Carriers Agree on Mobile Best Practices

The top U.S. wireless carriers, along with mobile content players, have collaborated to outline best practices for the promotion of mobile content. The guidelines were released yesterday under the auspices of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA).

The guidelines have been in the works since February, when the MMA set up committees to tackle best practices and ROI metrics for the nascent mobile content channel. Over a year ago, the group released a code of conduct for mobile marketers, but that document was formed without the participation of carriers and was regarded by many as flawed.

The new guidelines establish minimum requirements for wireless messaging programs, including how to approach opt-ins for standard rate subscriptions, double opt-ins for premium programs, and opt-out mechanisms. The standards-setting move comes during a rapid ramping-up period for online content, as wireless carriers and other providers rush to introduce premium video, ringtones, and the like.

“It’s designed to set a basic level of standards around advertising and promotions and around [content programs],” said Jim Manis, global chairman of the MMA. “The revenue stream is growing rapidly. Everybody in the ecosystem wants it to continue. The best way to do that is around a set of rules that provide for a good user experience.”

The MMA’s rules say subscription-based content programs must obtain device-originated opt-in from each subscriber, and that promotional messages must clearly convey the identity of the program sponsor, along with terms of service and opt-out information. Additionally, user opt-in should apply only to the particular program he or she subscribed to.

List owners are discouraged from selling their databases to third parties. This practice can only occur if the content provider: maintains a public privacy policy disclosing its practices, lets users restrict the sale of their information, and obtains prior approval from the carriers. Further, services are not to be promoted as “free” when premium rates apply, according to the document, and the opt-ins of inactive subscribers should expire after six months.

The guidelines mark the first time the top five U.S. carriers, a fiercely competitive group, have collaborated to agree on standards for interactions with mobile users.

“Clearly, [there were] differences of opinion on key issues. However there was a strong desire across the ecosystem to find an understanding for why certain opinions existed, and implement a baseline decision in favor of the consumer,” said Manis.

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