There has been a lot of hype in mobile media circles about how the Summer Olympics are signaling a watershed moments in broadcasting and media access on the fly. According to Nielson, 23 per cent US and 17 per cent of UK mobile internet users will be tracking the games through their phone browser, and 45 % of US mobile video users will watch the Olympics on their handsets.

Are those significant statistics and if so HOW significant? Depends on who you talk to. Based on the fact that only 3% of US cell phone users regularly watched video via their handhelds last year it doesn’t say much. But If you are a mobile carrier like AT&T you are probably smiling as the iPhone and other smartphones are driving mobile data revenues at a growth rate of 16% annually. That apparently equates to an increase from $24 billion in 2007 to $100 billion and 250 million data subscribers by 2017.

But what does all this growth in mobile and location based services really mean for the news media and their advertising efforts? Despite various glib predictions like here, your guess is as good as anyone’s. We need to be clear that mobile media as a relevant business opportunity is hazy at best. It is one thing to throw around mobile ad spend dollar predictions and another to show models that actually work for XYZ media outlet. So what if 45% of US mobile video users watch the 2008 Olympics on their handsets if nobody returns the video host sites after the Olympics is over. And exactly how can my newspaper or your eZine capitalize on an iPhone multimedia addict anyway?

At the end of the day mobile media, for all its promise, is still a mainstream wanna be. Look at this chart of the top 10 most visited mobile phone websites…how many of them have you actually heard of or seen?
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That said it still important for content producers and aggregators to keep their eyes on the mobile media 8 ball… because the WAY we experience media and TYPES of services offered are changing, not just the vehicle itself.

As the iPhone has proven, there is a tremendous appetite for enhanced mobile interfaces and the freedom to create them. With the recent release of an iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) and others on the way from Google’s Android, etc. there are whole new classes of applications to be created which will radically alter the user experience and introduce services we haven’t even imagined yet. Here’s a taste of up and coming location based services, for example. The end result of innovation on the user experience and services end will be new opportunities to broadcast and share information that make mobile blogging and Twitter streams seem like a stone and chisel. Sure business models should be on everyone’s mind, and they are certainly on mine, but not at the expense of dreaming BIG about a new day in news and information that mobile tools makes possible over the long run.

One useful place to start that dreaming is at AppVee, a site devoted to reviews of new applications being developed for the iPhone. Upon visiting it you will notice that many of the top 10 new iPhone applications are in fact News related (including a NYT application).

Mobile computing may not be a contender for media gold in Beijing but by the time the 2012 Olympics roll around it could be a very different story.

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