KOLO pushes convergence of cell phones, the Internet

Web-ready phones cell phones able to access the Internet can now get news, weather and sports, financials and movie listings through a service offered by KOLO Channel 8 in Reno.

Users open an Internet connection on the phone, then type in www.8togo.com. Unlike text messaging, it taps into Web site programming that displays compact information rather than standard Web display.

Still, news reports can run up to 250 words, says Dan Watkins, local sales manager and Internet sales director at KOLO. And a weather map shows real time radar - a viewer can click on severe weather, daily forecast, and five-day forecast.

The device uses Wireless Application Protocol programmed by LSN, Inc. of Atlanta.

"We work with phone carriers, and with content providers," says Lee Durham, president of the company whose initials stands for "Local Solutions Network."

As with most media, advertising supports the service launched in Reno about five months ago. Because a cell phone screen is small the display is up to 2 inches wide by 4 inches long the advertising is limited to a logo.

"This is a way to reach the 18-34 demographic market, the missing element in society that media advertisers want," says Watkins.

Nearly 2,500 visitors came to the Reno service in November, says Watkins, which translated into 13,000 page views.

"The numbers really surprised me," he says.

Although the technology can track hits, advertisers pay a flat fee.

To start, Watkins acknowledges, "Sales are going a little slow. It's fairly new. We deal with a lot of advertising agencies. They say, 'It's very interesting, but let's wait and see.'"

So far, cell phone retailers have shown interest, and USA Wireless did a joint promotion with KOLO. Elsewhere in country, says Watkins, advertisers include Toyota.

The contract with LSN was made at the corporate level by Gray Television Inc., parent company of KOLO and 35 other stations.

Nationally, about 30 percent of cell phone owners have a Web ready phone, says Watkins.

Later this year, Local Solutions Network plans to enable cell-phone video, says Durham. That service will also be offered through its network of 100 television stations.

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