Downwardly Mobile Content

Powerful institutions are driving content and advertising to mobile devices. Will Mini Media producers will be able to profit from this new market, or will they be shut out by Big Content?
Just today, Rafat Ali’s Paid Content points to several developments on the mobile. Time Inc. has partnered with FlyTxt to do things like send People Magazine celebrity news updates to mobiles, a tidbit derived from a report by ClickZ news. Elsewhere, a British advertising publication says the world’s largest advertising agencies are looking to buy or partner with firms that can deliver ads to mobiles. (Aside: whatever is happening in this space may be happening faster and stronger outside the U.S. because other cell systems are more hospitable to text messages.) There’s more. Last week CNN ran a piece entitled, “Some Sirius Competition: Cell phone carriers are eyeing the growing satellite radio market; Sprint launches new service.” Thanks to Paid Content for pointing me to that development, as well as for its continuing coverage of how Major League Baseball is angling to deliver sports bursts to cell phones — provided it can black out home coverage so as to accommodate its broadcast partner Fox Network. And then there’s this piece from Wired News suggesting that porn carriers are preparing to bring XXX material to cell phones. “Adult content has been available for a couple of years in Europe and Asia,” wrote Wired’s Daniel Terdiman, “but conservative U.S. carriers — and an anti-porn administration — have the adult industry taking it slow to put flesh on U.S. phones.” Earlier, I tried to pull together bits suggesting how short bursts of television are being aimed at cell phones and other mobile devices like the Sony PSP. It seems clear that Big Content sees opportunity in niche markets and little devices (that’s the message of the Long Tail.) I wonder, however, whether Mini Media producers will get a chance to inject their wares into whatever rivulets of content eventually rain down. Both the receiving devices and the transmission protocols create bottlenecks controlled by powerful firms with no idea how to deal with gnat-sized producers. And for the present, no real need to learn. If Major League Baseball is going mobile, can the NBA be far behind? Of course, clever and lucky niche content may get carriage (that is, access and delivery). But the more I think of the emerging new media, the more it seems that licensing, not technology or creativity, will rule. Along these lines, an April 26 conference in Los Angeles, sponsored by the American Press Association’s Media Center, will explore how to create and sell innovative content to mobile audiences.

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, your’re Mini Media