You Make The Call: Free on the Web, Or Paid On The Mobile?

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Viewers of 1980s-era Monday Night Football or This Week In Baseball might remember a segment called “You Make the Call”, sponsored for quite some time by IBM. It was pretty much as advertised — they’d show a video clip, and you had to play the part of the referee, and decide what the correct call was. Anyhow, I’ve been thinking about a comment made in a panel at SXSW the other day, and I’m at a bit of an impasse, so we’re going to play the MobHappy version of You Make The Call.

The comment came in a panel talking about mobile content delivery, and the deal that Helio struck to offer exclusive mobile access to MySpace came up. Derrick Oien, one of the founders of Intercasting, the company that makes the Rabble moblogging-cum-social networking application, essentially said the deal was good for Rabble because it provides some validation of their market. My initial reaction (surprise, surprise) was skepticism — I’m not sure how many kids will give up MySpace and all the content they’ve put on it in favor of an application like Rabble that’s essentially closed off to anybody that’s not a subscriber (and since Rabble’s only currently available on two US carriers, that’s a problem here). Additionally, Rabble costs $3 bucks a month, whereas MySpace is free.

The natural next thought was that they’d be much more interested in the actual MySpace mobile service on Helio, since it will integrate with the MySpace they know and love, but on the wired web. But are they any more likely to switch carriers to Helio just to access it than they are to pay for a service like Rabble? (I’m not trying to pick on Rabble here, by any stretch. Sub in any paid service that goes through carrier deals). I’m not confident that the MySpace deal — like other exclusive content deals — is strong enough on its own to attract a lot of users. Perhaps when it’s combined with the rest of Helio’s offerings, it could help tilt the balance.

And there’s a third option, of course — that they’ll do neither one and just carry on using MySpace from their PCs.

Here’s the You Make the Call bit: what do you think? Answers in the comments below, please.

After thinking about it a little more, I think what this question really highlights is the need for mobile advertising systems that can support services like these, so they don’t have to make carrier-specific deals and can be free to the end user. Any type of social-networking service depends both on getting a sizable community going, as well as it being easy for people to link up with their existing friends. MySpace on the web satisfies these, while most mobile social applications don’t, for various reasons. But getting mobile advertising to the point where it could render the financial aspect of carrier deals pointless would certainly be a big help.

So, again, what do you think?

[tags]rabble, myspace, helio, social networking[/tags]

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