Monday, September 15, 2008

The Long Tail: A Glimmer of Hope for Premium SMS

In a matter of just a few years premium content over SMS grew from nothing to a multi-billion dollar industry. In the US this growth has been losing momentum in the past year and a half. This would not come as a big surprise if it weren’t for the fact that in the rest of the world PSMS continues to grow.

The problem in the US could perhaps be attributed to the shortsightedness of some content providers who, so intent on making easy money, consistently delivered a poor and, in some cases, even deceptive user experience. Or perhaps the mobile operators are to blame for discouraging investment by content providers as a result of imposing controls that not only are demanding on content providers, but that also stifle user adoption.

From where I see it, however, where there is easy money there is little innovation. Many mobile content providers have settled for delivering the same user experience over and over again. The common recipe is a combination of uninspiring Web sites, cheap late night TV ads, and itty bitty print terms of service. So I’d be willing to bet that consumers also got bored, and smarter.

This is why it is so refreshing to see content providers delivering innovative ways to spread the adoption of mobile premium content. And more importantly, for delegating the discovery to parties better positioned to deliver a relevant and compelling user experience.

ThumbPlay’s Open Marketplace provides all the tools any independent Web publisher would need to distribute ThumbPlay’s vast library of digital content. By doing so distributors can partake in the revenue. Integration of the set of APIs and feeds promises to be not only easy, but also to provide a set of rich tracking and optimization tools.

Open Marketplace also allows independent artists and content creators to submit their content for distribution

Following this trend, FunMobility also announced MoMoney. MoMoney is a widget that allows any Web site or independent publisher to provide a storefront for mobile content by embedding simple code on their Web property.

I expect this is just the beginning of a trend that may result in users becoming more receptive to this type of product. When offered within the context of something else, these products should be less perceived as a hard sale. Another benefit could be that the cost of user acquisition will be reduced as these Web publishers already have a captive audience.

However, in order for this model to work well these content providers must ensure that the end user experience is preserved. Systems and processes for completing the transaction, splitting the revenue, reconciling, and reporting must be well implemented and supported.

If this model works it could mean a turn of tides for the troubled Premium SMS space.

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