Publishers that think they have mobile sewn up simply because they launch a mobile site should think again. Granted, it’s imperative to cater to the needs of the almost 1 billion consumers accessing web content on their mobile phones worldwide—a number the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) says will likely surpass the number of users accessing the web via fixed PC connections by the end of 2008. But a singular focus on repurposing content for small screens ignores what makes mobile indispensable to our everyday lives: the ability to deliver the right content to the right user in the right context.
Indeed, mobile is much more than a device. It’s a personal communications tool that consumers rely on to access information they find useful on the move. Mobile is also how a growing number of consumers worldwide choose to connect with social networks. Recent findings released by Nielsen Mobile, a service of The Nielsen Co., reveal that the U.S. leads in mobile social networking. Research firm eMarketer, Inc. forecasts that mobile social networking will grow from 82 million users in 2007 to more than 800 million worldwide by 2012. Combine this trend with the added ability of these devices to capture and share content, as well as the advance of location-aware content (in 2007 Nielson Mobile reported more than 20 million users of mobile mapping and local search applications), and you have the perfect petri dish conditions for the creation of contextually aware content.
Content companies must connect with their audiences on the move, but within the context of their communities. Merely retrofitting online content for mobile is a flawed approach that shortchanges content companies and their users. As Tomi Ahonen, independent consultant, author, and mobile luminary, points out: "Companies must develop mobile content that is in tune with the unique capabilities of mobile (personalization, location, presence). They must ‘think mobile’ and develop expressly for mobile, or risk losing their audiences to content companies that can."
It is a challenge for any content company to harness what Ahonen terms the "7th Mass Media." But it’s particularly a nightmare for small content owners and independent publishers to get into the mobile groove and deliver relevant and location-aware content without investing in special programming and expensive IT systems.
That’s where LightPole, Inc. comes in. This San Francisco-based software and services company has come out of stealth mode with a mission to bring the world of location-specific content to mobile consumers. The solution: publishing services designed to take the pain out of distributing content to mobile devices and to allow publishers, bloggers, and other content providers to engage readers both on the move and within their social networks.
To further integrate mobile with community, LightPole teamed up with Six Apart, Ltd., a blogging software and services company best known for its Movable Type platform. The partnership has produced a plug-in that allows Movable Type bloggers to geotag their entries, add and manage related points of interest (POIs), and publish feeds in the form of LightPole channels—thus seamlessly delivering content to readers’ mobile phones.
LightPole was designed to make publishing geo-textual content—such as news, travel guides, histories, restaurant reviews, and any other location-specific content—as easy as blogging. To round out the offer (and help publishers generate revenue), LightPole supports a variety of content distribution models including subscriptions, transactions, and advertising. To make sure this content is findable, LightPole provides a downloadable software client that enables "location-aware discovery" of content, thus empowering consumers to explore a wealth of information relevant to their real-time location.
This approach enables LightPole to create an ecosystem that connects publishers, brands, advertisers, and audience. For consumers, it creates an interactive and social environment around location-specific content—a place where people can research everything from historical sites to restaurant reviews, and a space where users can share their insights, opinions, and reviews. For publishers, it supports one-step content delivery to consumers where they are likely to value it most. As PAPER Magazine co-founder and editor David Hershkovits put it: "In a forever changing media landscape where content is king, we want to make sure our customers can get up to the moment news and information … where they need it: on the move."
With content and users more mobile than ever, the intersection of "I care" and "I’m here" is where successful publishers need to be.