Wednesday, November 30, 2005

FCC and a la Carte

The FCC has suddenly decided that a la carte channels are not cost prohibitive. Of course the six month study ordered by the Congress in 2004 found just the opposite to be true: "Most consumers would end up paying more for cable and satellite television if they were allowed to pick only the channels they wanted to watch instead of being forced to buy large packages of channels, a Federal Communications Commission report concluded." 11/19/04

What gives? Well it seem like the new FCC chairman, Kevin Martin, maybe listening to other influencers. "Several parent and consumer advocacy groups, including the Parents Television Council and the Consumers Union, have urged Congress to consider legislation that would require a la carte options for television. These groups believe that allowing consumers to subscribe to individual channels instead of purchasing entire packages would lower costs and provide parents with more control over what programs their children watch."

Could that really be? Well today we see that Kevin has followed up with this statement: "I think the industry needs to do more to address parents' concerns... You can always turn the television off and block the channels you don't want. But why should you have to?"

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New Orleans gets the MuniWifi fever

Yesterday Mayor Ray Nagin announced NO is starting the nations first municipally owned wireless internet system that will be free for all users. Another slavo in the continuing debate about the "fairness" of tax supported entities providing a service that the big telcos think it their domain.

Lot's of people are talking about it - high levels of snark on Slashdot, geeky optimism from Gizmodo, and a really long review of hardware and issues surrounding mesh networks from Daily Wireless.

There are some interesting players trying to bust into the city cloud access game, notably Google and (in a long march to irrelevance) Earthlink.

From the hardware side Cisco announced a new outdoor mesh product, the Aironet 1500, that "operates with Cisco wireless LAN controllers and Cisco Wireless Control System (WCS) Software, centralizing key functions of wireless LANs to provide scalable management, security, and mobility that is seamless between indoor and outdoor deployments."

Several cities already have mesh networks in place; Lebanon OR, Athens GA, Temple AZ, Culver City CA, and Medford OR.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Nokia N90 has a blog

Kind of a slow news day. Nokia has a blog for its N90 phone.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Danny Hillis: Perennial Badass

Kind of off topic but I am a big fan of Danny. According to a recent site visit by John Battelle, he is up to some cool stuff. Danny and his partner, Bran Ferren, started a company called Applied Minds. You will not find much on the site but John has a good run down of some of the projects they are working on as does this June 05 article from Wired and this October article in Newsweek.

My favorite quote from the Wired article: "This is where the secret laboratories are," Hillis said.

If you think Google Earth is cool (and I do) check out TouchTable.

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Oliver Starr: A Change is in the Air

Oliver got some ink in the Financial Times with his article, "A Change is in the Air." The whole article is great and points to the rapid growth of the mobile sector and the ways in which it will impact everyday interactions.

"Suddenly we can be there without going anywhere. We have consolidated our ability to transact business, access key files, even unlock the doors to our homes and offices into this remarkable device called the mobile handset but which I believe is rapidly becoming far more than that."

Being able to conduct business and personal relationships from anywhere is a big deal. As travel becomes more and more difficult and expensive I believe more people will rely on mobile and web technologies and get much of the same benefits as being there. So its not just about making phone calls. As Oliver states,

"But here's the best part; "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet"! Mark my words. This is just the beginning of a period of technological expansion and innovation that will make the Internet Bubble seem like it was blown by a 6th grader with a package of gum."

I believe that as well. So much so that I moved back to Atlanta, re-joined the company I started back in the nineties and have been trying to focus on the Third Screen!


Yahoo: Contacts Backup

Yahoo now provides a content backup solution for your cell phone contacts, called, Contacts Backup! The service allows My Yahoo users with Congular or T-Mobile subscriptions (and SyncML compatable phones) to:
  • Combine your contacts on your phone with those already in your Yahoo! Address Book.
  • Synchronize your phone contacts with your Yahoo! Address Book as often as you like.
  • Synchronize your calendar and tasks as well.
Data back up for phones is a really good idea and something that should already be availible, but its not.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Brightcove gets funding

From the press release today: America Online, IAC, Hearst Corp., and Allen & Company Lead $16 Million Investment in Brightcove. More from the release, "Brightcove, an Internet TV pioneer, today announced the completion of a major strategic financing round, a groundbreaking video content distribution partnership with AOL, and the appointment of Barry Diller, Chairman and CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp and Chairman of Expedia, Inc., to the Brightcove Board of Directors."

Internet video and mobile video is really coming of age this year. While 16m is not that much money the deal is very significant when you look at the players involved. ""America Online's partnership and investment with Brightcove builds on AOL's existing, industry-leading video offering," said Jonathan F. Miller, Chairman & CEO of America Online, Inc."

Big Don Dodge focuses (like all VCs) on the key player behind Brightcove, Jeremy Allaire. "Brightcove is a BIG idea from a guy who has proven he can execute."

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Yours is a very bad logo

In a huge "whoa?" moment, Cingular rebrands its wireless services as at&t. Folks have been talking about it for a few days but I have been in such a state of disbelief that I haven't commented. I mean how much time and money has Cingular spent integrating the AT&T merger? A lot. One of the best things Cingular has going for it is the brand image. It makes no sense unless, and I am sure there is, there is something we don't know.

For a really good run down of the badness see this post from Russell B. It is such a thorough smack down you really have to read it but here are some keyword highlights: sucks, amateur, horrible, pitiful, lopsided and total disaster. I think that pretty much covers it.


Monday, November 21, 2005

OM Malik on MVNOs

More news and reviews coming out about MVNOs and in particular the exodus going on at Amp'd. Om Malik has a great extended post that echoes many of my thoughts.

1) The space is crowded: with three announced, ESPN, Amp'd, and Helio all going after the same audience - and Voce trying to lock up the high end, there are a lot of companies competing for what is essentially carrier over flow. Om quotes Matthew Maier, from a Business 2.0 article from August, "When a carrier like Verizon Wireless or Sprint decides to lease its network to a third party to set up an MVNO, it's doing so because it wants to reach markets it could not otherwise touch."

2) Its expensive: Om quotes "Sky Dayton, the chief executive of Helio, which has substantially deep pockets told me that in the MVNO game, the table stakes are at least half a billion dollars." I have also heard that number used before.

Its going to be a tough road.

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Two Gaming articles from Fortune

From Megs to Riches: A general review of virtual property and real dollars paid for it. "Estimates of the size of the nascent market in virtual property range widely, from about $200 million to $1 billion worldwide, —but most industry observers agree that it is increasing at a breakneck pace, possibly 100% year over year."

Yield of Dreams: Brock Pierce, founder of IGE. "
IGE allows players to sell game assets they accumulate in their imaginary worlds —from currency to characters —for cash or, alternatively, to buy virtual assets they would otherwise have to spend dozens of hours earning in a game. Pierce, 25, estimates that IGE accounts for about 50% of this "secondary market" in the U.S., which he says has about $500 million in annual volume."

I have been interested in virtual worlds for a long time. I saw Timothy Leary and Eric Gullichsen, founder of Sense8, in 1988 in San Francisco. They were mainly showing a Air Force Black Hawk simulation that would look like old Sega game today, but was pretty damn impressive back then. ( I bought the second issue of Mondo 2000 from R.U Sirius before going into the conference.)

I played my first multi-player online game dialing into a friends computer (before the internet was an option) to watch his Doom character run down the hall in front of me and fire into a room. I almost fell out of my chair. The image was about the size of a postage stamp.

So, yeah, we've come a long way. I get the feeling its still real early too.


Mobile Marketing from MobHappy

The other Russell has a great article called "Wither Mobile Marketing." As you can tell, I am moving fast today so just a few quick pull quotes:

"Mobile marketing is nowhere near mainstream yet, despite some big brands flirting with the medium and a load of specialist agencies attempting to corner the market."

"The marketing industry itself is still wedded to the interruptive marketing model - whether we're talking about interrupting your TV programme, your film, your web surfing, your email time, your shopping trip (with in-store displays, on-pack promotions et al), your life (direct mail) - I could go on, almost endlessly."

"So the key to success in this new channel will be for marketers to ask themselves how they can add value to what the user is doing at that time. In the same way that AdWords help the searcher, how can the marketer help the mobile user or enhance their mobile experience or indeed, their lives at that moment?"

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Russell's 2005 Mobile Christmas

Russell recently bought an xBox, but somehow had time to write a lucid review of mobile developments.

Go read the whole thing, but Russell thinks (and i agree) that:

  • There are too many phone models out there
  • 3G is 2.5G
  • Next year will bring DVB-H and MediaFlo devices
  • Mobile Music is DOA for now
  • Still no Wifi phones

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Amp'd - three top players out, more to follow?


  • Don McGuire, who was the CMO, had left, though I’m not sure for where.
  • Steve Stanford, who was the first marketing head at Amp’d, left to join the luxury MVNO Voce, as the CEO.
  • Stephanie Henning, who headed Amp’d music and entertainment group also left and has joined Fox


Funny Cingular bill pay story

Oliver Star has a funny story about paying his Cingular bill. As someone that likes to gripe about carriers customer service I highly recommend this read.


Massive Ads on Matrix Online

On the heels of recent Sony PR success comes the annoucment that The Matrix Online will now have Ads served by Massive. As you might imagine there are many people discussing that development: Slashdot, Terra Nova, reBang, and Blues News.

I think that in games ads are going to be a part of the deal no matter how much people don't like them. I also think though that you can't both charge a monthly subscription fee *and* have ads, at least for now.

Mark Cuban on HD content and the future of TV

The Coming Golden Age of Television is Mark's latest post on TV and HD content. As usual Mark has a lot to say about HD content. The article starts off referencing a recent Business Week article "The End of TV (as you know it)" which is behind a soul sucking subscription sign in - so I didn't read it. Basically it seems like the article states that technology is changing how viewers watch TV content and that the upshot is going to destabilize the industry. Hard to disagree with that basic premise, but Mark does.

1) Mark says that the disruption is going to mainly be in out of home media, ie mobile devices.
2) (Inferred) Home TV users want and will increasingly want HD content.

Mark goes on to describe in detail the issues around HD content, production, up-sampling and who's going to benefit most. An interesting quote about upcoming advances: "Of all the advances in technology that will occur over the next 5 years in hard drives, CPUs, HDTVs, PDAs and other mobile technology, the one area that we will see the least amount of improvement is in bandwidth to the home."

Given that Mark see three big outcomes of the consumer demand for HD content.

1. There will be a standard definition ghetto created on cable and satellite. Just as talk radio and niche stations are now on the AM radio dial, there will be an analogous area where networks that cant or wont go HD can reside. Of course the bad news is that with just a few exceptions, these networks will be considered 2nd class networks and the rates they receive and can charge advertisers will be far less than their HD counterparts

2. Cable networks will trade the bandwidth being consumed by "“can't go HD" networks and/or analog carriage for bandwidth for their biggest networks who got to the HD party late.

3. Five or so years from now, those networks who didnt think HD was important will find themselves on the outside looking in, realizing that there isnt enough bandwidth and they will have to pay for carriage.

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E185 reviewed

My phone the MOT E185, reviewed by Phone Scoop. Couple of quick highlights:

"While the e815 is pretty quick at browsing, forget trying to use any of the neat VCAST features while you're waiting in line at the grocery store. You will have paid for your groceries and loaded them into your car before the menus have even loaded."

"Addressing a message is not as simple as it could be. In order to proceed, you have to alternate between the left and right softkey, instead of continually tapping the right softkey after each step to continue. It feels as though Motorola ignored their own menu rules for this procedure."

"The speakerphone and ringer volume are not quite as impressive. We needed to keep the volume up pretty high (6 out of 7) in order to hear the phone ring in noisy environments."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Riya: That was fast

Riya, a face/photo recognition web software company was suppose to launch next week. From a little buzz it seems they have already been acquire by Google for somewhere between 40 to 60m.

I have been following Riya on the CEO's blog and a marketing star's blog but Om Malik has the real skinny.


Bill Collins from Sprint Nextel

Just saw Bill present at the Atlanta AMA. Nice guy, good high level presentation for marketers. Couple of quick points: there is 83% cell penetration in the Atlanta market which is the highest in the country (according to Bill,) and 54% use data services.

Most everything else you already know. I asked Bill when Sprint was going to let Google do location based advertising and he bristled and said that could be a PR nightmare.

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CNN Pipeline

More news coming out of the CNN camp concerning Pipeline. Screen shots here. Cost information via MediaBistro here.

The break down is $25 per year or 99cents for a day pass. Given all of the other pay-for-content developments I think that the price is right and the service is going to be a Web2.0ish experience.

I like the tagline: "Control it. Watch it. Live." I also like the idea of seeing one main feed and four other feeds simultaneously. Its got the control room feel and potentially begs for multiple monitors. I am up for any excuse to have multiple monitors.

Lost on the Mac

For various reasons I don't have a TV at my house anymore, but I was already into the Lost show. So last night I bought the Nov 9th episode on iTunes. My geek friends laughed at me for paying for it but I like to support legal digital alternatives.

So, having bought a couple of songs through iTunes I was already set with a user/pass. I was expecting a really long download for a 43min video but it all happened in about 15min! I pulled up the video, expanded it to the full extend my little powerbook could display and watched the show. It was a great experience.

As far as the economics go I paid 2 bucks for a show that I will really only watch once. With a song, like Brides of Neptune or Guarded by Monkeys, that I will listen to, oh, maybe a million times, 99 cents is a great deal. So is 2 bucks too much? Not for me. If you consider that I would pay around 50-75 dollars for cable access, that's about 37 individual shows per month. Shows that I *want* to watch. Good stuff.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Where are the Nokia phones?

In another installment of "struggles with my MOT E815," last night I was doing some critical calling for a time sensitive project. I opened my E815 to make another call and saw that it was in silent mode and that I had missed a very important call. I swear I didn't select silent mode.

I had a Nokia phone for around 8 years and maybe I am too old or too stupid to learn another Phone OS but I get the Nokia system. Given that, I decided to bail, at whatever cost, on my new phone and get a Nokia.

My current provider, Verizon, doesn't offer a Nokia phone. Sprint offers one low end model and Cingular offers a refurbished Nokia in it's prepaid plan. What gives?


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Catch up Post

Take a few days off and wow.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

“Try not to die. Amp’d Mobile is coming.”

That's the tagline form the upcoming Amp'd Mobile campaign to begin running in print magazines in December. The target demo for Amp'd is 18-34 year olds. Amp'd site hasn't changed from the long loading, hard to use interface they have been sporting for several months but now it seems like the main navigation is available without watching a video - it just crashed my browser as I was on the way to the Press Release section - typically a great place to use heavy lifting Shockwave technology.

From a press release on the Taxi website Amp'd is going to allow 5-10 second ads on the phones in a space that takes up 1/4 to 1/2 of the screen. I guess that was inevitable.

I think MVNO new brands are going to have a hard time - even with cool content. I like the devices and I am sure there will be some good reasons to go with them but I don't know about the above mentioned Ad campaign. I would lead with sex over death.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Another MOT rant

I have a new MOT Exx phone. Where to start? So many pieces of content are device specific - why not put the product name on the phone somewhere? I tried to figure out which model I have from the MOT site - good luck. I can get it from my Verizon page but still.

So, to focus on a new bad thing let's talk about the speaker phone function. On Nokia phones when you already are on a call a item on the screen lets you select "loudspeaker." Very straighforward - push a button on the top next to the icon and you get the speaker phone. Want to turn it off? The same button lets you "loudspeaker off." What could be more simple - its an On/Off selection.

On my shiny, heavy MOT phone one of the side buttons turns the speaker phone on - I still can't figure out which one because after pressing all of the buttons none turn the speaker phone off. I hit the button about 10% of the time I try and flip open my phone to answer a call. As an extra bonus the speaker phone sounds like a metal band in the first few minutes of sound check.

To toggle the speaker phone you have to dig into the "settings," "initial set up," and look for speakerphone. When you click on it you get two options - "Always on," and "20 sec timeout." You have to wait - for 20 seconds - for the speakerphone to turn off. I really hate that. Whatever happened to On and Off?

Oliver's 2 part review of Google Local Mobile

Oliver at The Mobile Technology Weblog has a really good 2 part review of Google Local Mobile.

Highlights: Found the right address and gave good directions. Kind of hard to use the interface. Works more or less like Google Maps. Satellite option is way cool. Conclusion: "don't underestimate Google."

I'm not sure too many people out there do underestimate Google but the huge number of applications and services they have been pumping out make it hard to see how the "me toos" are going to keep up.

Google is clearly going after the location based ad market and seems to already be there. They have all of the components in place: media buying relationships, local content, map data, mobile device access... what else is missing?

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Friday, November 04, 2005

DirecTV moves beyond Television

So far there is no announcement on the DirecTV site but there is this blurb on Reuters today:

"Chase Carey, chief executive of DirecTV, the top U.S. satellite television operator, said the company would unveil some of the new devices at the Consumer Electronics Show that will carry DirecTV beyond television screens."


Top 10 Global Wireless Predictions for 2006

inCode released this report a few days ago but I just saw it. Here are the highlights they pull:
  • A digital music innovator will launch a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) focused on mobile entertainment services
  • Consumers will "“snack"” on mobile TV, which will not be a killer application
  • A new business model for voice services will emerge, based on mobile Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP)
  • At least one major network operator will abandon its retail brand and use wholesale access as an innovative business strategy
  • China will become a telecommunications leader, and Chinese investors may buy a controlling interest in a wireless company

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Mobinet 2005: ATKearney

AT Kearney has released a great research report, Mobinet 2005: Raising the Stakes.

A couple of pull quotes:

The Good
"Similarly, penetration of data-enabled, multimedia phones has increased to 53 percent, with 56 percent of multimedia phone owners actually using it to browse their operator's portal, the internet or to access mobile email, and doing so at least once a month. This number stands in stark contrast to the 36 percent of users who used these services in 2004. And although music downloads and email are beginning to make a noticeable contribution, more recent services, such as streaming video, have still not generated meaningful revenues."

The Bad
"However, the study also reveals that the marketing of new data services —for example, through pricing packages or improved user experience —significantly lags technology development. Without adequate marketing strategies a large section of the market remains focused on purchasing basic voice services at the lowest price possible."

The whole report is worth spending some time with - plus lots of great graphs!


New Location Based Mobile Games

MocoNews has a great round up of some new mobile games. Following on my earlier thoughts here are three that seem to have incorporated location based data to provide a uniquely phone-centric gaming experience.

Shoot me if you can: Two teams where each players tried to take a picture of the other team and send it to them - tag, you are it.

Ibiza Game: "You control one of the three main characters to work the crowds, get free access to the best clubs, be invited to the most exclusive parties, or get that special someone... The game allows you to act freely, but keep in mind its AYOR!! Bummers (club coppers, too wasted, no money…) may get on the way to reach your goal of becoming the leader of the pack!"

AVACS Business Life: "Playing the game enables you to perceive the details of stock exchange games, to evaluate the merits and demerits of the banking system, to feel the advantages of expensive though healthy life style. You can afford yourself either simple Ford or exclusive Ferrari, to buy a mansion and to have a rest on a yacht. At the same time you have to care for food supply, to buy high-quality clothes, to rest and restore your health in opportunely. And of course you must settle the accounts and pay taxes." {ED: not sure it there is a LB core aspect but it still seems cool.}

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Teens create content

A new study by the Pew Institute says that "half of all teens and 57% of teens who use the internet could be considered Content Creators." The PDF of the report is here. Other notable facts are 17% of teens have a blog and 33% say they share content they have created like stories, photos, artwork and videos.

I was in the promoting end user content creation game a little early back in 1999. Back then I thought that all of the new tools and the ease of access was going to mean many people would become content creators. Didn't happen that fast but now it seems that many more people are creating and sharing content.

Probably the two biggest contributors to the content creation explosion are camera phones and blogs. Since most people have their phones with them all of the time and it is fairly easy to send pictures or post them on blogs sites like Flickr and Textamerica have become main stream.

And the trend shows no signs of slowing down. From Russell Beattie's blog: "Camera phones is just the beginning. The other metric to watch is multimedia-enabled phones (read: Music). Whereas camera phones require data-enabled handsets but can work easily on 2.5G networks, music and video phones pretty much require 3G. Watching the growth in that market will show the next stage in mobile data services. Here at home, the fact that Sprint, Verizon and Cingular all now offer music-enabled mobile phones actually shows quite a bit about the maturity of the U.S. mobile market, which I still hear people describe as “behind”. Not as much as it used to be."

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ispot at MIT

Surfing around I saw this today about the ispot project at MIT. My connection seems to be slow so the realtime maps didn't work as well as I would have like but they are still worth checking out. With all of the talk about metro WIFI, mesh networks and location based services, its interesting to see a snapshot of a very well connected area.

From the site: " New wireless communications technologies are changing the way we live and work. This fact is particularly evident at MIT, thanks to the presence of two conditions: 1) the very high percentage of laptop computer ownership on campus; and 2) the existence of one of the most pervasive wireless Internet networks on earth, which includes over 2,800 access points and was completed at the end of October 2005."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

DVB-H vs MediaFLO

A hot topic recently is the struggle between DVB-H and MediaFLO. DVB-H is open source, MediaFLO proprietary. One is going to take longer the other is going to be available soon. One is GSM oriented, the other more CDMA. Sound like Betmax vs. VHS - well, you are right, it is.

Why would wireless carriers need another whole band of spectrum when they are just rolling out 3G services? Well, it turns out that 3G still needs room for voice and unicast media. When you start talking about multichannel, multicast delivery of TV channels, 3G can't handle it.

As I have said before I think that Mobile TV is really going to catch on faster in countries that have a mass transit system. Obviously America is well out of that category. However, I also think that limiting Mobile TV to cell phone handsets is missing the mark. There are many portable media devices floating around that could easily become TV enabled.

If you think about Mobile TV beyond the cell phone handset, you will soon see the kind of time-shifting and place-shifting trends that are effecting regular TV consumption.

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Nokia vs MOT: rant

I have been a Nokia user ever since I first got a cell phone in 1996. With great reluctance I switched to a MOT phone when I switched to Verizon. I have to say that it was not a great switch.

The MOT phone has all of the capability to receive the Vcast content and my favorite feature is the camera phone's ability to take pictures to use as icons for people in the phonebook. That's fun.

However, the whole user interface is terrible, really terrible. My main gripe is the extreme number of clicks it take to send a simple IM. I have been a big user of IM because I don't really like talking on the phone but still need to communicate quick information - perfect for IM. With the Nokia it was a snap. On my fancy new MOT phone it takes twice as many clicks and there are a number of points of failure.

So it is with great interest that I see two Nokia news items today. The first is simply the release of new phone models. That's all well and good and Nokia will continue to pump out new phone models but then there is this: Unlicensed Mobile Access.

From the article: "UMA, a 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Program) standard, is an access technology that allows seamless handover of mobile voice and data from a cellular network to a wireless local area network (WLAN/WiFi). The UMA standard defines how mobile operators can turn home, office and public WLANs into seamless extensions of their cellular networks. With UMA, operators can deliver voice and data services to subscribers over the WiFi access networks, dramatically increasing mobile service usage while decreasing costs of network deployment."

Couple that with Nokia's investment in DVB-H via Crown Castle cell towers and Nokia is starting to look like a huge player - again.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Marketing to College Students

Noah Kagan's has a great piece about Marketing to College Students. He lists 10 things to keep in mind - most of them are fairly straight forward and yet often form the core of brand efforts targeting the youth market. My favorite one is:

3- don'’t buy TV ads

"The average college student does not have time to watch TV and usually might not even own a TV. It'’s a waste of money and effort."

One that i found to be contrary to what research suggests is - 7- school newspapers are a waste of money. Noah responds to a comment quoting Student Monitor information with this: "I agree that some students peruse the newspaper but successful products can completely avoid them and better spend there money elsewhere. For example, iPod, Better Luck Tomorrow (movie), Google, Napster, Livestrong & numerous more completely avoided the newspaper"

Other sure bets for screwing up youth marketing include;
1) Treating 18-24 year olds as being in one category
2) Naming a product or service with "cool, hip" slang
3) Forgetting that its easier to reach 12-17 years olds
4) Thinking offline traditional campaigns are going to be the fulcrum for introducing a product or service
5) Using an ad agency of 40 year olds to create a viral campaign

Go check out Noah's list of 10 and think about all of the brands that do or don't follow that advice.

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