Monday, March 27, 2006

Mobile content may be for early adopters now. Is it for anyone else later?

Countless hours have been passed at media and wireless companies by smart people trying to gauge the payoff on mobile content. If you're the CEO of a media or a wireless company, you can't afford to let your outfit sit on the sidelines while everyone else is taking a run at gathering up ears and eyeballs. Better to make sure you're in the game than to stay out, lose later and be summarily axed for your lack of vision.

Since I'm not a media or wireless company CEO (and shockingly, not on any short lists for current openings), I'll take a stab at the long-term impact of mobile content. As usual, it will be completely devoid of any empirical data or scientfically valid research and rely entirely on my gut instinct and zest for public debate.

My gut says mobile content will be a marginal play. Sure, there will always be people who do insane things such as, say, commute for two hours from the Pennsylvania to work in New York City. They might watch and listen to all kinds of mobile content. But that's not a huge group and a good chunk of them will choose sleeping over video or audio. Of course, there's also all of those kids — oh, those meddling kids — who are sharing mobile content with friends as easily as they chat on IM. There is no question that this audience likes mobile content. But they also loved camera phones, too. Today, I sense a lot fewer kids are saying cheese while their friend holds up a Samsung than a year ago.

But I still think we're going to see digital hubs — the computer as entertainment center — and not on-the-go entertainment, dominate. Consider podcasts. At first, all the buzz was about people listening to them on their iPods, but it turns out we're all more likely to play them on our computers. Even in our ADD world, we still like to sit down and take something in.

For most people, mobile content takes too much effort. A media hub appeals to our lazy, disorganized selves. My bet is on sloth.

You can find some actual research on the subject here. Those numbers, at this point in the game, still seem awfully low to me.


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