Why MMS is dead for mobile content delivery

I was on a panel about mobile content at the mobile youth conference recently in Barcelona, and happened to ask the audience (mostly mobile operators) if anybody believed that MMS had a future in delivering mobile content (rather than peer-to-peer usage). Surprisingly for me, I could find nobody to support MMS for content delivery – whereas a year ago, many mobile operators would have said it did have potential or were investing in MMS for premium content delivery.

This accords with my view. Message based delivery content is less successful for Content Providers for three fundamental reasons:

1. There’s no easy way to know the capabilities of teh target device when preparing a message. The provider has to take a lowest common denominator approach to the content they deliver. In the WAP model, where they send a link to teh content page and the user’s device accesses the web site, the CP can optimize content delivery to the device type, giving the more data hungry customer with a better device a very good experience.

2. Marketing is expensive with messaging services and it’s hard to build customer loyalty. In the browse-and-buy model, we see a 46% user return rate versus only 18% for messaging services. User spend per visit is up to 50% higher for 3rd party content delivered through a mobile internet site versus the one-shot messaging delivery approach. Content providers prefer the browsing model (which I assume is better for carrier data revenue….) because it’s a better brand experience and users can bookmark favorite sites.

3. Users prefer to pay for services through a WAP site presentation. The charges are much more transparently presented to the user at the time of purchase and there isn’t the over-reliance on “small print” in the initial advertising. In short, there are fewer customer purchase problems to deal with.

Content providers in Europe dropped MMS as a viable content model in favor of WAP browsing. MMS is used in certain contexts for alerts and some outbound marketing, but almost all 3rd party providers now use the mobile internet for their core content services.