The Long and Short of Mobile Video

For mobile video, the time is now.

Nielsen Mobile reports 2007 saw a 198 percent increase in mobile video revenue, and a 155 percent increase in mobile video subscribers. While impressive, the company also reports that this is only a 3.6 percent share of the entire mobile market. eMarketer projects mobile television subscribers alone will number 462 million by 2012. With better video delivery platforms, faster connections, and flat-rate mobile video plans, are we finally ready for mobile video?

To adequately answer this question, it’s imperative to investigate what’s required for a pleasant mobile video experience.

Mobile devices are everywhere; they’re in pockets and purses across the world. But when a user is experiencing downtime (en route, on-hold, waiting in line) it becomes obvious that cell phones are simply not entertaining. No one ever casually scrolls through their contacts to kill time, or changes their display settings when they have nothing better to do. That’s not entertainment. This downtime is when mobile video can easily fit into peoples’ lives.

Both long and short lulls must be addressed, but to start capitalizing on these entertainment gaps we should first focus on the shorter intervals. Mobile content should be short and sweet, and provide users with the option of continuing the clip if time permits (i.e. if their doctor’s running late or they hit traffic during a cab ride). I foresee mobile video content being between :30 and 3:00 in length.

Advertisers should take note of the need for short video as it’s a digression from the lengthy content on the Web and television. Marketers shouldn’t assume they can use 30 seconds of a 3 minute clip for their message.

Another reason short mobile videos will be the preferred format is the back cramp you get when watching movies on your iPod. I spend more time attempting to focus on such a small screen than I actually do watching the movie. The same applies to mobile platforms. It isn’t comfortable to be hunched over a cell phone, squinting in an attempt to focus on moving images. I favor short videos. Not to mention the face phone batteries will last a great deal longer if long streaming video clips aren’t downloaded too often. Current cell phone technical capabilities of also favor professionally produced video. On small screens, blurry, user-generated videos only look worse.

Taken together, this means that to be most effective, mobile video content must be high in quality and short in length. Right now, news outlets are best equipped to handle these inherent constraints. News content (including sports, business and politics) can easily be produced on a professional level. TV stations are well-versed in creating succinct, relevant messages.

On the mobile advertising front, in-stream ads won’t work well on mobile platforms due to size restraints. Pre-roll video ads will have to be extremely short, :05-:10 maximum, in order to have a place in mobile advertising. As mentioned above, users won’t take kindly to an ad that’s almost as long as the clip itself. One avenue that does have potential to work in conjunction with mobile video is a post-roll follow-up. Utilizing text messaging, advertisers can send viewers a text ad related to the video content they just viewed.

As we’ve seen with online video advertisements, marketers need to retool their advertisements for each advertising channel. Better yet, ads should be created with a format in mind to ensure the length, content, and audiences are taken into account. We have the technology in place to make the move to mobile video, but producers and advertisers alike must be thoughtful about how they execute their mobile video plans.

Right now, mobile video is an untapped resource that holds the potential to reach users everywhere. Used correctly, mobile video can become another way for users to interact with their favorite forms of entertainment, sans laptop or TV.

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