Oprah Launches Oprah Mobile

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With the launch of Oprah Mobile, the daytime TV queen appears to be laying the groundwork for a bigger push into digital media in advance of the debut of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) on cable TV next year.

The App, optimized for the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Palm Pre phones, offers a window into Oprah’s media empire — including clips and previews from “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” weekly polls, articles and photos from O, The Oprah Magazine and Oprah.com, and her Twitter updates.

Released by Winfrey’s Harpo Studios, the Oprah Mobile app sells for $1.99 in the App Store. A spokesperson for the studio said Monday the app may extend to OWN, though it’s not yet decided. But that seems like a pretty good bet, given the increased emphasis her forthcoming cable channel will place on digital distribution. Robert Tercek, president of digital media for OWN, said the project will build new media into programming from the ground up.
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He also noted that OWN would carry over the core of a digital audience from past efforts like periodic live Web broadcasts of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Oprah Mobile would seem to fit that strategy to help cultivate a wider digital audience via smartphone users, which are estimated to make up as much as a quarter of all U.S. mobile subscribers.

Down the road, it’s not hard to envision a comparable Oprah app for the iPad to showcase her various properties and extend live programming and interactive features, including m-commerce, to mobile devices. Tercek last month waxed enthusiastic about the Apple tablet, pointing out the advantage it has over any competing gadget because it comes with the ability to run existing iPhone apps (which would now include Oprah Mobile).

Tercek will have to make sure Oprah doesn’t get too out in front of her audience — which he acknowledged isn’t exactly the early-adopter crowd — in embracing new mobile and digital tools. No need to worry about impressing Apple fanboys.

Offering Oprah Mobile for free instead of charging might’ve been a good way to start, for instance, but the new cable network’s creators will have to test different approaches and learn as they roll out Oprah 2.0.

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Can the “Droid” Dethrone the iPhone?

With Apple posting record profits last week, thanks in large part to brisk sales of its iPhone, it may seem downright crazy to mount a smartphone challenge at all, let alone one that takes direct aim at the iPhone. But that’s just what Verizon, Google and Motorola are doing.

With a teaser ad from Verizon zeroing in on the device’s perceived shortcomings, such as its lack of a physical keyboard, the triumvirate is beginning a big push for Droid, the flagship device of the Google-backed Android operating system. So far, industry observers are unmoved by the buzz and give the Droid long odds in its bid to become the next ubiquitous handset.
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So far, Verizon and its partners have kept a tight lid on Droid, but the few early reviews have been effusive, with the influential gadget blog Boy Genius Report calling Droid “the most impressive phone we’ve used since the iPhone. It’s positively amazing.” TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington, who famously chucked the iPhone because of AT&T’s spotty network service, also gushed: “According to people who’ve handled the device, the Droid is the most sophisticated mobile device to hit the market to date from a hardware standpoint.”

The praise notwithstanding, analysts say it’s doubtful that Droid can dethrone the iPhone — even if the handset will live on what is widely perceived as the best wireless network in the country. The Blackberry Storm, and most recently the Palm Pre, both of which have been held up as credible iPhone challengers, came and went without incident to Apple, which just reported its most profitable quarter after selling the most iPhones in that time.

“There is a graveyard littered with iPhone wannabees, so the bar is pretty high for any new phone, no matter how good it might be,” said wireless analyst Chetan Sharma.
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For Verizon, a lot is at stake. The No. 1 U.S. wireless carrier needs something of a super-marquee phone to counter Apple’s iPhone, which has put millions of consumers on the network of its exclusive carrier, AT&T, many of whom are left to regularly carp about dropped calls. Thanks largely to the iPhone, AT&T last quarter added more contract customers than Verizon for the first time in recent history.

Others say Droid will post solid sales, but don’t expect a blockbuster.

“It’s going to be successful within the Verizon network, but it’s not going to come at the expense of the iPhone,” said Matt Thornton, an analyst at Avian Securities. “This device will slow subscriber attrition, but it’s difficult to woo subscribers to another network just for the phone. The iPhone has been the only one that’s able to do that.”

And once those customers settle on the Apple handset, it’ll be tough to tempt them to switch: The iPhone was the top-ranked brand on measures of user loyalty, according to a survey by Brand Keys that looked at 63 product categories. Moreover, for the first time in 12 years since the survey’s inception, three cellphone brands made the top 10 list of brands garnering the most loyalty — Samsung came in after the iPhone, and BlackBerry was ranked fourth.

“This says that cellphone brands are able to meet consumer expectations more than ever before,” said Brand Keys President Robert Passikoff, who also noted that consumer expectations towards smartphones are also higher than ever. This means it’s all the more critical for Droid to live up to the hype, which is partly being manufactured by Verizon. The carrier recently launched a teaser ad attacking the iPhone for all the things it can’t do, but Droid can, leading some to call the strategy risky.

Mobile Outlook for 2010

Is it too early to begin looking ahead to 2010?

Marketers understand the need to integrate mobile into their multichannel branding, customer acquisition and customer retention plans.

Several trends are emerging as mobile matures into a medium that, while not without flaws, is a more palatable option than other marketing channels in use.

I believe the emphasis should be on mobile’s complementary nature – it gives legs to other channels, including retail, online, television, print, coupons, radio, outdoor, direct mail and insert media.
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Top of my trends list is the consumer’s growing comfort with consuming news and content on mobile phones, along with exchanging SMS text messages, shopping for products and services, checking email, playing games, conducting mobile banking transactions and searching for retail locations or driving directions.

Indeed, the mobile channel’s use as a location-enabling tool is quickly becoming evident to brands, ad agencies, retailers and, most importantly, consumers.

Marketers must remember that mobile cannot be treated like other mass mediums out there.
Mobile is a highly personal channel, with attendant sensitivities and double opt-in permission requirements.

So it’s not the quantity that should matter for marketers looking to incorporate mobile into their multichannel marketing plans. It’s the quality and that’s where mobile excels.

While the economy could be better, that hasn’t stopped consumers from quickly shifting to mobile many tasks that previously were conducted on computers.

The choice for marketers and ad agencies then is not to deliberate whether to have an SMS program or mobile banner ads or a mobile Web site or a mobile coupon program or a .mobi domain or an iPhone/BlackBerry/Android application.

Instead, the decision to be made is which one of these options or a combination of options is relevant for the brand in its efforts to reach consumers through multiple, relevant touch points.

Smart marketers and agencies will think like smart fishermen: fish where the fish are.
Consumers have already moved to mobile, and are on mobile to stay!

Marketers should focus this year and next on using mobile to build databases of consumers who have opted in not once but twice to receive targeted offers, alerts and information from marketers.

One more thought…a marketer without a mobile loyalty program in 2010 will risk losing customers to competitors who have such efforts in place.

Blackberry Apps!

Mark your calendars, BlackBerry fans: BusinessWeek says RIM’s going to launch the BlackBerry App World April 1 at CTIA.
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What’s more, the company is apparently planning on going after Apple by courting developers with higher profit margins and the relative sophistication of the average corporate BlackBerry user, which explains that minimum $2.99 paid app price we saw a few weeks ago. An interesting move to position the new service, but we’ll see if it takes hold with users — anyone ready to blow their budget on ‘berry software?

The Dick Tracy Wristwatch is Here Already.

Mobile marketing is on the cusp of moving markets and deserves consideration as part of the marketing mix for a wide variety of products and services.
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Mr. Spock as Dick Tracy?

No longer the province of teenagers or a gadget only perpetrated by nerdy early adopters, mobile media is gaining widespread use as new phones and new software make the Internet accessible everywhere. In no time we’ll all be tethered to the digital grid; connected by a single multi-functional device.

Consider several recent developments:

1) Almost two-thirds (63%) of cell phone users have received e-mail, used text messaging or obtained news and sports information on their phones.

2) More than one-third (38%) of mobile phone users access the Internet from their phone.

3) There are 40 million smart phones in use, closing in on 20 percent of the cell phones in use and the market is growing driven by iPhones and Blackberry Pearls and Curves.

4) 130 million phones have “highly capable Internet browsers” and the IBM Institute for Business Value survey recently found that 40% of those surveyed had Internet data plans in-use and that a third of those had already watched a video on their phones.

Once you start watching video on your phone, 45% begin to do it regularly which according to Black Arrow comes up to 800 million hours of mobile video viewing, still a tiny slice of the 389 billion hours of broadcast TV watched, but a bell weather nonetheless.

Evidently we have begun to solve the technical issues of compression, design and compatibility that bring the Internet off the desktop and out of the laptop and into our on-the-go daily lives. You can bet this trend will continue. Continuous improvements in speed, signal clarity and software integration will lead to a single compact, personalized device that becomes an indispensable tool for managing communication, interaction, commerce and most practical aspects of our lives.

Dick Tracy’s wristwatch videophone and the Star Trek communicator already exist. Soon we’ll all be using their progeny.

Then think about the mobile applications that people we know have already come to rely on. Many people use their phones to search, get news alerts or sports scores, interact with TV shows, vote or take surveys, play games, send or view photos, get directions or communicate with other humans.

Facebook access from mobile devices has grown 3X in the last year to 15 million users and many other social networks are making similar claims as consumers get used to the idea of telling everybody what we’re doing in real time like on Twitter and sharing everything we find, like or do with a gang of unseen others.

The NFL streams video of games to mobile phones.

Sears2Go.com allows you to buy Craftsman tools using a phone.

A Disney-Verizon alliance will use cell phones to interact with kids and families while they’re in the parks as early as next year.

Progress in m-commerce is making the interfaces and downloads between websites and phones easier, smoother and less cumbersome day by day.

Soon mobile wallet applications will allow us to use our phones to fill up parking meters, buy from vending machines, purchase movie tickets, and check out quickly at retail stores and complete complex financial transactions from a phone keypad.

And while there are a few indications that consumers expect and will tolerate advertising surrounding these nifty new tools it’s not really clear how much and what kind of messaging will resonate.

Therefore visionary marketers will get started now and get smarter about mobile media and marketing now, during the growth phase while prices are low, content and merchant partners are flexible and open to experimentation and before anybody gets a lock on a killer app, game-changing technology or critical market segments.

Nokia Versus the iPhone.

Nokia the world’s largest maker of cellphones, is launching a new phone next year that is designed to compete with Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Research In Motion Ltd. BlackBerrys at the high end of the market.

The N97 will feature a 3.5-inch touch screen with 50% greater resolution than the iPhone. It will also have a slide-out alphabetic keyboard, making it similar in overall design to the Xperia X1 recently launched by competitor Sony Ericsson.
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Nokia announced the phone Tuesday at its Nokia World conference in Barcelona, Spain. It said it would cost around 550 euros, or about $700 when it launches next year. It will probably be compatible with AT&T Inc.’s high-speed data network in the U.S.

The phone will also have camera with a resolution of 5 megapixels, higher than most competing models.
The phone will run Symbian software, the standard for Nokia phones.

This will certainly change the marketplace at least in the USA and Europe.