Content Discovery a Lucrative But Dangerous Place for Operators

Mobile network operators can boost data revenues by providing personalized apps and content experiences for their subscribers, according to a report released today by Qualcomm. But the carriers will have to walk a fine line between being helpful and being invasive as they try to take their customers by the hand.

According to the San Diego-based chip maker — which is touting Xiam, its mobile content discovery technology — 63 percent of users polled in the UK and U.S. said they’d spend more time accessing or purchasing content if the stuff they were looking for was easier to find. Four out of five respondents said difficulty obtaining content is “a major problem,” and users estimated they would spend an average of an hour more per week and $8 more per month on mobile data if their content was personalized.

Such difficulty is especially easy to appreciate given the ways most users search for content on their phones. The two most common ways to look for mobile content are using search engines or typing in URLs on the device, Qualcomm said — methods that can deliver headaches more quickly than they produce accurate search results.

There’s no question that discoverability is a huge problem on the mobile web, and carriers — with their established billing mechanisms and strong content partners — are indeed well positioned to help their users spend money. But they’re also likely to be seen as intrusive by some, and as flat-out invading users’ privacy if they try to target content by tracking user behavior and purchases. And they’re sure to be resented by some users who figure their mobile company already takes a big enough chunk of change every month. There are opportunities to subtly suggest content their users might actually pay for, but carriers will have to tread very gingerly as they approach those subscribers.

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