How to stop worrying and love the mobile web

July 20, 2009: 8:00 AM ET

Browsing, viewing video and other fare is moving from desktop to palm of your hand

By Anthony Bontrager, President, 1Cast

Let me tell you about my favorite Far Side cartoon.

Bontrager says embrace the mobile web

Bontrager says embrace the mobile web

There's a woman with a beehive hairdo sitting in a car passenger seat nonchalantly glancing at the sideview mirror. Staring back at her is a monstrous, bloodshot eyeball and along the bottom of the mirror reads the warning, "OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR."

Leave it to Gary Larson to illustrate up what's happening in the mobile space these days.

Over the past couple of years, consumers have adopted the mobile Web at a pace much faster than anybody anticipated. This shift in consumer behavior has huge implications, and it will force all of us— service providers, content owners and advertisers—to rethink our businesses before the critical mass of consumer behavior swarms us. No longer should we debate whether consumers will use mobile phones as a primary source of information and entertainment. The question is when the tipping point will happen.

There is ample evidence that the mobile Web is fast approaching.

  • A few weeks ago Apple announced it sold 1 million iPhone 3GS's in just 3 days. In April the iPhone App Store surpassed 1 billion downloads in just 9 months.
  • Google has released its own phone, the T-Mobile G1 (and coming soon the G2) that includes its own marketplace for mobile applications.
  • In June, supporters of opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi used Twitter to organize protests and tweeted to the world about events on the streets of Tehran.
  • Amazon's Kindle is redefining the way people consume their media, and opening new revenue opportunities for book publishers.

What's most notable is the growth of the mobile app economy, which was developed from the release of the iPhone and the G1. Apps now allow content creators to bypass the wireless network operators and directly entertain, inform and engage consumers in ways unimaginable a few years ago. And where there's audience there's opportunity. Revenue from mobile apps is expected to surpass $25 billion by 2014, up from $7 billion in 2008, according to market research firm Juniper Research.

Still need proof of the power of mobile video? In May, Nielsen released a report that showed the U.S. mobile video audience had grown 52% year-over-year during the first quarter of 2009. That's compared to 13% growth on the PC and 1.2% growth on TV. Sure, the audience watching video on PCs and TVs is substantially larger, but the results show a growing comfort among viewers for watching videos on their mobile devices and further validates those business models espousing a three-screen strategy.

So what does this mean for those of you still scratching your heads about what to do? Yes, times are tough and budgets are tight, but that hasn't stopped the almighty American consumer from gravitating to convenient solutions to stay informed.  In fact, it's uncertain times like these that cause consumers to look for more ways to stay abreast of events that impact their lives, whether that be informational, educational or entertainment based.

My suggestion to you is to be open-minded. Experiment with new approaches to deliver targeted messages in this new world to more specific audiences. Understand where your target audience is going to find video content.  Appreciate the fact that consumers are using every means at their disposal to obtain information and the TV and PC represent only 2 of those means.  If approached correctly, the right messaging at the right time, synchronized across different mediums, could increase both your brand affinity and the ROI of your ad buy.

Your most valuable customers may or may not have embraced the mobile Web today. But there's no doubt they will in the near future. Change is good, and it's unstoppable.

Bontrager is president of 1Cast, a Kirkland, Wash.,-based company that delivers video content over mobile and other devices.

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