Wednesday, April 05, 2006 to test ad-supported mobile service

From CTIA comes a couple of articles on ad-subsidized mobile content and the technology behind it. CNET writes that " will test an ad-subsidized news service for cell phones" with a "three-month experiment that it hopes to expand into a full-on service by the end of summer."

According to the article, "MSNBC hopes to boost mobile usage of its site by adding photos and video clips that are popular among online users such as "The Today Show" and other NBC programs as well as slideshows and text articles, paid for by short ads."

MSNBC noted "only about 1 percent of its estimated 25 million monthly desktop Web site users also view its stories on cell phone browsers."

Yankee Group analyst John Jackson thought "consumers already used to Web ads could accept the model, if the commercials don't interfere with the mobile experience,but convincing cellular operators to sign on could be tougher." He said, "The real challenge here is rationalizing the business models of MSNBC and carrier A, B and C who all have different ideas about how to charge for accessing this type of service."

MSNBC want to "keep its own direct relationship with consumers but also aims to work with service providers and could work on pacts for sharing the advertising revenue."

The technology behind the service is being provided by Action Engine, and will first work only on Microsoft-powered cell phones and Microsoft's mobile unit will be the exclusive advertiser."

Over at, an article focused on the efforts of Action Engine and its mobile data platform. The company has established partnerships with MSNBC and TiVo. According to the article, "Action Engine also built a mobile application for Verizon Wireless customers who want to program their TiVo away from home."

Forrester Research Analyst Charles Golvin thought "both partnerships mean cool features, but he thinks the companies face an uphill climb with the offerings." He said, "A lot of people only think of [their mobile devices] as a phone. All they want to do is talk on it. They don't really care about watching TV on it."

Golvin argued that, "to convert consumers, mobile Web content has to be good and compelling." He added, "Consumers say, 'Oh, I can live without it.'" Mobile content is often "not a very good experience. The screen is small, the buttons are cramped. The connections are slow."

Golvin opined that the TiVo mobile feature was probably useless. He said, "I think most people who like The Sopranos have already programmed it for Sunday night."

On the subject of ad-supported mobile content, Golvin warned that "There are users out there that have a metered plan. They have to pay more if they use a certain amount of data." For these users, an ad-supported service might be a costly problem.