Despite the obstacles hindering adoption, there are still those 34 million users going online. What are they searching for? According to Stoller, the information is rudimentary. Web-based email, weather, sports and news are the top four content types people are accessing on their mobile phones.
“To date, entertainment is secondary content,” Stoller says. “Information is the primary reason people are using their phones to go online, and among information, it is time-sensitive information that provides a quick answer to a question or problem that’s driving use.”
For now, content of that ilk is being served up primarily from companies lucky enough to carve out deals with mobile carriers: Weather Channel, ESPN, USA Today and Yahoo! Mail. According to Agarwal, that trend will continue as long as accessing content within the carrier’s online walled garden remains simpler than having to venture outside.
“We’ve all typed on our telephone, and we know it isn’t easy,” says Agarwal. “Users want to find information in the fewest clicks, so whatever is on a carrier’s deck is going to have critical mass. The alternative is that users will punch in a URL and then bookmark it so they can access is easier in the future.”
Online reference company, Answers.com is an “off-deck” site hoping to attract those bookmarks. The content it delivers fits the profile of what people want from a mobile service: answers on-the-go.
“Our site is great for when people have a nagging need for information,” says Jay Bailey, Director of Marketing at Answers.com. “You can be sitting at a bar betting with friends over trivia; on the train taking a first glance at some unfamiliar reports with unknown terms. We make it easy for people to get the same great information they get online, on-the-go.”
HopStop is also confident their content is worthy of a bookmark — at least by urban folks. Based in New York, the mobile site can direct people to the closest subway or bus stop by having them type in their current location. Chinedu Echeruo, HopStop’s CEO, knows that the site is not only informative, but sometimes also critical. He hatched the idea for HopStop soon after he arrived in the Big Apple by way of Nigeria and fumbled his way though the MTA system. The site currently serves public transportation riders in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Chicago and New Jersey.
While these sites have their work cut out for them, Agarwal says that as long as companies serve relevant content within a site that is clean and simple, they should increase traffic over time.
“There is no need to have heavy multimedia on a mobile website right now,” Agarwal says. “The user cares about getting information that is quick and easy. Period.”