Crazy Frog scapegoat finds solace in porn
If you can't beat them, join them
Every mobile content firm admits that all the money is in porn. But most pin-stripe firms tend to steer clear of the genre. They don't want to upset their respectable customers.
mBlox was one of those untarnished outfits until it got dragged through the mud over the hapless part it played in the Crazy Frog ringtone money grab.
However, now mBlox appears to have nothing to lose, it has decided to go into the porn business.
"We're not strong in adult entertainment because we have gone in other directions, but that is something we want to change," says Andrew Bud, co-founder and executive chairman of mBlox.
Much of the company's business to date has been with straight-laced corporations such as Visa. It handles the transactions for people who want to buy things over their mobile phones. It acted as middle man for Jamba!, the firm ultimately responsible for the Crazy Frog.
The Crazy Frog's system for charging customers was as insistent as its jingle. If you overlooked the small print when you bought the ringtone you could end up paying a monthly subscription - akin to paying royalties for having the irritatingly ubiquitous noise repeat endlessly in your mind.
If in this business you do manage to keep your customers without tricking them you must have something they really want. Internet marketers call it sticky content - stuff that keeps people's attention. It is an idea that web and mobile porn firms make puns about. Porn is particularly sticky.
Those in the mobile porn business try and dress it up with business theories that explain why the mobile porn peddlers are typically so much more successful than their "clean" counterparts. Bud had a stab at a mobile porn conference yesterday evening.
Mobile porn peddlers have an uncanny understanding of their customers' psychology, he said. But those firms selling music, sports clips and ringtones struggle to understand what their customers want.
He overlooked the fact that the primitive urge that causes blokes to oggle women is a little more fathomable than the psychology of fashion. At least he wasn't explicit about it. He doesn't need to be.
"Adult" content firms, as they call themselves, can go through a whole evening of presentations without making any direct references to the dirty end of the business bar a few double entendres. "You all know what I'm talking about," they appear to be saying.
The conference, incidentally, was called "What can the erotic industry teach the mobile content industry?"
The answer is simple: if you want to make lots of money by selling content over mobile phones, concentrate on the (younger) male audience. Show them lots of sucking and fucking, a little bit of anal penetration, perhaps some bondage and uniforms.
The porn industry, Bud said, is more likely to keep its customers because its suppliers treat them well. It is not tarnished by the scams that tempt the purveyors of mainstream mobile content into abusing their customers.
It is, perhaps, more likely that those mobile firms that don't peddle smut have to resort to swizzling their customers because that's the only way they'll make any money.
Indeed, porn is so sticky that start-up mobile technology firms find it hard to escape it if they want to survive their first year of business.
It was a point illustrated well by Bud when he described the difference in ambience between two mobile industry conferences he attended recently: one porn, one mainstream.
The porn conference was "dynamic, exciting and stimulating". The straight gathering, on the other hand, "was like a tomb".
"People talking about how one day they might make money out of mobile content," he added.®