Furthermore, FoneBlog allows users to personalize their expression in a richer way than can be achieved purely with a mobile phone. Also critical is ease of use. Service subscribers merely post to an address or number, without having to become embroiled in Web site design or other technical issues that a PC-based blog would present. However, such design is open to users should they prefer, and the nature of blogs allows users to drop into an Internet café for a quick 15-minute clean up of their site, if desired. From the all-important operators point of view, a number of must-haves are achieved with relatively little fuss. First, having the virtual equivalent of thousands of customers "shoeboxes" of photos stored raises barriers to exist, and increases stickiness of services. Billing for services, expected to target the 2-5 per month range, can be posted to the mobile bill. Equally as important is ease of provision. Under NewBays model, operators can throw the switch and cut on phone blog Web addresses for all customers pretty easily, putting the service under the nose of users, rather than dragging them to set it up themselves a must-have if take-up is to be stimulated.Additionally, young Europeans, if one can generalize so, are taking a few leaves from their American and Japanese counterparts sharing information and carrying on social activities via mobile phones almost as intensively as Japanese youth, but becoming more self-promotional as their American counterparts are. Phone blogging allows both, and with the proper model, can drive the creation of the type of personal portals that ISPs envisioned in the late 90s, but that proved elusive due to lower PC penetration among this more communicative demographic. Communities of interest, strong on a social level but not as well developed in the Web sense as among their older, PC-owning counterparts, can be developed online via phone blogging as well. Again, without having to own a PC, users can start their own sites about favorite pop stars (imagine the star-spotting potential), sports teams, or political issues. Personal reportage, in effect, really goes mobile, and is available to the masses. With summer coming, opportunities for stimulating promotional use abound. With music festivals, outdoor clubbing, and sun-soaked getaways always in vogue for the European summertime, photo competitions, personal journals, location and event reviews all set the stage for a potential blogging bonanza. However, that opportunity needs lead time to develop, and so far only a few operators in Europe are offering any good toys to use MMS for, let alone a convergence application like blogging by phone. Scott Smith is Managing Partner of Cumulus Research Partners, a London consulting firm that specializes in helping companies understand the social impact of new technologies.
While SMS and MMS services in the U.S. have not taken off with a bang, social and technological trends in Europe make it a prime market for FoneBlog-like applications. The concentration of personal IT spending around mobile phones in Europe, and not PC-based Internet or digital cameras, has firmly fixed the mobile as the long-term platform of choice among the key MMS demographic: the youth market.