Thursday, September 29, 2005

Factiva's Mobile Moves: Locking in Loyalty Through Channel Extensions Has Its Limits

The announcement of Factiva's beta program for Factiva Mobile represents another stride on their behalf to sock in some loyalty from subscribers to, Factiva SalesWorks(SM) and Factiva Companies & Executives(SM). With Factiva's focusing on business intelligence and sales support tools, mobile access to tracking folders will certainly help the sales exec on the go to impress their clients and prospects when the walk in the door with up-to-the-minute information. But it's also another example of publishers and aggregators using channels with more restrictive "choke points" for content access to make it harder to walk away from a service that contains a good amount of replicated content. The fragmentation in U.S. mobile media has been the savior of many dealmakers this year as mobile network operators find ways to shore up their own revenue streams with content service exclusives. But as noted by Dorrian Porter, founder and CEO of mobile startup Mozes, Inc., the desire of mobile operators to use a confusing lack of standards to gain scattered proprietary advantages is going to frustrate users in the long run and confuse them as to who in the value chain is responsible for what. On a PC we know that Microsoft is not responsible when our network connection is down; on a mobile device exclusive to a given network do we really know who's to blame when we're not getting our Factiva alerts?

Dorrian Porter recommends network providers sticking to what they do well - building and providing great connectivity and support for communications networks and helping content suppliers to find their own way through their networks. An imperfect analogy is the jetBlue model used in air transportation. jetBlue does a great job in providing excellent transportation systems at reasonable prices with just the right mix of services that people are willing to pay for, but they're not dictating technical standards to DirectTV to pump content into their TV sets. Google's emerging network is likely to provide a compelling example of how mobile content services can be both open and profitable, challenging mobile operators much in the same way that jetBlue's "focus on what you do best and merchandise the rest" model threw the airlines industry for a loop. Content providers need to build markets through existing mobile channels while they can still build some product loyalty through them. But they should not get too comfortable with their exclusives and think carefully in setting up terms as to what impact the inevitable opening of mobile services is likely to have on their ongoing revenue strategies.
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