Is The Mobile Web For Content Or Commerce? - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
2/24/2009
10:09 AM
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Is The Mobile Web For Content Or Commerce?

A company called Buzzwire unveiled yesterday a site that will aggregate user preferences to create a guide to the "best content" on the mobile Web. I'm not so sure it's what people are looking for on their phones.

A company called Buzzwire unveiled yesterday a site that will aggregate user preferences to create a guide to the "best content" on the mobile Web. I'm not so sure it's what people are looking for on their phones.You can just imagine the spreadsheets and slide presentations that excited the company's founders and investors: since 2006, mobile Internet browsers have doubled, to 40 million people. Smartphone sales are cranking among nonbusiness users, thanks in part to Apple's iPhone and the competitive product development it has prompted.

Yet the vast majority of cellphone users still don't surf (only 16%), and when they do, they visit an average of 6 sites a month (compared with 100 on their computers during the same time frame). TVGuide.com reports that it gets 16 million visit a month, but only 500,000 on its mobile Web site, so it's one of the first Buzzwire clients to hope it can drive its content to more readers.

But who is clamoring for more mobile content? Or, more specifically, what's the purpose of getting the stuff?

Clearly, handheld gizmos are becoming far more than mobile phones. I've read the same reports that you have...everybody in Korea watches TV on their phones, or uses them to live in some virtual world. The Swedes can point their devices at vending machines and buy soda pop.

Most of the uses I can name are transactional. There's a purpose to accessing the content. Relevance to experience -- the where, when, why, and how of user context -- is the driver of the lion's share of interest in the mobile Web.

So, for instance, I don't need to find that really funny story on TVGuide.com as much as get a real-time read on the restaurant before which I'm standing. Don't expect me to troll videos, but instead help me get the best price for the shirt that's on sale at 3 stores within eyesight. Give me movie reviews from the crowd walking out the showing in front of me.

Watching content on postage stamp-sized screens may well be the future, but isn't the more immediate need -- and opportunity -- to make the mobile Web a true enabler of commerce?

Jonathan Salem Baskin writes the Dim Bulb blog and is the author of Branding Only Works On Cattle.

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