Caution: Mobile Content at Work

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By Any Means Necessary
Bruce Rogers, who is dabbling in a variety of content delivery models, describes the Forbes.com audience as, "this super consumer who is both an affluent person and avid investor, at the same time, he is a business leader. He knows information is power and being the first to know about something is empowering." Rogers says, "we want people to access our content in whatever medium or mode they choose and we think that will be a combination of platforms: wireless, Wi-Fi, and some things I don't know about yet." He points out that, while Forbes.com Wireless alerts are a subscription service, Forbes.com is a separate advertising-based business unit and, as such, doesn't have to worry about eroding its subscription base. Thus, they have more freedom to experiment with emerging delivery mechanisms. "It is a cautious experimentation," he says. "We want to partner with a lot of folks. We know some will emerge as winners and some will completely disappear so we are taking a toe-in-the-water approach before we formulate a long-term plan about where we want to go."

While, from his Forbes.com experience, he sees many reasons content providers are hesitant to try to deal with telecomm companies, Rogers says, "The more fundamental thing is that database providers or even say people with subscription models are always worried about channel conflict; am I destroying my business model?" He also thinks that hesitation on behalf of fee-based info services might be a simple matter of not having found the right partners to distribute the content. "And inertia is the biggest inhibitor to any business," according to Rogers.

Another financial- and investment-friendly content producer, Financial Times, delivers content via mobile phones. However, according to Charlie Segal, "the market hasn't matured yet. Now it is used more for stock quotes, though I think eventually it will mirror the scope of what you read for work." Segal also believes that a solid business model needs to be in place before more content providers get on board the mobile train.

Segal thinks that premium subscription fees are one way to make mobile content pay; he also sees the possibility of providing content on an aggregation basis that would have a royalty pool. Like many mobile content providers and deliverers, he cautions players to "think about the Internet in 96; we made a lot of assumptions about the market and I think it's the same now, these products have limitations. Too many people expect that, because this is the latest trend, people will want to do everything with it." He continues saying, "I think the strategy is to be platform-independent. But as you do in any other medium of communication, it's all about users and giving them value. Rather than getting caught up in technology, you have to think about the value to the end-user."

Bottom line: In the mobile game, don't bet all your money on one hand. While a sight better than the all-bets-are-off mobile content predictions that circulated about a year ago, mobile content is also a long way from the money-flashing, high-roller dotcom days. That said, there are business models being tested to put more content into the hands of the mobile workforce and some are beginning to pay off.


Sidebar: Men At Work: On the Road 1
Written By: Walter McQuillan
Title: Sales Manager, EContent Magazine, WebSearch Univeristy, Buying & Selling eContent
Estimated Days on the Road Per Year: 35

When UPS delivered my first PDA, a Sony Clié PEG NZ90, I had Visions of off-loading my 7-pound laptop to the next person down the company food chain. Unfortunately, wireless communication technology for handheld appliances has not quite reached the point of replacing the road warriors weapon of choice.

Don't get me wrong, the Clié is a very cool and useful tool. It is lightweight, stores my entire client database of over 1,300 files with full contact information, appointment book, and to do list. The Hot Sync application integrates with MS Outlook with ease and speed. The Clié NZ90 has the ability to capture and store audio, video, and text on removable Sony's Memory Stick media (up to 1GB today). This proved very useful for recording a three-plus-hour meeting. An optional add-on Wi-Fi card offers the capability of sending and receiving email—provided you are in range of a hot spot, which are becoming more and more available (Starbucks, McDonald's, plus many of the newer office buildings and municipal parks throughout the country). And it seems to me that the ability to capture financial content over the Web on a timely basis must be mission-critical for executives in the financial services sector. Today's PDA wireless applications do in fact perform very well in that space.

Working with the Clié over the last month has unleashed numerous very useful money-making applications in my mind. The two mega pixel camera incorporated into the Clié, for example, would be of great assistance to design and real-estate executives in delivering jpg or streaming images to potential clients and financiers via wireless email, which would expedite the decision-making process and save time and money. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words…not to mention a day or two in travel time. PDA vendors are customizing specific applications for niche markets (medical information within the Wi-Fi-enables medical centers to enter and retrieve patient information, for example), just waiting for the wireless infrastructure to catch up with their imagination. Until that time comes, I will be traveling with my laptop, but my Clié NZ90 will allow me to keep the laptop in the hotel and save a bit of wear and tear on my shoulder.

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