Archive for May, 2006

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May 30th, 2006

Quadruple Play in Rural Iowa

I was at my grandparents’ place in Colo, IA over the long weekend. My grandmother still uses an AT&T Wireless phone from the first go-around. I noticed a brochure lying on her coffee table. The local phone company is about to begin offering wireless phone service. I speak to quite a few MVNO”s which claim that they need subscriber counts in at least the tens if not the hundreds of thousands to be profitable so the idea of this new service intrigued me.

A little background – the town has 360 homes and about 900 people living there. The Colo Telephone Company resides in a brick building – approximately 1000 square feet – on Main Street. There is a grain elevator across the street. The post office is next door. It employs five people. The 1000 square feet also includes their IT infrastructure for DSL, IPTV, DTV, phone lines, etc. They own one tower, but have never really had the opportunity to buy the spectrum that covers the town.

My great-grandparents purchased one share of stock in the company 100 years ago. There are only 248 shares outstanding, and each share pays an annual dividend of $150. The point is – the company is profitable.

Back to the brochure. Not only were they advertising their new wireless service, but they were also advertising 1.5 Gigabytes of DSL service. I told my grandmother that it must be a misprint – I can’t even get 1.5MB of affordable service in San Francisco, CA – one of the high-tech capitals of the world. Then I read on. The town is strung up with fiber. I had to go check this out so I walked the three blocks to Main Street.

I was rewarded. I got my first look at IPTV. I chatted witH Larry Springer the manager for about a half an hour. We talked about the challenges of telephony services in rural environments. I asked about WiMax and Wi-Fi clouds. He said they don’t need them because 95 percent of homes in Iowa are served by DSL. They even sell naked DSL. They offer competitive pricing on DSL to move the customers off of dial-up – half of the town’s subscribers are still on dial-up. They offer local phone service, extended basic DTV, and 1.5G DSL for less than one hundred dollars. 411 calls are only 50 cents. I want this service in San Francisco. Not sure what all of this talk is about our underserved rural population.

Each time the phone rings now, my grandmother tells whoever is on the other end that the telephony infrastructure in Colo, IA is better than that in San Francisco. Our Muni Wi-Fi cloud won’t bridge that digital divide.

Back to wireless. They are going to resell Iowa Wireless service – they are an affiliate of T-Mobile. They will mark-up prices from the wholesale price they get from IA Wireless. No TV or Internet ads. Brochures are black and white one-pagers run off of their own copy machine in the little brick building. (The phone book is 10-20 8”x14” black and white, two-sided copies folded in half and stapled together.) Pricing is clear – even for incoming/outgoing SMS, MMS, etc. For billing reasons, they can’t do a quadruple play yet, but are pretty happy with their triple play offering.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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May 30th, 2006

Coke Caps and Mobile Marketing

I finally accumulated enough points from caps of coke bottles to purchase the beanie hat. By the time I did though, the caps were sold out. I ordered luggage tags instead. A bit disappointing, but overall, I really like this campaign.

What I really liked:

The TV commercials were awesome. (Ok, yes, I watch American Idol). Very educational. Everyone should be thanking companies like American Idol and Coca Cola for helping to educate mobile subscribers and build this market. It is reminiscent of Intel helping to build awareness of Wi-Fi with their Centrino campaigns a few years ago.

The idea to text in the codes was great. One didn’t have to save the caps or carry them until getting to a PC. They could be redeemed and tossed immediately.

I also like the integration with the web site especially that they tracked what product you were drinking. They have not, however, seemed to have done anything with the information yet.

I want coupons for more soda.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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May 29th, 2006

High-end Service with Low-end Marketing

My colleague Joe Laszlo blogged about the high-end MVNO – VOCE a while back. About three weeks ago I signed up on their web site to get information about the service. Just this past week, I received a plain text email (i.e., no color, no graphics, etc.) stating that something would be arriving in the mail shortly. I had forgotten that I had even requested information. Hmmm. The long list of email marketing basics (e.g., personalization, event-triggered, timely) … it didn’t meet any of them.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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May 23rd, 2006

Helio and Koreans

I saw the buzz yesterday about T-Mobile, Tom Cruise and Helio, but I didn’t piece it all together. My first thoughts were “Good idea to give a celebrity a handset, but why Tom Cruise? He seems too old for their target market. His wife isn’t though.” Then I looked at the photos on Yahoo! Yeah, they’re better than nothing, but I still took my SLR to AT&T ballpark last night to see if Bonds was going to break Babe Ruth’s record. You wouldn’t believe how many were trying to capture the picture (ok, and it didn’t happen last night) with camera phones.

Then my colleague, Joe Laszlo offered me a clue. He sent me a link in the Korean Times. It reports unconfirmed rumors that T-Mobile is pressuring its dealers not to sell Helio. Was easy to understand at first – comparable target market. There’s a lot of overlap in target audience though T-mobile handsets are cheaper, and there’s obviously a huge selection of them. But, Helio has video and music. T-Mobile suffers a bit from not having a 3G network yet.

Then he filled me in a bit more. Sky Dayton and Tom Cruise are good friends. (Now I see how Tom got a handset). I would be really impressed if there were product placement in MI3. He also told me that T-Mobile has 35 percent share of S. Korean mobile subscribers in the US. That, I didn’t know.

With that, the rumors could be true, but I have a different hypothesis. Helio is targeting Koreans living in the US, but their main focus is young, heavy data users more broadly. With their current pricing, they are not going for the lower end of the market. Anyone buying on handset selection and pricing – handsets or service – will go with T-Mobile. Those two criteria are 2nd and 3rd on the list for consumers. Top of the list though is quality of coverage at home. Helio is on an excellent network. I haven’t had a chance to try a handset, but if they can hold up their half of the connection, Helio could beat T-Mobile on quality of service.

On the other hand, reason why the rumor wouldn’t be true … T-Mobile has more than 20 million subscribers in the US, and they are one of the largest mobile operators globally. How worried can they be about a company looking to hit a million subs a few years out even if they are heavy data users?

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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May 12th, 2006

Local Search Education – Mobile or Not

Ok, this story isn’t 100 percent about mobile, but that’s how it started.

I got my hair cut earlier this week. Lisa has been cutting my hair for years. She recently opened up a salon of her own with a colleague. They are typical small business owners. At some point, the following dialogue begins:

Lisa: Why did you use Yelp to call us? I had to pay $15 for your call.

Julie: What is Yelp?

Lisa: You found our number on their web site.

Julie: I didn’t realize you’d have to pay for the call. I didn’t realize it was a paid service.

Lisa: Yeah, it’s happened three or four times this month. One client that I’ve had for 20 years called through Yelp, and we paid $15 for the call.

Julie: Wait, now I remember. I couldn’t find your phone number. I tried Google SMS and that didn’t work. Tried Google – that’s how I must have gotten the number.

Lisa: What is Google SMS?

Julie: Do you know what SMS is?

Lisa: Yes.

Julie: Well, Google SMS is a 411 service. You didn’t show up in their listing though. You aren’t searchable on a mobile device.

Lisa: Are a lot of people doing that? Looking up our number with text messaging?

Julie: Not yet, but an increasing number are. Google makes it free now to encourage adoption. It’s not ad-supported yet. Here, let me show you how it works. [No search terms returned the name/address/phone number of the salon]

Lisa: You are stressing me out. How am I supposed to know about that. That $15 came out of my profits. You are going to have to pay it back to me in consulting services. (joking)

Julie: In terms of Yelp, they must be buying your name on search sites or they have a more relevant listing than your web site. If they are buying your name, I’m sure it costs a lot less than $15. If someone types in the name of your salon, they are not likely a new lead – and definitely not worth $15. That’s borderline what auto dealers pay for a car lead. If someone is a new customer, it’s probably worth it.

Lisa: No new customers have come through Yelp this month – just ones we already have. I need to cancel that service.

Julie: If I called through their site, they were likely the top listing under Google.

Lisa: Can you show me? Can I call Google and change that? And, can you explain to me in English what you’re talking about. You are totally stressing me out.

Anyway, so it goes. I type the name of their salon into Google and Yelp is the first listing. Their web site doesn’t make page one. How does a new business owner make their site more searchable? learn to bid on search terms?

I then told her about the range of new companies that had been funded. Told her that this was just the beginning and that there would be many, many more versions of local search coming and she was likely to be asked by many companies to pay up for leads even from cell phones. It’s too much. They just want their phone number to show up when someone types the name of their salon into a search engine. In reality, that’s what consumers want and what would serve them best. How does a small business owner ensure that they show up in Google’s directory for SMS or otherwise.

We always talk about inventory as being one of the issues for local advertising online including search.

My colleague Sapna has the following advice for small business owners: (Lisa, this is for you)

So the link below is the one you go to, to get an idea of how much folks are bidding on keywords..click on ‘view bids’ under tools [right of the page]

http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/rc/srch/

I would mark it up by about 20 cents, if you wanted to ballpark it for Google.

Yahoo’s local listings program, for example is cheap enough for these guys to use themselves. http://listings.local.yahoo.com/
As does Google’s

https://www.google.com/local/add/login?hl=en-US&gl=US

I searched for ‘San Francisco hair salons’ on google.. and Nob Hill Spa-Huntington or some such was listed first on sponsored listings..I clicked on their rsults and in the page below, Yelp is listing their review..
http://www.google.com/maps?hl=en&lr=&q=hair+salons&near=San+Francisco,+CA&radius=0.0&latlng=37775000,-122418333,3216319538757723176&sa=X&oi=local&ct=result&cd=1

Cunning, if they got the lead of $15 from the spa as well [though phone numbers are the same, so i guess these guys dont pay yelp]..Their USP seems to be the reviews, have used yelp oftentimes myself. But it definitely makes sense for the local biz to advertise themselves on search engines..the cost is actually extremely cheap directly with the engines. I just noticed that ‘S.F spas’ costs 2.00$ per keyword, so looks like everyone is doing it already.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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May 12th, 2006

Wireless Security … What about voice?

I’m sure everyone saw today’s headline’s regarding the NSA and their database.

Wow.

Somewhat ironic that people are always talking about “data” security

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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May 12th, 2006

Amp’d Mobile: From Media to Minutes

Was at E3 yesterday. Ironically, my first chance to check out the Amp’d mobile service on a “live” network. As most of the display/booth area was filled with women doing photo shoots, I was mostly left alone. No one even wanted to scan my card while I played with their device/services for more than 20 minutes. They definitely fit in to the environment.

I overheard a gentleman ask an employee if the 22,000 subscriber number that we all ready about earlier this week was a true number. She said that she thought they had closer to 5,000 subscribers. Who knows. No judgement here … customer acquisition is very very hard. I think MVNO’s like Amp’d and Helio can play a role in pushing the envelope in terms of how consumers view their handsets and how carrier sell services so we like to see them stick around.

More interesting though were the pamphlets they were passing out. They were advertising $99 for unlimited minutes forever … and free phones (with some strings attached). The $99 was the lead message on the cover of the pamphlet. Inside, there were more details on their media offerings. Wow. This is from an MVNO that markets themselves as a media company. We’ve known that the percentage of mobile subscribers choosing wireless carriers based on entertainment offerings is statistically “zero.” Amp’d has said though that they can be profitable (not sure if this takes into account current pricing of handsets/services) with 500,000 subscribers which is statistically zero percent market share. Technically, from their claims, they can be profitable with less than one percent market share.

It is interesting though that only six months from their launch, they are using a marketing message – value based minutes and handsets – that the wireless carriers know works and appeals to a much broader base. Could be a sign that the market is not yet ready for “media” to lead the marketing message even for less than one percent of the market.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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May 10th, 2006

MobiTV Moves Beyond Cell Phones

See MobiTV’s press release.

Our research on mobile video shows that consumer interest in “live” streaming TV on a portable goes up dramatically when consumers have the option of a laptop. Ok, you can do the same with a Slingbox at no extra charge, but most people don’t have those. And, yes, once you are online there are lots and lots of video options from MSNBC to iTunes. But for those who don’t want to surf about ….

Cool that there is a “day” rate as well for those who don’t want to be locked into an annual rate.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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May 8th, 2006

A Scary Definition of “opt’ing in” for Cell Phones

New billboards are going to begin popping up in France that send messages to your phone when you are in the vicinity. See this article from the International Herald Tribune.

In theorgy, the mobile subscriber opts in initially. The idea of being permanently opted in with just one SMS until I opt out scares me. Sounds eerily like the Starbuck’s scenario that people have been talking about since the late 90’s. Our research shows that mobile subscribers want to opt in to not only relevant products, but specific companies in many cases. See research.

Delivering value and exclusive content to the consumer is the right idea, but frequency, among other things needs to be managed. Also, interest in free digital content – especially that tied to branding – is not that high even among the younger adults.

That said, the idea of symbols, shortcodes, etc. on posters and billboards is an interesting one. I envision them more as one time opt in’s for information, content (e.g., a game) or service (e.g., movie times for one movie in my zip code).

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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May 7th, 2006

Meow Meow Meow Meow on My Cell

Check out this campaign done by http://www.mfoundry.com/ for Purina. It’s a good example of free, branded content. The barking dogs ring tone scared my cats. The meowing cat ring tone made them run searching for the unknown cat. Fun campaign.

On the down side, it suffers from the challenges of all mobile content developers – only works on a limited number of cell phones and none of the handful I own.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless