Up a Creek with wireless devices

Columbia TriStar Interactive, AvantGo bring 'Dawson's Creek' site to mobile Internet

It's probably only fitting to find Dawson's Creek in a streaming media venture. AvantGo, a mobile Internet service provider, and Columbia TriStar Interactive, will bring content from the Dawson's Creek Web site to handheld devices based on the Palm and Windows CE platforms, as well as Internet-enabled phones.

"We think Dawson's Creek is a show that can help drive adoption of this technology by teens,''says Tim Chambers, Columbia TriStar director of technology and production. "The price point on a lot of these devices is dropping, and now that we're seeing the migration starting, we want content ready and waiting.''

Chambers says that AvantGo's strength is in the Palm-size form factor but another advantage the company offers is that it can translate content into WAP for cellular phones and other devices.

"Our mantra is, you can design once, deliver to many,'' says Ann Culver, AvantGo director of partners and development. "In general, we're a way to extend any Web site in a mobile fashion.''

Right now, Chambers expects most users to download the content onto their Palm devices through PC cradles, but he thinks the technology is evolving quickly enough that wireless access will show gains in the next year.

"They'll use things like the OmniSky-type modem," he says, "to create a device that can be accessed and updated on the fly."

Culver adds that many users of handheld wireless device are looking for ways to personalize them-beyond being a smaller version of their address book. "They're looking for ways to make the devices more worthwhile in their everyday life, and this content gives them an ability to do that."

It also gives broadcasters a new way to reach viewers. Culver says the service is free to content partners, with one caveat: If the content partner is monetizing the content, it shares the money with AvantGo.

"What this does is give broadcasters a way to let anyone access show information at all times," she adds. "We have, for example, Soap City, and it has a huge following. It allows our users to read up on their soaps on the bus ride home, and they can get daily updates."

AvantGo takes advantage of HTML code, making it easy for content providers to get content ready for the wireless user. "They dedicate a part of the site to us so we know where to go to get the information,'' she says. "It's a simplified area of the site, but it pulls off the same backend systems as the other areas of the site. This allows for us to maintain any dynamic upgrades or updates to the content."

Chambers says that most of the content for the Dawson's Creek channel comes out of a database. "Not all of it is exclusive to AvantGo, so we have a database-generated dynamic publishing system that allows us to publish once to three or four different HTML formats,'' he said. "Each one is designed specifically for the form factor of the device it's on.''