“But he has nothing on at all,” said a little child at last.

“Good heavens! Listen to the voice of an innocent child.”

Hans Christian Andersen, The Emperor’s New Clothes

Famous Russian physiologist and Noble Prize winner Ivan Pavlov taught the world about the conditional reflex that penetrates us with its urges to act. Unfortunately, many Russian mobile content providers have decided that one of the basic conditional reflexes works best for bringing new mobile technology to the craving youth. And this technology is as old as the world. To me it seems disturbing that among TOP-20 Russia’s most popular WAP resources, erotic content remains the king. The most frequently used words in Russian WAP searches is “porno”– in October 2006 this word accounted for some 42.9% of all searches. Everyone from providers and operators to consulting agencies indifferently acknowledge this, seeming to pay no attention to its unmeasured negative value on the whole generation.

On the one hand, it is easy to blame mobile content providers only. After all, adult/erotic content brings them tremendous revenues. And I think that a good portion of that blame indeed, lies on their shoulders. On the other hand, this trend, the very fast success of erotic content offering in Russia, clearly demonstrates that the level of culture among Russian youth (the main consumer of this type of content) is in sharp decline. From reading Russian classics in the Moscow metro and Gorky Park in the Soviet days, the descendants of Dostoevsky and Pushkin, Tolstoy and Gogol are slurping the chicken soup of the new dirty mobile manna — no need to think, time to play… If you open almost any Russian mobile content provider’s web/WAP page, you will see a large variety of this type of content.

And of course, it is happening not only in Russia. My opinion, though many mobile content strategists might disagree with me, is that the mobile industry simply follows the simpler path of development. Burned hard once with the telecom bubble fall, no one wants to take risks anymore. Knowing human psychology, bringing sexual overtones to mobile content will always work, as this is a very down-to-earth formula for success. But what kind of success will this be? Will we be happy seeing our children discovering the nasty world from mobile phones? And everyone is aware that various boundaries can’t possibly prohibit youth before a certain age to get to these sites. These questions are hard to cope with as the nature of business is simple, and profit-driven. However, corporate responsibility, and not just quick sales, must guide some of the future decisions in this industry.

However, not everything is that sad. While the lion’s share of subscribers prefers lousy content, content providers are keen to serve the needs of other mobile customers, including those with values that were prominent in Russia not long ago. Thus, last year INFON announced a contest – “Mobile Showcase” to find masters of graphic content for mobile phones, and invited a famous Russian artist, Nicas Safronov as one of juries of the contest . The mobile provider also has an agreement with the Hermitage on providing content based on some famous authors’ works. Another example – for mobile subscribers in Samara Region, the local mobile operator offers the “Spiritual Interlocutor” service, which allows users to find where the nearest church is located (SMS 030), and what Saint one should pray to for what occasion (SMS 030). The advice of the day, an icon’s gallery and an Orthodox calendar are available as well.

Read more in my new book “Riding the Russian Technology Boom”, [http://www.gidabyte.com]

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