Desperate to get an iPhone 4, but also desperately poor? San Francisco-based blogging platform Posterous can't help you with your cash strapped situation, but it is giving away 25 iPhones to hard-working college kids, plus covering the costs of each phone's two-year data plan.
The catch: must work for technology. The upside: besides getting the gadget completely gratis, it's your in on what appears to be an emerging trend -- mobile blogging. And if you're already an expert on the thumb-numbing exercise, you can keep doing your thing on a new fully-paid-for iPhone 4.
Here's how it works. First, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and explain why you're the best person to represent and promote mobile blogging at your school. Posterous co-founders Garry Tan and Sachin Agarwal will scour through the submissions and select 25 winners based on the creativity and substance of answers and the candidates' previous blogging experience.
If selected, you've got to prove you're a college kid, and then blog at least four or five times a week for Posterous for the rest of the school year. (Consider that second year's data plan a bonus for good work.) Posts from the chosen 25 will be featured on a new college blogger channel on Posterous.
And while mobile blogging is encouraged, it's not required, says Rich Pearson, vice president of marketing for Posterous. All entries are due by Sept. 30. The 25 winners will have their phones, and have to get to work, by Oct. 4.
Posterous users can e-mail or text content for their blog posts to Posterous and the site does the formatting for you. Since you don't have to tinker with layout and heavy editing on a tiny smartphone screen, Posterous is banking on its platform being attractive to mobile bloggers whose numbers have been accelerating on the site over the past six months, Pearson said.
The contest is a way to fuel that growth and spread the word about the site's functionality, particularly amongst college kids, who make up approximately 20% of Posterous users, he said. The bloggers, Pearson hopes, will inspire their teen and '20-something friends and followers to join up.
"Folks do not want to be tied down to a desktop or by any other stationary blogging techniques, particularly younger bloggers," he said. "They're living life and want to share that. Look at the success of Facebook mobile updates. We've seen that, to an extent, with blogging."
Posterous isn't the only place to see a spike in mobile-made blogs. Spencer March, New York-based co-founder of college blogging network College Blender, and a mobile blogger for about a year, says there has been a huge influx of short-form blogging, such as pictures-and-a-caption posts, over the past six to eight months on his site. He believes many of them were created on a mobile device. "[College] students have been blogging their entire lives," March explains. "And a mobile device is always with you ... [Mobile blogging] seems to be a natural extension of their social network."
That's certainly the case for Ryan Brown, a 20-year-old senior at San Francisco State University. Brown's been blogging since he was 13 as a means to communicate with friends. He started mobile blogging a few months ago, and has already sent his submission to become one of Posterous' 25 college mobile bloggers.
"It's instant, and it's so easy to do in this day and age," Brown says of mobile blogging. "If I have an idea, it's a way to get it up as fast as possible. ... It's for when I want information available for others to read as quickly as possible, especially if I'm at an event and I want to share that experience at that moment, as opposed to waiting to get home to blog about it."
While on-the-go communication is a big pro, mobile blogging still has its limitations. "It's not feasible for a college student to write an essay on their phone. It's really inconvenient," Brown said. Editing text on a mobile is also difficult, March said. It's also easier to embed videos on a blog from a desktop than from a mobile device, he says.
As for that desperate money situation, don't count on making any money from mobile blogging -- not yet anyway. "Most of the big money-generating college blogs are focused on specific topics, provide more long-form content, and thus require more research and involvement that can't yet be easily replicated via mobile device," March said.
Brown says mobile blogs, given their infancy, don't generate as much traffic as regular blogs either. "There is not yet a consistent or easy connection between advertisers and mobile bloggers," he said.
But Pearson says mobile blogging can open the door for future paying positions. "For mobile blogging, it seems there is an opportunity to pair with jobs such as trend spotting and journalism," he said. "A mobile blog becomes a part of a student's brand which, if managed correctly, can certainly help them differentiate themselves when they start searching for their first post-college job."
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