Move on Mobile Content

Publishers may have been short-changed when they embraced the fixed internet only to see their brands and offerings diluted by major search-engine brands that called the shots and picked the content. Thus, they would be short-sighted not to explore the world of exciting and lucrative opportunities offered by the emerging mobile web.

It’s early days in an electrifying industry. But it’s crowding fast. Last month, DotMobi announced that more than 500,000 “.mobi” domain addresses had been registered for the mobile internet in 104 countries since the company’s launch last October. That’s quite a feat if we remember that only 100,000 “.com” addresses were registered in the first 10 years of that domain’s existence.

Understanding interplay between mobile content and mobile growth, Yahoo! has combined its one-click oneSearch mobile search capabilities with a suite of mobile publisher services to grow the mobile web and the advertising inventory that will drive revenues for all. Aptly named Yahoo! Mobile Publisher Services, this ambitious offer was created to allow publishers to increase the discovery, distribution, and monetization of mobile content.

The suite offers publishers access to a variety of services that should raise their profile and ad revenues. These include: the Yahoo! Mobile: Ad Network, which allows mobile publishers to have syndicated advertising served on their mobile content and services, and select the ad formats they want to run; Content Engine, which allows publishers who do not have a mobile site or only have a limited mobile offering to distribute content to Yahoo!’s audience; Media Directory, which lets publishers make content accessible through Yahoo!’s oneSearch mobile search service; and Site Submit, which lets publishers provide information about their mobile sites, such as a description and relevant tags, to ensure that their sites are accurately indexed and available to consumers through oneSearch.

Moreover, Yahoo! can take content from any publisher, even those who have no made-for-mobile content, and present it to searchers on the go. This opens the door for small companies and free agents to get involved. One use case is real estate, where Yahoo!’s suite of services would allow users to research property for sale from their mobiles. To round out the offer, Yahoo! would offer so-called “click-to-action” options such as a map and driving directions to the property or the chance to contact the agent by clicking a click-to-call link.

As Michael Bayle, Yahoo!’s GM of global monetization, put it at a recent London mobile search conference I chaired, the objective is to create “a mobile publishing and advertising marketplace” that will assist large and small content publishers alike to make their complete catalogs searchable and monetizable.

To sweeten the offer—and dispel any bad taste left by the fixed internet—the content owner gets top billing. Period. Put another way, Yahoo! is “only interested in surfacing content and bringing the users to the [content] provider.”

But it’s the potential for a new approach to social search that makes Yahoo!’s offer the one to watch. Unlike other search-engine providers active in mobile, Yahoo! has a huge and loyal user community, a source the company intends to tap for mobile content ratings and recommendations moving forward.

Indeed, recent data from Nielsen//NetRatings shows that Yahoo!’s online community, Yahoo! Answers, is its fastest growing channel, going from an average monthly unique audience of 2.3 million last winter to 15.7 million this winter. By comparison, Facebook has more than 19 million unique users and MySpace has more than 60 million unique visitors in a typical month.

Harnessing mobile social search would allow Yahoo! to deliver a more holistic experience and proactively promote discovery of publishers’ content like no other service available today, and Yahoo! is fully aware of the advantages.

Predictably tight-lipped about future strategy, Bayle didn’t give away all the details. But he hinted at the company’s plans to empower mobile users to “rate, tag, and give reviews” on the content and services they feel most strongly about.

Yahoo! believes this exchange of views and expertise will expose content to consumers before they ask for it. Connect the dots and it appears that Yahoo! has developed more than a strategy that reaches out to publishers; it has laid the groundwork for a mobile Web 3.0, where all content providers can connect to all users everywhere, and users can answer with valuable feedback.