Mobile versions of newspaper and TV station sites WAPsites have mostly been corporate vanity projects, generally attracting just a couple of dozen regular users. But as the demographics for enhanced mobile services have graduated from kids downloading ringtones and wallpaper to adults using news and weather, commercial prospects have improved.
Crisp Wireless CEO Boris Fridman, a venture-backed enabler of media mobile sites since 2000, scoffed when I suggested the number of users at most newspaper sites was still so low. He suggests that a number of local properties attract much higher numbers, perhaps deep into the hundreds (my guess).
“It is still very early in the game,” Fridman acknowledges. But there are beginning to be enough users to move away from subscription models and to rely more on advertising. While few local advertisers are currently demanding to get on the phone, mobile ad campaigns are now running for car companies, including Honda, Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz, and packaged good makers like Procter & Gamble and Unilever. Most use short-form videos.
Things really began to change in the 2004-2005 timeframe as the demographics of users of mobile features changed, says Fridman. Gannett’s USA Today launched it in 2005, and today, “it’s a business.” Given the promise of its flagship property, Gannett has further embraced the medium, launching sites for 30 of its larger newspapers in late March. Each of the sites is customized for the look and feel of the local properties, with local news and weather.
Fridman says the Tribune Interactive papers are also on board (LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sun-Sentinel, Newsday) and other papers such as the Chicago Sun-Times. The basic deal with Crisp is a monthly fee for powering the site, with escalating fees based on page views. “The more they are used, the more we make,” says Fridman.
In addition to newspaper WAPsites, Crisp has also been enabling TV station sites, as well as sites for TV networks and magazines. “TV fits so well into the mobile paradigm,” says Fridman. NBC has its 23 owned and operated stations up and running. In late December, Internet Broadcasting Systems, a leading TV site enabler, put 29 of its stations up as well. Internet Broadcasting suggests it will be selling local as well as national ads. Crisp has 30 employees, with most of them in New York, with a satellite office in L.A.