It looks like the premier US rock and roll magazine, Rolling Stone launched a mobile site back in June. I just learned of its existence when it was added to the Oh! Mobile Directory a couple of days ago. The site certainly hasn't gotten a lot of buzz, I couldn't find any mention of it on Technorati or Google Blog Search. Now that I've seen it I can understand why no one seems to have blogged it - the site is a bit of a disappointment.
For many years the magazine has been using the free subscription service Avantgo as its sole mobile outlet. Avantgo started over 10 years ago as a service for side-loading web content to PDAs - which were not connected devices back then. That original purpose is reflected today in the requirement to create an account to use the service and limits on the number of pages that can be included in an Avantgo channel. Rolling Stone's Avantgo Channel is still around and is one of a handful showcased at avantgo.com/operamini4 that are available without the need to login.
Although it's on the mobile web now, Avantgo isn't really very web-like. Channels are not indexed by Google and Yahoo's mobile web crawlers so discovery is poor. Linking to items in them doesn't seem to work either (the links keep changing). Links are the discovery engine of the web, including the mobile web. So it should be good news the The Rolling Stone is embracing the open mobile web at last. However, the new mobile site is rather disappointing.
Rolling Stone Mobile is at m.rollingstone.com. It has a completely different design than the Avantgo channel. There are a lot more stories but there is also a fatal flaw. Unlike the Avantgo channel, articles on the mobile site are truncated at about 650 characters. The truncation is very obvious as it occurs at random points in the middle of a sentence and is followed with [Go to the rollingstone.com website to read more ]. That "rollingstone.com" is not even a link so even though I'm using a "full-web" mobile browser I can't easily "Go to" rollingstone.com. I would have to type in the url and then search around for the article - useless. This is a step backwards from the Avantgo channel, where the same stories are not truncated. All links are removed from articles on m.rollingstone.com too, including ones that could be internal links to other stories on the mobile site. Links to videos are replaced by static un-clickable images with a picture of a Play button and the words "Play Video" superimposed which is so pathetic it's almost funny.
Come on Rolling Stone, take a look at what works on the mobile web. According to Nielsen, the US mobile news and entertainment sites with the most traffic are m.cnn.com and espn.mobi. In the UK, the top media sites on the mobile web are BBC News, BBC Sports and Sky Sports. All five of these media outlets put virtually their entire online content on the mobile web without truncation and with working internal links. The Nielsen numbers, which are consistent with other mobile traffic metrics I've seen, make it clear that users prefer sites delivering full and complete articles, including long format pieces, over truncated story teasers or "made for mobile" article summaries. Rolling Stone magazine and rollingstone.com on the web do a great job of capturing the excitement and vitality of the music scene with great writing, photos and video. I just wish that Rolling Stone would stop treating the web on mobile phones as a toy platform and delivering that great content on m.rollingstone.com too.
Ratings: Content: Usability:
Mobile Link: m.rollingstone.com
Ready.mobi score: 4 (Good)