They are ubiquitous. There are over 210 million cell phones in use in the United States, accounting for a 70% penetration rate. The US statistics pale, however, in the face of a worldwide deployment of 2.3 billion phones. Hong Kong tops the penetration list with 129% …. more phones than there are people. Our planet is only just beginning to discover the implications for a user-created, participatory medium that is globally connected.

As the US catches up with its Asian and European counterparts, we will begin to see a shift in the way we access data. Behavior patterns will emerge, displacing the PC for information needs. Consider that there are 575 million household PCs globally and 2.3 billion cell phones. Do the math! Which platform holds the brightest promise for marketers?

Marketers will, sooner than later, face the need to confront their communication options as internet-enabled technologies migrate to the cell phone. Today, consumers are loath to accept any form of commercial interaction unless it is to their distinct advantage. That will change as behavior changes.
Establishing a mobile marketing strategy is mission critical. Consider the following:

-Mobile phones are always on and within arms reach of the user while PCs need to be accessed.
-Over 60% of cell phone users take their phones to bed with them
-PCs are often shared (especially in an educational environment). Mobile phones are personal.
-Payment mechanisms are already built into mobile phone technology.
-Outside the US, mobile phones have outstripped the PC for Internet access.

There are hurdles. Standards need to be addressed. The fragmentation of handsets is an industry-wide concern as developers resist working with a host of wireless implementations. Efficiencies of scale, however, will soon wipe away competing platforms, giving way to one global interface standard, eventually with translation capabilities.

Opportunity rings. Are you picking up?

Tube Cookies

Google’s acquisition of YouTube for the princely sum of $1.65 billion has set in motion a new thrust in M&A activity by major media companies in an effort to acquire video distribution channels.

Marketer’s and net publishers should step lightly until the picture clears for emerging standards and formats. A quick scan of this arena reveals a host of service offerings which include the following start-ups as most prominent today – not your cookie-cutter YouTube:

TV Eyes
Video Egg
Venice Project

Each performs search and distribution using proprietary technology. This includes Google’s YouTube which is text driven and not considered state-of-the-art for comprehensive video search. Blinkx and TV Eyes, as examples, serve up search results based on audio/video keys.

A hybrid approach, combining text, video and audio, cleansed for duplication, would appear to offer a well rounded solution.

It is obvious, from market feedback, that quality and broadband resources have yet to match TV quality. A quick check of the services mentioned here reveals the following pros and cons ….

Blinkx, TV Eyes and Bittorrent searches returned spotty (if any) results when queried for a Geico commercial. Blinkx served up “Ghetto Insurance” while results for the others were nil. Bittorrent, which utilizes peer-to-peer technology for fast and broader search netted zero returns, cluttered with annoying sponsored links. Video Egg is still searching for a good user experience.

Veoh, still in beta, did find a Geico commercial, but suffered in video quality. In all instances, the depth of video libraries did not come close to YouTube.

Both Brightcove and the Venice Project, although not search engines, are perhaps the most promising in video delivery. Brightcove provides a high quality, TV-Like experience but did suffer a bit synchronizing video to audio, apparent in Jeremy Allaire’s corporate pitch on his site.

On the horizon, Niklas Zennstromm and Janus Friis, of Kazaa and Skype fame, are launching their Venice Project for P2P video distribution, promising a roll-up of quality rivaling that of TV. They are in negotiations with major producers and will likely make an announcement this Fall.

For now, tube cookies are still baking.


Corporate America is taking to broadcasts in a big way. Only today, the broadcasts are in the form of Podcasts.

Downloadable, portable and easy to create, companies the likes of General Motors and IBM are penning podcast strategies for both internal and external communication needs.

Internally they are used for information delivery, training and educational aids. Externally they create a viral buzz about a product or service. They are quick to produce and are timely. Attached to a feedback blog, they can communicate with global teams without confining time zone boundaries.

Increasingly, these companies are building their own well-equipped sound studios for as little as $10,000 with quality output.

By 2010, estimates put the number of Americans playing podcasts at a conservative 57 million, over 20% of the adult US population.

Corporate America must be mindful that podcasts and blogs need to allow room for both restrained content control and freedom of expression without turning the user “off” to a product or service. The corporate voice is not as trusted as the individual voice in this environment.

A.C. Nielsen Killer App

For the longest time, TIVO has been bleeding red ink as it struggles to maintain its lead as the only branded DVR on the market. Its current share of the DVR market hovers in the 31% range, with approximately 4.4 million subscribers. The fate of the company has been in question for some time as cable operators distribute their own units that do just about everything TIVO can do.

TIVO’s advantage is not in the hardware. It’s in the software and the reporting capabilities they have quietly mastered and just released under a new research division. TIVO can provide, for its subscriber universe, second by second ratings for both programming and commercials. This can eventually turn into a huge goldmine for TIVO as it fills a long-standing demand by marketers to substantiate the difference between commercial and program ratings …. a huge and costly problem for A.C. Nielsen, with no practical solution given their approach to data collection.

TIVO can quickly pull together consumer panels that replicate the US population and provide better ratings projections. A blend of current subscribers and those that are typically under-sampled by Nielsen can be had by giving away subscriptions to consumers that will correct TIVOs sample base. After all, who would turn down a free TIVO subscription?

This is not brain surgery. The ability to draw several panels from an existing base of 4.4 million has the potential to unseat A.C. Nielsen overnight.