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2014: Now is the Winter of Our Micro-content

By December 30, 2013January 12th, 2020No Comments

I was delighted to contribute a guest column to Mobile Marketing Magazine recently, hope you enjoy!

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Oisin Lunny, senior market development manager at OpenMarket, turns journalist for the day to interrogate the trend for micro-content on mobile.Will self-destructing mobile vouchers win the day..? he asks. Is it even anything new?


Back in the dawn of our mobile internet age, analysts were gleefully forecasting obese cash cows once consumers joined the dots between ‘content’ and their new mobile devices. Inflated predictions for ARPU (average revenue per user) were sometimes based on the idea that people would swallow huge data charges to get the latest pop video or celebrity soundbite. Consumers did indeed embrace content on the move, but bypassed data costs using all kinds of clever off-network transfer methods.

The industry didn’t really see an uptake in Over-The-Air content until flat-rate data packages were introduced. Now with many MNOs offering unlimited data, and 4G poised to upsell a lot of new handsets, I spoke to some content and marketing experts around future trends in mobile.

Scott Cohen is the founder of The Orchard, home of a digital catalogue believed to exceed 8m songs. He sees short form content as a logical next step for entertainment, driven by the explosion in mobile device usage: “We have a long history of technology influencing the content that’s created, its rarely the other way around. Today we are seeing a lot of micro-content. People are pushing the boundaries and creating a standalone piece of art in 15-30 seconds.”

Darren Hemmings, MD of digital marketing consultancy Motive Unknown, echoes this: “Everything about consumption these days points to micro content, be that track by track purchases in music, or shortform updates on Twitter. Even news is now being reduced to small bite-size chunks via apps like Circa. The shift is unavoidable, but shouldn’t mean that we’re going to hell in an ADHD handcart. Currently we are still moving to a more micro-led content world, that doesn’t mean that the pendulum won’t swing back the other way too.”

This ‘ADHD handcart’ has big implications for advertisers as well, particularly in light of internet traffic moving en-masse to mobile handsets. Futurist Gerd Leonhard sums it up: “Internet traffic is pretty much moving to a mobile world, in five years 80 per cent of all web traffic will be mobile. The 3bn people that are coming online in developing countries will go straight to always-connected mobile devices and will never become cable or satellite TV users.  Advertising as we know it is not going to survive on these personal devices, because it was based on interruption, on noise, on pollution.”

The mobile advertising industry is working around this consumer shift by using better technology. Kim De Reuter, head of mobile at Cheil Worldwide, predicts that real-time programmatic marketing is one way forward for advertising campaigns. “This serves relevant content to consumers based on their web activity, history and profile, leaving other technologies behind,” she said. “Retargeting is very pedestrian now, a long latency is totally unacceptable to consumers”.  Meanwhile Tamara Sword, director at TRM&C is scathing about traditional mobile advertising models: “You are more likely to get into MIT than click on a banner ad on purpose. 50 per cent of mobile ad clicks are accidental. A mistake is NOT engagement.”

So if the traditional ad model is ‘broken’ on mobile, how are brands planning to engage with their consumers in this brave new world? For Gerd Leonhard, the answer lies in content marketing and mobile video: “Good brands like RedBull, Nike and Amex are already becoming broadcasters, every brand is becoming a TV producer now.” The need for new content formats is also driving innovation in mobile video, with Mativision and FanFootage in particular bringing a new level of interactivity to live events. Mobile video platform Vine was successfully used by Mondelēz to reach consumers with fun content when they were away from their home TVs.

With the deluge of content marketing, brands could be in danger of overloading consumers. James Whatley, social media director for Ogilvy & Mather, points out the growing demand for disposable content. “16 Handles, Doritos and Taco Bell have used Snapchat for ‘mission impossible’-style self-destruct vouchers and super-personalised customer content. This is a key trend for 2014, but it doesn’t work for all brands. If it’s relevant, then you need to have the right preparation and agility to ensure maximum impact.”

So will the future of engagement be self-destructing micro-content, personalised and programmatically served? Anything is possible, but many analysts are also seeing a continued resurgence in the use of SMS. Short text messages could be considered the original micro-content format, one that is coming of age, turning 21 years old this month. SMS has a relevance, immediacy and ubiquity that resonates with consumers, and can provide a seamlessly joined-up acquisition, retention and transaction channel.

It is clear that engagement is key to mobile marketing success, regardless of the technology used, and micro-content is successfully engaging with consumers.

In our mobile world, small content clearly has a big future.