Jan 18

What Google’s Nexus One means for publishers

Google’s recent introduction of its Nexus One mobile smartphone is yet another signal to publishers that it’s time to board the “mobile train.”

By itself, the Nexus One isn’t a huge advancement in mobile device technology, but Google’s entry into the phone market with both Nexus One and with the Android operating system last year are more indicators that mobile Internet is going mainstream in America. Publishers, if you haven’t figured out mobile, it’s time.

It’s been at least six years since I started hearing from mobile service providers and interactive media prophets that “this is the year that it will be important to have a mobile strategy.” At the time, honestly, I just didn’t see it. It might have been my own lack of vision, but at the same time, the prophets had a difficult time selling the return on investment for purchasing short codes, setting up text alerts, etc.

I know that I wasn’t alone in not seeing the future of mobile. Even the AIM Group’s most recent report on the automotive advertising industry quotes at least one executive: “I have heard people saying ‘this is the year of mobile’ for a decade now. I don’t dispute that mobile is going to be increasingly important. That being said, I don’t see anything that tells me that 2010 is going to be the year. Would it surprise me if we were having this same conversation in 2015? Absolutely not.”

With all due respect to the author of that quotation, Greg Connor, chairman of Boost Motor Group in Canada, 2010 IS the year to devote resources to mobile. I’m not suggesting that Google’s Nexus One phone is the tipping point. In fact, we’re long past the tipping point, which was likely the introduction of 3G mobile service. No, the Nexus One is just another advance in the rolling tide of mobile phones that can access the Internet from pretty much anywhere.

Web access is the key. By the end of 2010, 46 percent of North American mobile device users will have access to a 3G network, that’s up from 29 percent at the end of 2008. In other words, more and more Americans will carry with them a device that gets them online. And, whatever online services they get at their desktop computers, they’re sure to want on their mobile devices, too.

For example, they’ll want to get directions; confirm hotel and dinner reservations; check e-mail; update their Facebook pages and blogs; read classified ads; play games; compare prices at other stores while they’re standing in front of merchandise they want to buy; check real-time game scores. And those are just the things I do on my iPhone.

So it’s time for publishers to push news to mobile devices — accompanied by advertising. They need to think about “apps,” those nifty little tools that help mobile device users get directions, play music, check stocks and play games on their mobile devices. There are all kinds of possibilities, from apps that provide real time high school sports scores to tools that map local garage sales and list the items for sale at each.

The Nexus One is just another signpost on the road to technological change. The mobile innovations will continue to come quickly, and publishers who continue to either mobilizing their exisiting or creating new mobile content will miss yet another train.

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