putting it more eloquently here than I did 'live': it is difficult for the middle-aged shaping this policy to put themselves in the shoes of the younger generation who are actually making the rules of engagement and actually doing so on the fly.

Some of you might recognise that I used Whatleydude as an illustration in explaining this. It was the first room I had been in for a while where nobody recognised his name. Sanity prevails in some far flung places.....


More on this another time as there were a couple more titbits that would be good to share

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Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Welcome Android - our view

The first Android phone is launched today and it is no real surprise that T-Mobile has the exclusive on this given the long association between the technology team and Andy Rubin, the driving architect behind Android.

Nonetheless, I am sure that being first in the queue will be a double edged sword as the device itself will come under intense scrutiny and criticism as it is likely to fail all cosmetic tests versus the iPhone.

However, this will miss the point. It is not about the device. This event could mark the beginning of something we will look back on as the single biggest driver of mass market mobile data adoption – making the iPhone bubble look quite puny by comparison.

It is somewhat of a paradox that the introduction of yet another mobile OS into an already crowded and fragmented market could lead to much needed standardization but that is what Android is seeking to achieve. The defining characteristic is its openness which has two profound effects.

First, it diffuses any potential politics and organizational inefficiencies between all the interested deploying parties (carriers, device manufacturers, Google etc) by putting the development of the platform in the hands of the developers – any developer in fact. Most developments of this type would stall in committee – through its openness Android escapes that noose.

Second, its openness will force a standardization across all the other platforms. Developers will port work from one to another, closed platforms will be forced to copy innovation, some platforms will disappear. Just as Chrome will ensure long term consistency in the browser world, so will Android in the OS.

The driving success factors will be how easily and quickly useful services can be deployed to the platform. Here Google’s brand is rivaled only by Apple in inspiring developers and one can be sure that Google will not be indulging in operator or device OEM exclusives which would limit its proliferation. Apple is about to be given a lesson in the power of being open. If Google can inspire widespread innovation then its market share will increase and the drive of Android in homogenizing other OS’s will take shape – something which drives more traffic which Google is happy to monetize.

The ambition behind Android is extraordinary. The fact that it stands such a strong chance of succeeding is breathtaking.

For the latest news on Android to your cellphone, point your browser to http://mippin.com/androidstream

[Post-dated: For an alternative view looking at the dark-side, this post is recommended from Visionmobile].

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Monday, 22 September 2008

On the road again.....

(Not so) fresh from CTIA and Web2.0 on the West and East Coast over the past two weeks, you can find Mippin at the following events over the next few days:

Mobile Web Europe at the Paddington Hilton in London. The event is from today until Wednesday. We'll be there on Wednesday at 1445 as part of a panel tackling 'Should the Mobile Web be viewed as a Channel in its Own Right in Order to Build Effectively Optimised Services for the Consumer?' where our response will not necessarily be to sponsor .mobi's liking.

On Thursday, we are part of an intriguing event organised by the Westminster Media Forum titled the Future for Mobile and Wireless Services. It is at the Imperial War Museum in London and will take a look at Ofcom's recent Mobile Sector Assessment.

Next Monday, we chair a session in the IIR Converged Messaging Conference in Munich titled 'Will Operators’ Obsession With Protecting SMS Revenues Leave Them Open To Competition From Innovative Online Messaging?' It is not specifically related to Mippin but this could be helpful in steering an interesting debate.

Then in the evening, we speak at the Mobile Monday event in Munich on Client vs Browser deployment where we do have a wealth of experience. I have this presentation in draft and will have to trim it down to fit within the time limit there is so much that could be said. We'll not pull any punches and have a lot of facts to present based on our own history.

If you are out and about at these events please say hello. As ever, you can follow us on twitter.

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Friday, 19 September 2008

Stumbling over the mobile web

Mippin attended a session last week called Mobile Web Strategies at CTIA in San Francisco.

A recurring theme through the day was the tripping over the term mobile web and its similarity or not with the ‘real’ internet. I did not realise it was so complicated. Nitin Bhandari from Skyfire came to the rescue with the simplest and most eloquent explanation of what the mobile web is:

mobile [access to the] web.

That’s it. Job done. Wikipedia now agrees with this too.

Yes, it is true that in time that publishers will have to consider how to modify and refine their propositions to the user depending on the device they are entering the site from but this is only one element of context which will be available – it could also include my location, my presence, the site I am on etc etc etc.

Our view is that there is no separate mobile internet and that there should not be one. In time, mobile will add its own flavour to the internet as people tailor to its capabilities and its limitations.

Publishers are far better served getting their existing content onto mobile and then working over time to modify the proposition to allow for the different entry points – of which the device is just one. This is where the Mippin Mobilizer makes sense and one of the reasons it was created.

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Friday, 12 September 2008

Press Release: Mippin Update

Below is our latest press release, issued this morning, which describes our new mobile publishing tool. We've worked hard to create something that's quick, simple and of course free to use. We think the result achieves each of those goals. So, if you'd like a mobile version of your website or blog, perfectly optimised for every handset, globally, and ready in seconds, then look no further. We love to hear your feedback so do get in touch with any comments. As always, there's lots going on at Mippin HQ. We're currently testing some hugely exciting additions to our mobile service (visit m.mippin.com on your mobile browser). We think you'll like them. We'll be blogging more about these soon. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy Mobilizer.


Mippin launches Mippin Mobilizer

Mippin - the free mobile media service that makes discovering, consuming, and sharing web content on mobile phones a fast, easy and unique experience, today announced Mippin Mobilizer, a new mobile publishing service based on its popular Mippin technology. With Mippin Mobilizer, bloggers and publishers can quickly and easily create a mobile version of their site which is automatically optimised for any mobile phone with a web browser over 2000 different devices and available instantly.

Mippin Mobilizer is free to use and is the ideal solution for the increasing number of bloggers and branded publishers who want to extend their reach and distribution through the mobile platform, without the need for technical expertise or the extensive cost of developing a separate mobile site. The only requirement is a valid RSS or similar feed, which are a standard feature built into leading blog platforms such as Typepad, Blogger, WordPress and Vox. Mippin Mobilizer takes care of the complexity of creating the mobile service, making it work perfectly across thousands of different devices from large screen iPhones to compact RAZRs. Mippin Mobilizer creates a mobile version of the site in less than five seconds and then its just a few clicks to add customised branding or include advertising. A video demonstration of how fast and easy it is to mobilize a site can be viewed by visiting http://blog.mippin.com/2008/09/take-our-new-mobilizer-challenge.html.

Until now, mobilizing a website was not easy and required a great deal of technical expertise. We made Mippin Mobilizer so that almost any blog or website could instantly create a mobile version of their site and reach people on the go in just a few steps, said Scott Beaumont, Co-Founder, Mippin.

With Mippin Mobilizer, anyone can mobilise and customise a website according to their preferences and brand guidelines. Also, unique to Mippin, site owners can create a new revenue stream by inserting advertising from AdMob without paying away any revenue share to Mippin.

Mippin Mobilizer users also benefit by being part of the Mippin Publishing Network now with more than 25 thousand high quality mobile sites enabling their content to reach a wide, inquisitive and rapidly growing mobile audience.

As a leading mobile news blog, Mobhappy's content should obviously be accessible from any mobile device, said Carlo Longino of Mobhappy. Mippin Mobilizer was a snap to use, and it also created a new revenue stream by enabling us to insert ads into our mobile content. We control the look and feel, the editorial content, and the revenues, so it's a win on all counts.

Well known publishers such as Incisive Media (including Gizmodo, VNUNet), blog aggregator Shiny Media (including TechDigest, Shiny Shiny), and established media brands such as the BBC, The New York Times and T3 are using Mippin Mobilizer, together with thousands of independent bloggers.

The Mippin Mobilizer is an excellent tool from which we can generate a mobile variant of our sites in minutes using our existing RSS syndication, said John Barnes, Managing Director of Digital Strategy and Development at Incisive Media. We are able to extend our brand footprint and experiment in generating some meaningful revenue from this emerging mass media.

About Mippin

London-based Mippin is a free media service that uses Web 2.0 tools to make discovering, consuming and sharing web content on mobile phones painless. Quicker than going to traditional URLs and easier to use than mobile widgets, Mippin is laser-focused on delivering a compelling user experience on any mobile phone via the mobile browser, for free. Mippin also directly benefits bloggers and publishers by enabling them to effortlessly mobilise and distribute web content and benefits advertisers by enabling them to deliver targeted branding messages to mobile audiences. Mippin has is funded by leading Venture Capital firm Accel Partners. For more information visit www.mippin.com.

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Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Take our new Mobilizer challenge!

It's been a busy week here at Mippin HQ. Our new website has gone live. We hope you like it. The redesign makes it much, much easier to mobilize content using our unique Mippin service. Fast and for free! 'How fast?' I hear you ask. Well, check out our latest video below to see if you can beat our 'mobilize your site in 60 seconds or less' challenge!




So what's changed on the website? Well, we've simplified the process of mobilizing content and given Bloggers and Publishers their own top level navigation, which we hope helps to spread the message that Mippin offers the quickest, most straightforward way to get your content delivered perfectly on every mobile phone, globally!


Perhaps the biggest change, apart from a fresh new look, is the addition of an interactive emulator on our front page, which showcases the live Mippin service in a selection of handsets. We think it gives a really good flavour of the overall Mippin experience and how we're able to intelligently offer content personalised for you by remembering sites you like and recommending others, all based on your browsing history.


We've had a great few weeks here at Mippin, with our selection of mobile sites increasing to over 35,000. That means more and more fantastic content is available via your phone's browser at www.mippin.com.


We're also getting masses of positive feedback from users, summed up by the first three items in our inbox this morning:

"Finally, a real mobile service I will use! Ten out of ten!"
"You make my life easier! Where have you been all this time?"
"Great! Simply an amazing site."

Aw shucks - thanks all! We're so glad you like it.


Happy Mippin!


Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Mippin Wordpress Plugin - "Killer Application!"







Our WordPress Plugin was published in the Wordpress plugin directory last Thursday and is getting unanimous acclaim from all its downloaders:

Jaffer said

"I was actually thinking about creating a template for mobiles for my blog
earlier today. Here you are introducing me to this killer application.
This is awesome, the rendered website looks exactly I had Imagined !"

Phattrance said

"very very good plugin, thx "

Emanuel said

"Thank you very much for this plugin. My blog loads very slowly on mobile phones and I've wanted something like this for ages now."


The plugin is quite specialised, only for those that host their own blog using Wordpress but its getting lots of interest. You may be wondering what it does? Basically once installed, when a user goes to the hosted blog from a PC they get the blog as is but if they go to that blog from a phone then Mippin is served from their own url. Its very simple to install and no config is needed.