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Summary:

We’ve pointed out the growing trend of cell phone users creating and sharing video and photo content, pushed by the popularity of camera and video-camera embedded phones, content-sharing mobile applications and high speed networks. While user-generated mobile content is still a relatively small market, the International […]

We’ve pointed out the growing trend of cell phone users creating and sharing video and photo content, pushed by the popularity of camera and video-camera embedded phones, content-sharing mobile applications and high speed networks. While user-generated mobile content is still a relatively small market, the International Herald Tribune points out the success of the carrier 3′s “See Me TV” service, which the carrier says has brought in more than 100,000 amateur videos and photographs, resulting in more than 12 million downloads.

All carriers are looking to take advantage of user-generated mobile content, given it doesn’t cost the carrier anything to create, and gives the customer something to send over the pipes other than low-margin voice services. While this market is exploding online, evidenced by Google’s YouTube purchase, the mobile environment is moving slower, because of networks, handsets and the carrier-controlled environment.

But it’s still starting to grow rapidly. In Europe, Mobile Streams and MTV Europe are starting to push the FunkySexyCool mobile social service which highlights photo and video profiles and a voting system. Even in the U.S., where mobile video adoption is slower, Cingular is offering a “Messaging Awards” program, where customers vote on the best user-generated video, photo and text submissions. Perhaps in anticipation of the nationwide availability of its 3G network. On Wednesday mobile video sharing startup Veeker, which we’ve written about a few times, plans to launch its service.

  1. Great read. Thanks!

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  2. Twitter from Odeo does what you’re describing. They don’t have photo capability yet but they say it is coming and when it does it’ll be more catchy. It’s pretty cool now though..you can create your own twitter alias and send out text msgs to your group of friends via your phone or their website.

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  3. Most of us love ourselves, want exposure and think we are worthy of others’ admiration. Thus the supply side of User Generated Content services (“UGC”) is clear. What is remarkable is that we (me included) actually enjoy watching amateur videos of others. And we do, as evident from YouTube’s millions of downloads a day, and its recent acquisition by Google.

    But can UGC go mobile? Will people be willing to both create and consume UGC videos on the go? In my opinion, the clearest advantage Mobile UGC offers is the fact that most new phones can capture video. Thus we can all join in the UGC fun and create our content spontaneously, or capture something interesting we see happening on the street.

    However, several key issues must be addressed if UGC is to go mobile. Creating a video on the handset is relatively simply, yet posting it to a YouTube-like site is complex and costly in terms of data-charges. Cost issues are addressed below, but transferring “mobile-phone video” to a website requires Bluetoothing it to a PC, then uploading it to the UGC website, a process few of us will bother with. A dedicated UGC client on the phone can resolve this and allow users to capture the video, then upload it to the UGC website virtually with a single click.

    As to receiving and viewing videos on the handset, there are several ways to accomplish this. A WAP Pull model involves the UGC mobile service provider posting many videos on a WAP Portal for users to browse and pull. This model will fail, as have most WAP services, given the cumbersome click & wait, menu intense experience of mobile internet. The subscription-push model is a viable alternative, where users subscribe to a specific UGC topic (say Entertainment), then have the “Top Entertainment clip of the Day” delivered to them automatically. Push allows for the automatic delivery of large files (say, overnight), eliminating the need of users to browse-pull, then wait for the download of a large file in real-time. Customizing the service to the user’s specific area of interest is easily accomplished using a simple web-based (preferable to WAP) registration page, which allows the user to subscribe to a precise channel of interest.

    Should the Mobile UGC service provider (say Vodafone) build its own community, or partner with a YouTube-like service? The latter is the clear answer. A few years ago I was responsible for designing and selling an advanced client/server mobile Instant Messaging solution. Effort spent trying to persuade U.S. operators to buy an IM solution then build new mobile-IM communities rather than wait until AOL, AIM, ICQ and Yahoo agree to interoperate were futile. Operators had no desire to build new communities, and also realized that users would not duplicate communities – one mobile and one PC-based. Verizon Wireless finally bought our platform, brought the enemy IM communities together, and created a killer service. Thus service providers interested in offering Mobile UGC must partner with existing communities, not build their own.

    Cost to the user is a critical factor in determining who will operate the Mobile UGC and how the user will be charged. Unless Mobile operators are intricately involved in the UGC service, the service will fail, primary due to cost issues. The sending and receiving of video content is data intense, and extremely costly to the user, unless a clear monthly fee is established for the service. Mobile operators control the cost of data traffic on their network. Thus, unless the Mobile operator adopts the USG service and creates clear and reasonable fee-structures for it, no one will use it.

    Do Operators want to launch such services? You bet. From a revenue perspective, most operators subsidize the expensive handsets we use, only to see us load them with MP3 files from the PC, for which the operator seeing no revenue at all. Operators must find ways to get users to fill their phone with Operator-based content. From a “Branding” perspective, it would be Verizon and Vodafone’s wet dream to launch a YouTube branded service.

    To summarize, UGC services appear headed for mass-market adoption. Such a service can easily port to the mobile environment. A smart, appealing client and simple registration process can offer great functionality that is easy to use. Operator involvement is crucial. Given the brand-value of a YouTube Mobile service, I assume that we will see such a service in the near future.

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  4. The key point here is that there is no cost to the carriers and no massive libraries of content to manage. Witness for example the growth of Phone Sherpa from a little startup to a cash cow with their ringtone maker. In this and most user generated content scenarios, the premise is very simple: people will pay for personalization and ignore commodities where possible. The model of making a ring tone from one’s one music has completely disrupted the unsexy model of paying $10 per month for stock tones from a catalog.

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