Mobile mania

Lisa Napoli May 15, 2006

Reporters and photographers crowd around Paris Hilton at the Gameloft booth at E3 in Los Angeles

Paris Hilton at the Gameloft booth at the E3 show in Los Angeles.

Photos by Lisa Napoli, Marketplace

KAI RYSSDAL: The telecommunications news of late has been about the calls we make. The Bush Administration is buying phone-company records, building the world’s biggest database. ABC News reports today the White House is tracking phone calls reporters make, trying to stop leaks. But let’s consider phones themselves for a minute. Cell phones, in particular. 213 million of us have one. Wireless is a $123 billion usiness in the United States alone. Marketplace’s Lisa Napoli looks at the rush to turn the mobile phone into something more.

LISA NAPOLI: What attracted the biggest crowd at the video game expo E3 last week wasn’t a cyborg or a new, tricked-out console. It was that woman who is famous for being famous.

SPOKESWOMAN: Without any further delay, please welcome Paris Hilton.

PARIS HILTON: Hi, everybody. Thank you all for coming. You can download the game in June.

The game Paris Hilton has licensed her name to is called Jewel Jam. It’s built specifically for your mobile phone: you move tiny virtual gems around on the screen to reveal her picture. These days, Hollywood is interested in more than the big screen. There’s a frenzy of deal-making that’s focused on the very tiny screen of your cell phone. Even powerhouse talent agency William Morris has set up an entire division devoted to this new kind of media.

Now, it’s not just celebrities selling their names and likenesses to games. And it’s not just game-playing fans of heiresses producers are after. . . . Sprint wants to attract those looking to slim down with this mobile nutrition service called My Food Phone. It costs ten bucks a month. You snap pictures of everything you eat with your phone’s camera, e-mail them in to a registered dietician, and then he sends you back a video critique:

MY FOOD PHONE ADVISOR: Hi Pamela, it’s Jason with your first analysis. Well, your meals are good and healthy, but they’re rather small and that might be responsible for your snack cravings.

Those who like their entertainment beefier can sign up to get the new World Wrestling Entertainment “Slam of the Week” delivered to their phone . . .

[Sound from wrestling clip audio: “U-MAG-A”]

. . . as well as important headlines:

WRESTLING AUDIO: The 350-pound Samoan wrecking machine, Umaga, nearly decapitated the Nature Boy on Raw the night after Wrestle Mania . . .

At this gathering of people eager to cash in on mobile mania last week in Los Angeles, marketer Gail Conn said the rush to launch new products and do deals is reaching the level of a frenzy.

GAIL CONN: Everybody and their grandmother is getting into the space of doing more mobile, even old-world companies like the Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. Everybody’s trying to figure out what I need to do.

Conference organizer Mark Freiser says there are shades of the dot-com mania of 10 years ago in all this.But he says companies are trying to be more strategic this time around:

MARK FREISER: You see a sort of a gold rush, but there’s a gold rush where you see there’s actually some gold in the mines or the fields or the river, or whatever you want to say. At the end of it all if you get the right content and the right deals — and you know how to market — you might be able to make some really good money.

That’s what everyone’s hoping these days. Even someone like Paris Hilton, who doesn’t really need any more cash.

In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

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