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Mobile News: A Dish Best Served Free

10/20/2006 -02:00 AM

Mobile publishing is huge right now. And why wouldn’t it be. With approximately 1.6 million Internet-enabled cell phones in circulation in the U.S. alone, publishers would be crazy not to post their articles and other content on mobile platforms.

But mobile versions of news and articles are best offered for free. Publisher Hachette Filipacchi figured that out and launched or is in the process of launching mobile sites for five of its magazines, including Elle, Shock and Car and Driver, that will be completely advertiser supported. Businessweek and Runner’s World are other publications that recently announced an advertiser-supported mobile endeavor to be offered free to consumers. But for those publishers still charging monthly subscriptions for mobile magazines, here’s why that content needs to be free.

Decades after the first mobile phone was introduced, users finally are being offered plans that allow them plenty of talk time for reasonable monthly fees. That said, phone companies have found ways to nickel and dime us. Monthly Internet charges of $15 a month are the norm, as is a $5 a month unlimited text messaging usage fee, and then there’s the $1.99 a month some will spend for a ringtone, another $1.99 a month for a call tone, $1.99 for a screensaver, a $10 a month fee for unlimited picture downloads … you get the idea.

The nickel and dime-ing leaves little left-over, especially for teens with limited budgets, to pay for magazine articles that more than likely can be read for free on the Internet. Still, there’s lots of money to be made by publishers in the mobile sphere. For one, they can offer their own screensavers, wallpapers, picture downloads and ringtones for nominal fees, and many are. And, as far as news articles and text messaging alerts go, there are plenty of advertisers willing to sponsor such content enabling publishers to offer it for FREE.

Laura Marriott, the executive director of the Mobile Marketing Association, recently told Folio: Publishing Technology that marketers are spending upwards of $78 million a year on mobile advertising and that dollar amount is likely to grow in the years to come.

Similarly, Tom Burgess, CEO of Third Screen Media, an ad network devoted to the mobile medium, told Media Post earlier this year that mobile phones are more inherently personal than any other medium and conducive to effective ad targeting. And personalization, targeted marketing and interactive marketing are all key to successful mobile advertising, says Marriott, and publishers willing to work with marketers to achieve the targeted interaction they seek will more than likely reap the benefits of those ad dollars into the future.

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