“Dumb Pipes” Are Dead. Meet the Mobile Search Engines.

phoneDiscussion of one-box smart mobile search, both on deck (walled garden) and off deck (like Internet search), is all the rage at SMX Local & Mobile. There are many variables in how providers power mobile search results. There is a rapidly growing palette of options and the future is exciting- albeit fuzzy as hell.

This session, “Meet the Mobile Search Engines”, provided attendees with an above the treetop-overview of major mobile search players. Of particular note are the behind-the-scenes “white-label” providers who sell search to various wireless carriers.

The session was moderated by Gary Price, Director of Online Information Resources, Ask.com. He is also the editor of resourceShelf.com. The speakers were Omar Tawakol, Chief Advertising Officer, Medio, Brendan Benzing, Vice President Mobile Search and Marketing, InfoSpace, and Matthew Snyder, Head of Business Development, Nokia, Matt Tengler, Senior Product Manager, JumpTap.

What Are People Mobile-Searching For?

Based on a study of 6064 young European regular net users owning a mobile phone (Forrester’s Tech Graphics 2006 Benchmark Study), 96% of users tapped SMS, 21% accessed email, 43% went for ringtones (20% paid-for SMS with information), 19% purchased a picture or wallpaper, 18% purchased or downloaded games, 13% purchased a full music track (3% of those went for the video), 25% regularly browsed the mobile internet, 27% took advantage of SMS for voting or participation in a TV show, 67% sought downloads on the go (3% information, 8% portal navigation, 9% adult content, and 4% generic content query). The most telling statistic is how the breadth of queries widens significantly when off deck search (including Internet searches) is introduced thereby opening the garden wall.

Gary price quipped “there are a lot of ways of screwing it up, but mobile search can save people a lot of time, effort, and communication.” The challenge as always is having quality content that’s ready to go and ready to fit on the page.”Everyone is not like us as they have no idea that these advanced services even exist.” With mobile search marketing everyone wins: Advertisers’ get focused users, hyper-local advertising using GPS and Wi-Fi and branding can be an important component of any marketing plan. “If they [advertisers] can brand on the radio, the can brand mobile services.”

He believes that Podcasting will soon evolve into PhoneCasting” or “CellCasting.” Broadcasting audio and video is easy, fast for consumers, provides additional channels to serve up advertising, there’s little or no learning curve, and even grandma can do it! NPR is now PhoneCasting, and you can listen to the DailySearchCast @ 1+512-696-0729.

Room for Innovation
Omar Tawakol made the point that TV and print media leaders are not the leaders on the Internet. Existing major Internet players may not fully translate their current iconic presence to mobile. “Mobile is an entirely new medium replete for innovation. Don’t just roll over and play dead when top Internet leaders walk into the room. There is plenty of room at the table.”

Matthew Snyder, Header of Business Development, Nokia evangelized “The fragmentation of media consumption is becoming worse.” New destinations are gaining over established players and “communitainment” is becoming prevalent, especially among youths.

Mobile is a cross-media, local, interactive medium merging TV, radio, print, and online. Think about it, you always have your phone with you. There is a shift underway to multimedia computers where all of my connected applications are always with you. According to Nokia’s Forecast 2006, by 2010 there will be more mobile devices with full browsers in the market place than PCs.

Mobile is the ultimate advertising platform.
It’s personal, always on, always with you, immediately trackable in order to justify expenditures to advertisers, billing and payment transactions are easily a possibility, and the concept of mobile plays on human nature to be “entertained by the serendipity of finding things.”

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