Bubble Era Portal Obsessions Move To A Mobile Age
By Mike Masnick, Wed Jun 01 23:00:00 GMT 2005

Television producers are apparently fighting in a wild west-style "land grab," to get video into mobile operator portals. Unfortunately, it's looking more like tulip mania, as it's not clear the idea makes that much sense.

There's something odd about all of the hype surrounding mobile TV. There's still almost no evidence that anyone actually wants to watch this stuff on a regular basis, or if they do, that they're willing to pay for it. It's not that people won't watch TV on their handsets, if it's provided in a way that doesn't break the bank, but it's hardly a reason that people seem to be rushing out to buy new mobile phones. It is, like many portable TV options in the past, more of a novelty item.

However, from the perspective of content producers, a screen is a screen, and so they're all starting to "jockey" for position on various mobile portals. It seems like the classic entertainment industry view of these types of things. To them, all content is "broadcast" content -- to be consumed passively by an audience, spoon-fed by the expert content pickers. They seem to believe that the only way that users can find content is if it's handed to them by the operators in a "portal."

Of course, the Internet has shown that's not true at all. The ability to go out and find any content in a seemingly infinite mass of content is part of what makes the Internet so valuable -- along with the ability to easily create your own content in response. However, that only makes sense when the content executives realize that everyone creates content, and the real opportunities aren't just in broadcasting content, but in promoting more interactive communications that involves and improves upon broadcast content.

Meanwhile, the jockeying for space within mobile portals (probably for ridiculous fees) will eventually look as foolish as similar, multi-million dollar deals for preferred placement in the big name Internet portals did after the Internet bubble burst. What came out of that was the realization that portals weren't always the most important thing for users finding (or creating) content. Instead, the next generation was all about search. While mobile search may still be quite limited, the eventual collision course between the web and mobile data will ensure that it's much more powerful -- and the importance of being associated with any particular mobile portal will decrease over time.

Instead of focusing on such deals in a space that still has so many questions, it seems content providers would be better served looking for ways to actually make their content interesting and useful to mobile subscribers on the go. That is, instead of just repackaging content, figure out ways to make that content relevant in a mobile environment. If they can do that, people will find the content whether or not it's in a mobile portal.