What no links? How the Oscars, film distributors and news sites are all at sea over mobile

mobiThinking has been on an Oscars-inspired trip to the movies. There are some excellent mobile tools for movie lovers – reviews and trailers that helped us decide what to see, even sites that told us where the film was playing locally and allowed us to book seats. The frustrating thing is it took hours. Hours spent trawling through mobile search and directory sites… and the daft thing is we shouldn’t need to do it.

The problem is many mobile sites don’t provide their customers with links to other useful mobile sites. The Oscars is a perfect example. It’s a story of discovery and utility: the more sites that link to you, the more visitors you will receive; the more helpful sites you link to, the more use you will be to your customers.

The dearth of links is also frustrating the search engines, which use them to help map the mobile Web. See this excellent primer on mobile search from our friends at Medio Systems – a must-read if you want your mobile site discovered.

Nomination, but no award for the Oscars site

m.oscars.com is a nice looking site that fulfils the basic essentials: nominations and winners, each with a thumbnail image and 75 word summary of the plot. There’s also a text alert service for those who need to know first. That’s all well and good, but where’s the value add? The Oscars is about promoting films, so if a viewer wants to find out more, i.e. read a review, watch a trailer or find out where the film is playing near them, why not link to it? It’s all available on the mobile web, but the only link on the Oscars home page is to the ABC home page (the TV network that aired the ceremony).

Many of the big distributors behind the Oscar nominees now have mobile websites, so it’s surprising that m.oscars.com doesn’t link to paramount.mobi, warnerbros.mobi, disney.mobi, or universalpictures.mobi. This is a shame as these sites aren’t straightforward to find with some mobile search engines.

Film distributors in the Slumdog house

On the other hand, we were unable to spot any links from the distributors to the Oscars. Nor to newspaper reviews, trailers – amazingly some distributors’ sites don’t offer trailers for their own movies – or listings/booking sites. Although we did spot the odd link e.g. Paramount links to Amazon for DVD sales and Warner Bros. links to wap.zannel.com for fan chat.

While each distributor site has its highlights, from the film buffs point of view the top performer is universalpictures.mobi. The site offers a summary, photos and trailer from films including Frost/Nixon, though other Oscar nominees, Changeling and Hellboy II, are strangely absent from the site. With other films, though unfortunately not Frost/Nixon, there as link to get tickets, show times, reviews etc from the excellent Forty Three Kix – which is very encouraging.

For the young film fan, disney.mobi is lots of fun with trailers, games and pictures for both WALL-E and BOLT.

The big disappointment from a mobile standpoint is multi-award winner Slumdog Millionaire, distributed by Fox Searchlight, which either has no mobile site or none that can be found with extensive searching. Meanwhile Oscar winner The Curious Case of Benjamin Button can’t be found on the mobile site of either Warner Bros. or Paramount.

Considering the importance of the Oscars and the marketing spend on these box office hits, you might expect more from the mobile efforts of the industry heavyweights. Next year we hope for mobile sites from all the distributors, with more information, trailers, links to reviews, press coverage, listings and of course a reciprocated link to the Oscars.

Being helpful isn’t big news

While being one of the more enthusiastic proponents of the mobile Web, the most news sites also maintain an island mentality. Despite going to town on the Oscars, we didn’t spot a single link to m.oscars.com or the film distributors. Even links to in-house reviews of films – surely every newspaper and broadcaster has reviewed Slumdog Millionaire et al – seem too much to ask.

However, we’re pleased to say, we did find some exceptions. While we didn’t find any Oscar-related news story with links directly to value-added services for film buffs, if you hunt around the sites, you can find them. Though all would benefit from closer integration, we award gold stars to the following:

  • The Envelope , The LA Times’ Oscar site, which links to Forty Three Kix.
  • The Washington Post site, links to The Going Out Guide, seemingly a sister site allowing visitors to search on movies, restaurants, bars and clubs, by zip code.
  • The Metro, the London free newspaper, also gets a gold star for Film Finder at metrofilms.mobi where film buffs can find out more about a movie and where and when it’s playing in their local cinema.
  • Adding value

    The essence of a mobile site is utility. If you want to inspire a visitor to watch Gran Torino etc. tonight please don’t make them search for reviews, trailers, listings, tickets – it’s not fun on a mobile phone – either provide the services yourself or link to sites that do, there are plenty of them.

    Where the establishment is letting down film lovers on the utility front, independent sites such as Forty Three Kix are setting the standard. This is a made-for-mobile site that includes for each film a synopsis, cast list, box-office totals, show times (US only), news, links to reviews – amazingly some of the reviews for Oscar award-winners have already disappeared from some mobile news sites – and trailers. The trailers are available in different formats and sizes to accommodate different phones. Visitors can then find a cinema and book (through a link to Fandango).

    Other mobile sites that the film and newspaper business should look closely at for inspiration and/or link partnerships are fandango.mobi and mobile.movietickets.com. Both offer reviews and the opportunity to locate and book a film at your local cinema (US only). Plenty of sites offer trailers – take mogg.mobi, for example.

    Also keep an eye on the mobile search portals, such as Yahoo and MSM, which are beginning to offer location-based services, which include film listings and information.

    Let’s build bridges

    mobiThinking applauds all organizations that have embraced the mobile Web. So hip, hip hurray for the Oscars and the Golden Globes, boo to the BAFTAs. We’ve yet to hear how many visitors m.oscars.com received, but we’re told m.goldenglobes.org has received an impressive 315,565 visitors since launch in December 2008.

    Hip, hip hurray to Universal, Disney, Paramount and Warner Bros., boo to the rest.

    But mobiThinking struggles to understand the island mentality, do yourselves, your friends and above all your customers a favor: start linking. This will help customers, (and search engines) find you, while improving utility will foster a loyalty in your visitors.

    Do you think more inter-linking between mobile sites, such as the Oscars, distributors, film news and booking sites would be an improvement? Comment below or email editor (at) mobiThinking.com.

  • Essential reading for any site that wants to be found: Putting your mobile site on the map.
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