Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Mobile: Where are We Now?

Today's WSJ reports on social networking by cellphone. It reports on more companies rolling out GPS services that can locate anyone with the service. It profiles Loopt, a service available by wireless operator Boost Mobile which is owned by Sprint Nextel. I could see where it makes some sense, but, uh, can't you just call your friends and ask them where they are?

I wonder if the privacy concerns outweigh the utility. Sure you can make all the promises you want that the info is not retained. I would also be concerned about stalkers using the service. Also, to be somewhat serviceable a greater number of online providers are going to have to offer the service.

In any event, the numbers are interesting. According to Gartner, 63% of mobiles sold in North America in 2007 will have some GPS utility. That's up from 55% last year.

Speaking of mobile, Steve Smith has an interesting column today in Media Post's Mobile Insider, entitled "User Generated Crap." That should give you a pretty good idea of what it's about. His main point is that the tech now far ahead of the content available. The long and short of it is that content that looks OK or at least passable on the the web is often totally unviewable on the really small screen. Also, where you may tolerate a lot of crap on the web where you have a fast connection and pretty good visibility, we're a lot less forgiving on our mobile devices. He draws an analogy to what content providers went through when they started may making material available on the web.

Newsweeklies Cheat Death
At least they're trying, according to this week's Crain's New York Business. The article discusses how Time has been shifting gears with more commentary and features to become less dependent on breaking news. This in an effort to shake up a stagnant (at best) ad market. Newsweek is, however, staying the course and sees an opportunity to break out of Time's shadow. Crain's points out that Newsweek got a much earlier start on the web and that its owner Washington Post Co. is largely controlled by the Graham family, thus easing the pressures exerted on Time by Wall Street.

Non-Traditional Advertising
Yesterday's Times lamented the loss of ad free space. I'm not sure what the big deal is. Granted, I don't need to see Al Roker in the back seat of a cab, but 1) I don't have to look; 2) I can turn down the volume; 3) It's better than looking at whatever is usually on a seatback in a cab. I am not talking about plastering scenic vistas with billboards, but about the creative employment of advertising. It's sometimes a better use of time and space than what's typically sold as entertainment.

Ad Pages
An interesting development . The New York Times Sunday Magazine has for the first time ever beat out all other pubs in ad pages. In 2006, it boasted 3,965 ad pages, a 5% increase over the previous year.


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