Jim Ryan may now be the chief strategy and marketing officer of Bellevue, Wash.-based Motricity, which provides storefront, portal and browser services to carriers, but, as became clear when he spoke with mocoNews during CTIA last week, he hasn’t changed his beliefs much from when he managed AT&T’s consumer data services.
Take the trendy topic of how users should pay for mobile content and other services. For Ryan, it is clear: Users should pay for content and services they access on mobile devices — and the carrier should get a cut of the revenues. “My hope is that the mobile internet does not go down the path of re-creating the internet. The internet treats the end user as a means to an end.” By that, he means that most users believe their presence alone on a site should generate enough revenues from ads. Of course, some content providers believe that, too. “That’s flawed….The internet did teach us some bad habits.”
Ryan is definitely not alone. Content companies are increasingly looking at mobile as a new revenue source, given that traditionally consumers have been willing to pay — and in some cases pay a premium to get something on their phone. In the past couple of weeks, major content companies have said they will test the waters. For instance, CNN charges a one-time $2 fee for its new iPhone app in addition to advertising, and the WSJ will soon switch from providing a free app to making users subscribe.
Ryan says they should be charging, especially on mobile where the service can be more personalized and tailored to a interests and habits. “People will be more than willing to pay,” he said. “I want to pay for a news service that will deliver the top 10-15 stories that matter to me the most. I want them to be researched and well-written. I will pay money for that.” He has some skin in the game: Motricity rolled out a new service with AT&T last week that personalizes the feature phone experience. Now users can go to a portal, where their favorite web searches and bookmarks will be located and cached creating for a speedy experience. In addition, Motricity has integrated a browser from Opera Software (OSL: OPERA) to access full web content.
Ryan says carriers should be carrying the flag when it comes to insisting that consumers pay for content on their devices. “There’s an importance in getting this right…If the mobile internet turns into the general internet, than shame on us.” Ryan said as part of facilitating the exchange, carriers should get a cut of the revenues. That’s somewhat in contrast to the ideal being set forth of the open mobile internet, where the carrier provides the pipe, and users get to access anything through a browser like they do today on the computer. Ryan insists: “There’s always plenty [of revenues] to go around.”
I asked Ryan about the handset makers, like Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), Google (NSDQ: GOOG), Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and others. Could they help carry the flag by getting into the business of selling applications and content? Not so fast. “Why are they digging into our pockets? What’s up with that?”