Five Forms of Mobile Media

Google and the Nexus S
Image by Paul Swansen

Watching App Savvy Author (and personal friend) Ken Yarmosh speak, clarity in mobile communications becomes clear. He helps you see the primary communications forms on the medium clearly and concisely. Specifically, Ken talks about the three primary communication methods via mobile web development. There are additional tools that provide communications on top of the big three, similar to social networks that function within the larger world wide web.

From a communicators perspective, there are several ways to approach stakeholders on mobile media. Here are the five forms that most marketers use or experiment with today.

Primary Communication Methods

1) Short Messaging Service (SMS): Second generation or 2G digital cellular networks (PCS) enabled SMS, which was the death of pagers in the 90s. Twenty years later the technology is still going strong. Today, as a communication method, people love texting each other! Texting is also the primary form of donations on mobile platforms (thanks to Apple’s Machiavellian attitude about mobile app donations). Marketing via text message is not the easiest activity. People view their mobile numbers as more private than email, but if you can garner permission, this can be a powerful contact method.

2) Native Mobile Web Use: Once the domain of such protocols as the Wireless Access Protocol, native web use is still the most dominant form of mobile Internet media. HTML 5 and easy plug-ins like WPTouch make for highly accessible mobile media. Recent Pew studies show that of the 47% of Americans who read news on their mobile phones, only one in ten use apps. Another neat statistic, 40% of all Google Maps page views occur on mobile phones. Long live the mobile page view.

3) Applications: iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows… You name the OS, it’s hard to imagine that an application hasn’t been developed yet. Plus there is the whole tablet market. As Ken informed me, the applications marketplace is not the same as the smartphone market. iPhone applications are still very dominant with Android applications lagging behind in adoption rates. We’ll see if that changes with continued market domination by Android. From there, you move towards Blackberry and then MAYBE Windows 7.

This is a great way to offer a unique user experience, but please make sure it actually serves stakeholders. Marketing centric applications rarely take off. Also, it’s important to note that each application has its own development costs. Converting from iPhone to Android to Blackberry also requires separate development costs for program language coding.

Another Layer

4) Geolocation Applications: Taking advantage of the GPS enabled smartphones, geolocation networks have been the holy grail for many networks. Whether its review services like Yelp or the big geosocial plays like Gowalla, place and data are the big connections points. Coupons, gamification and integrated social networking posting have been the primary activities to date. Widespread hype has not led to mass market adoption.

5) Mobile Social: While some of the geolocation networks are social, their interactions have been primary transactional in nature. Great social networks empower relationships between people, and mobile is no different. New group texting applications like Group.Me and traditional social networks like Twitter and Facebook with their mobile applications are the leaders here. Communicating in these applications is primarily limited to participation, and posting content and outband native web links. Increasing social function in geolocation networks may become a force to be reckoned with here.

Which forms of mobile media do you like, and why?

Mobile Will Restore Brevity to Media

Motorola Xoom tablet

If social media endangered the 30 second spot, then mobile media will restore brevity to content creation. Smaller screens, less convenient input methods for text, the ability to create user generated visual media on the fly, and an evolving series of socially empowered mobile media will challenge content creators to serve a new reader. Long blog posts and articles are best read on computers and tablets, while short videos, photos and brief updates will be preferred on smartphones.

Time seems to be on mobile’s side. As 4G enters the marketplace, lightening fast wireless broadband will become an empowering technology. By 2014, mobile Internet use is expected to surpass desktop use. Consider that wireless empowered smartphones and tablets will continue to drive down the digital divide. Africa’s entire information infrastructure expects to leapfrog landline telecommunications and computers.

Serving this growing content market is not as easy as creating an app for that. As Pew research reveals, there is an app gap: “…almost half of U.S. adults get local news on mobile devices [47%], just 1 in 10 use apps to do so.” And it’s not like more folks don’t have smartphones. The app gap exists in spite of three in 10 Americans owning smartphones.

Mobile friendly web sites continue to be a critical component of success. That means rethinking content for multiple types of media will become more and more important. This is not something to sweep under the rug until a later date.

Media will need to become briefer, tighter, and should be built with the expectation of less feedback from users on mobile devices. What does brief content look like? Short videos under two minutes, microblogs with shorter content, pictures, applications, smart use of text messaging, all with an expectation that input beyond two or three sentences is too much for the average smartphone.

Going back to the Pew Research, of the above mobile news readers, 15% use Twitter vs. 4% of the news consumers. It’s no coincidence that twitter is a 140 character medium, one of the shortest media forms out there (and ideal for text message updates).

Consider the inner copywriter challenged to achieve brevity. Restoring the KISS principle, Keep It Simple… to content will be good after a period full of bells and whistles. After all, waxing poetic is the luxury of long form media. One screen’s worth of content. Can you get the job done in that short of an opportunity?

Introducing the Greenversation iPhone App


As part of my participation in the AppMakr launch, I was given the opportunity to create my own iPhone application! The resulting application is the Greenversation app, which gathers the latest posts from my favorite environmental information resources. You can download the Greenversation app from the iTunes store now.

I originally compiled the list for a Live Earth/Blog Action day post last fall. The ten resources listed in the post are:

1) My primary volunteer organization, Live Earth‘s site.

2) EcoFriend, a very cool green tech blog.

3)350, bringing awareness to the #350, which represents the number of parts per million, the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.

4) Joe Romm’s Climate Progress blog.

5) Triple Pundit gives eco-intel and encourages social entreneurship.

6) NPR’s Environment Podcast.

7) Mashable’s list of green tweeple.

8) Environmental Defense Fund.

9) Grist offers more, from sustainable food to politics.

10) Didn’t get enough geekery with EcoFriend? Check out the green technologies featured on ecogeek.

As I mentioned in my original AppMakr post, by no means does this replace a full-on application developed with a specific organizational purpose. But it is an extremely cost effective way to make sure your brand’s content is easily accessible to iPhone users without redeveloping everything for the platform.

For those of you that are wondering, Greenversation is not the name of our new company. Yes, it’s more than me; there are three of us. However, you will see some additional, personal environmental activism under the Greenversation moniker. Next up is a Greenversation project I am launching with List of Change Co-founder Shannon Whitley.

Geoff Livingston is a regular contributor to the Live Earth blog.