Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Went to Mobile Monday. Saw some mildly interesting presentations, including one by a reassuringly competent person from Tele2's head office called Josep Nolla. Properly underscored the lamentable fact that Estonians, on the whole, cannot do public speaking for the life of them.

The three main mobile operators in Estonia have joined forces for mobile advertising, offering a joint package - you can buy banner space on all of their WAP portals from a single source. It's expensive, 400 EEK for a thousand impressions; they're claiming a clickthrough rate of 2% to 7%, and a conversion rate of up to 25%, which means you will expect to pay about 80 EEK in banner costs to sell a single widget. Fine if you're selling flatscreen TVs, not so much if you're selling train tickets.

The Tele2 bloke showed an interesting case study of targeting people with an SMS campaign, but failed to answer my question satisfactorily. See, when I get text messages, it tends to be for two reasons: either it's a friend telling me something, or the bank telling me some money just arrived. So I tend to give a lot of attention to incoming SMSes. Consequently, I am disproportionately annoyed by SMS spam; and that is only practiced by my carrier. The carrier can afford to do mass text campaigns, because texts have the highest margin per cost of any mobile service. To Tele2, it's just 160 bytes of data sent to my handset. To anyone else, it's 2.50 EEK per mailing. SMSes have the exact same barrier that is considered to be the only effective (if theoretical) solution to spam: micropayments per message. Not too much trouble for individuals, but prohibitive to spam networks sending out millions of messages at a time.

The panel's answer was that the user alienation factor can be overcome with targeting - sending me only promotions I'd be genuinely interested in; but my rebuttal to that is, in that case, why is he, mr. Nolla (being Tele2), still spamming me with rock concert tickets?

The other issue is that WAP sites are getting more and more elaborate - which is fine, 3G network speeds make browsing rich sites acceptable, but the bastards are still metering traffic. If Tele2/EMT/Elisa want to show me banners, and funnel me to promo websites, and then charge me for the privilege of downloading their banner to my phone, they're taking the piss. But apparently we'll see proper flat-rate data added to operators' plans within next year. Inshalla.

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