Discovery: on-deck or off?

For mobile content players, discovery is the big challenge. How do you get people to experience your .mobi for the first time?

Do you get your content on to the operator’s portals (‘on deck’)? Do you go direct, and help people to find and enter your URL on their own (‘off deck’)? A combination of both?

An informal survey among the mobirati indicates that the US market is about 30% off-deck and 70% on-deck while the European market is the reverse. Any thoughts about why this should be the case are welcome.

A basic principle: if you’ve got a great brand and/or a direct line to your audience, you’ll get a lot of mileage off-deck. If you don’t, the operators can dramatically drive down the cost of discovery (even when you factor in the revenue-share).

Derek Van Nostran, of The Weather Channel Interactive , says that made a conscious decision to go directly to consumers, even though they value what the operators bring to the party. As a result, their off-deck page views are growing exponentially.

Adam Ritter, of MLB Advanced Media, says that discovery is a bit easier with Major League Baseball – their name is their URL and they’ve got a range of ways to get it into people’s minds (including campaigns in ballparks). ‘Once they discover the site, they come in droves,” says Ritter. launched in 2005, working with the operators (getting into the sports sections of Sprint, Verizon and AT&T) to catapult themselves forward.

Both use mobile search as a key traffic driver. “It’s a no-brainer,” says Van Nostran, “The low-hanging fruit”.

As mobile users get more comfortable with the mobile web, expect off-deck pages to grow. But that doesn’t mean there won’t always be a place for the operators and their high-traffic decks.

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