Mobile Video

By Ivan Gevirtz

created: Wednesday, February 08, 2006
updated: Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Everyone who is anyone today has a cell phone with a camera.  They are all over the place.  You see people snapping pictures in the subway, in parks, in restaurants, in clubs.  And nowadays many of those camera phones even can take video clips.  Sometimes you're limited to 15 seconds or less, but sometimes you can get long clips of at least VGA quality video.  And it keeps getting better!  My oh my, what to do with all these low resolution camera videos?  Is there any way to make money from this?

There are two main use cases for mobile data.  The first is all about the 5 minutes while waiting for a bus, train, elevator, whatever.  This use case involves providers sending users content.  Mobile games, news, and others fill this paradigm.  However, I believe the other use is much more interesting, yet less exploited.  Turn the data flow around, and you get users submitting mobile data to service providers.  Fundamentally interesting data, time and location sensitive data.  The canonical example would be users submitting traffic conditions.  You already start to see this, where users call in to their favorite radio station and report traffic snarls.  These users are effectively reporting real time data using their cell phone's voice channel.  This data gets transmitted to interested parties (via the radio station), and traffic congestion is somewhat ameliorated!

Since 1999, I have been pitching what I consider a killer mobile data application.  Variously called "Celebrity Stalker", "Club Finder", or "Soup of the Day", this application allows users to submit information about the current state of their physical environment.  See Britney Spears on the street, hit a button on your phone, and WHAM! paparazzi take pictures of her driving clutching her baby on her lap.  What club should I go to tonight?  Where is the best music, the best looking crowd?  If I could see a short film of the inside of the club right now, I'd pay for it, rather than pay a cover to an empty dance hall.  What restaurant has the best specials today?  Indeed, allowing users to submit information about the current state of their environment is powerful.

And, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Don't tell me the club is slammed.  Why should I believe you?  Let me see it!  Don't tell me Angelina Jolie is in the restaurant.  Perhaps you're the owner and want to drum up business.  Show me a picture of her sitting in the corner, and that's good for business!  In Drivers For Video I discussed some of the key benefits of adding video to a communication, such as verifying the truthfulness of data.  In doing so, I also discussed when video adds this value.  I also discussed the same points for mobile applications, and showed the overlap between the two.

But the application of short mobile video clips extends beyond the ideas presented.  Media associations would be interesting in buying the right mobile content.  News agencies (TV news, or Internet) would want to show an interesting video clip of something that just happened.  Or to have the first clips of an event, before the high quality, but less timely cameras arrive on the scene.  Shows which show funny home videos would now have more material, more spontaneous material, with higher laugh value.  Adult media can get more "wardrobe malfunctions" for their audiences.

The business strategy for such a plan would involve signing up people who want mobile video submissions.  The technology would give mobile users a way to send their phone videos to those interested media houses.  The IP would be the metadata in the submissions and user databases.  It would also involve the ability to accept videos from a variety of mobile networks, from a variety of phone types, even from cameras and camcorders downloaded to users PC's.  Some may be MMS, some may be web posted, some may go to email boxes, etc...  Our software would collect the video submissions, date and time stamp them, add a security watermark, and pass them along to the media houses.  If the media houses wanted to use the video, or wanted more information about the video, they would contact us.  We would broker that exchange.

I believe the challenge is finding the right media house willing to pay for videos they use.  If there were a real promise to make money from an interesting video clip, users would submit their videos.