GQ is about to push its men's magazine franchise into the quickly growing world of wireless media. On Feb. 27, the Cond? Nast title will announce the launch of a new service called GQ Mobile, providing text messages to readers via their cell phones.
The service, BusinessWeek Online has learned, will be operated in conjunction with m-Qube, a Watertown (Mass.)-based company that has created an infrastructure for distributing music and other media to cell phones (see BW Online, 11/23/05, "Public Enemy's New Wireless Order"). "We think it's going to be such a powerful medium," says GQ marketing director Scott Carliss.
WORDS IN MOTION. The strategy is based on text messaging, an increasingly popular way to send short written messages from one phone to another. Starting in the March issue, GQ readers will be invited to sign up by using their cell phones to send a text message with "GQ" to GQMAG (or 47624).
That number is the "short code" administered for GQ by m-Qube. A short code is like a Web address for cell phones. It's able to receive messages, even though it's shorter than a regular 10-digit phone number.
Once enrolled, GQ Mobile users will start to receive original content developed for the digital mobile service. It may include information about events, private sales, shopping nights, and giveaways. The service will differ from the mobile magazines, or mobizines, that Condé Nast and others are rolling out in Britain, which are focused more on snippets of editorial content and pictures. "This is a business opportunity. It isn't about editorial," Carliss says.
ADDING IT UP. The opportunity is huge. Mobile content is growing, as traditional and nontraditional media companies come on board. Faster cell-phone networks and more powerful devices are driving growth of text messaging, mobile e-mail, and mobile Web applications. Revenue from mobile content generated nearly $17 billion last year, and the market is expected to reach $78 billion by 2007, according to researcher Ovum (see BW Online, 1/16/06, "Old Media's Mobile Future").
GQ sees new ways to market to its audience -- and reap additional advertising revenue in the process. Privately held Condé Nast says GQ has 854,000 subscribers and 4 million readers. Nearly all of them have cell phones, and 89% of those use text messages.
The magazine believes that many readers will take advantage of the voluntary mobile service. M-Qube doesn't sell or share information that users provide, according to Mike Troiano, general manager of the interactive division at m-Qube.
OUT OF THE PICTURE. The service represents a departure of sorts for mobile media, which until recently has consisted largely of ring tones and screen savers, with a smattering of editorial content. That provides "fractured revenue" for cell-phone carriers and content providers but does nothing for advertisers, Carliss says. Text messaging provides a way for advertisers to take advantage of the mobile media, while respecting the current limitations of the tiny screen. "That necktie always is going to look better in the pages of GQ than it does on the cell phone screen," Carliss says.
By using text messages to publicize sales and other events, advertisers have a new way to market ties to the masses, without forcing them to squint at patterns on a tiny screen. And while not every subscriber is likely to opt into the mobile message system, GQ is counting on enough interest in ties, flat-screen TVs, and the other desires of its target demographic to make it a compelling -- and profitable -- new medium.