Will the Revolution in Mobile Search be Televised?

Back in 1970, Gil Scott-Heron predicted, “The revolution will not be televised.” If you want to verify this for yourself, then conduct a mobile search on your wireless phone. Or, while you’re waiting for tonight’s game to start, check out one of today’s top news stories.

In what appears to be a U.S. industry first, CBS Mobile has just announced that it is teaming up with Medio Systems to add mobile search capabilities and search advertising opportunities to CBS Mobile websites. Under the agreement, Medio Systems will provide CBS Mobile users with the ability to easily search and navigate content on CBS Mobile News, CBS Sports Mobile, and CW Mobile websites.

Why is this announcement “the shot heard round the world” of mobile search?

For starters, it signals the opening salvo in a revolutionary war to deliver easy-to-access mobile content to a growing mobile Internet audience that is projected by eMarketer to exceed 750 million users worldwide by 2010.

According to a recent report on the behavior and attitudes of wireless phone subscribers by comScore Networks, news and sports are among the top five reasons for accessing the Internet from a wireless phone:

Top Reasons for Accessing the Internet from a Wireless Phone
(Among those who subscribe to Wireless Internet Option)
October 25, 2006 – November 1, 2006
Feature Percent of Users
Email 44%
Ring Tone Downloads 35%
Weather 34%
News 29%
Sports 25%
Local Search (i.e. YP) 24%
Game Downloads 21%
Travel Information 19%
Wallpaper Downloads 16%
Directory Assistance 15%
Financial Information 10%
Pay Bills 10%
Shopping 6%
n = 290

Source: comScore Networks Wireless Report

Among the consumers who subscribe to the wireless Internet option, 44 percent cited email as their primary reason for having online access through their wireless phones. In addition, 34 percent went online for weather information, 29 percent for news and 25 percent for sports updates, indicating that the secondary reason consumers access the Internet via their phones is to get timely information.

Last week, Barry Chu, the General Manager of Advertising at Medio Systems, briefed me on today’s announcement. Prior to joining Medio, Chu spent three years at Yahoo, where he was responsible for building Yahoo’s Content Match network into a multi-million dollar revenue stream.

During the briefing, it became clear that Medio understands the nuances of a mobile experience, and how it’s drastically different than performing a search on a PC. Not only do users want quick access to answers or content in the fewest number of clicks, they also want relevant content that is optimized for their phone’s screen.

And, based on today’s announcement, it appears that CBS Corporation, a mass media company with constituent parts that reach back to the beginnings of the broadcast industry, also has great insight into mobile consumption and a clear vision for extending brand loyalty beyond The Tiffany Network’s television, radio, and other media entities.

As Cyriac Roeding, executive VP of CBS Mobile, noted, “When users search their favorite sports team on their cell phone, they want a very different search result than they would online. For instance, on their small screen, they might want a quick snapshot of the latest scores, injuries, news and gossip about the club. This is the kind of experience we will be providing within CBS Sports Mobile with Medio Search.”

There’s another reason why today’s joint announcement by CBS and Media could be considered revolutionary.

Today’s announcement with CBS marks the official launch of Medio Search for Publishers, an advertising-supported search solution that is optimized for the mobile experience. The Medio Mobile Search platform is currently used by Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Telus Mobility.

Additionally, through Medio, advertisers can reach and target audiences based on search behaviors across Medio’s network of mobile search partner sites such as the CBS properties and other participating search advertising partners – making Medio MobileNow one of the largest aggregated mobile search advertising networks in the United States.

The partnership also expands the wide-ranging menu of advertising options CBS mobile offers its clients.

According to Chu, the Medio Search Solution on CBS mobile sites will go live in Q4 of this year. While CBS sports video and CBS news video clips probably won’t be available at the initial launch, the partners have “aggressive plans to build out the mobile ecosystem.”

So, will today’s revolutionary developments in mobile search rate even a brief mention on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric? I don’t think so.

As Scott-Heron predicted, “The revolution will not be televised.”

But within a couple of months, you’ll be able to conduct a mobile search on your wireless phone and easily navigate content on CBS Mobile News, CBS Sports Mobile, and CW Mobile websites. And that will be revolutionary.

Greg Jarboe is the president and co-founder of SEO-PR, a search engine optimization and public relations firm. He is also the news search, blog search and PR correspondent for the Search Engine Watch Blog.

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