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FCW Insider: Government ring tones

One of my favorite blogs -- a DC media blog called Fishbowl DC -- has something called the Fishbowl DC Interview. One of the questions they ask is, "What is your ring tone?" Well, now your answer can be lion, or tiger, or even bear... or Zebra, even.

The Smithsonian's National Zoo is now selling ring tones of various animal sounds -- $2.99 each.

From the release:

Cell phones will soon ring with really wild sounds thanks to a program launched today by Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), the nonprofit partner of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Animal fans can carry the wild with them and support the National Zoo’s conservation and education programs by downloading clickringtones of 25 animal vocalizations, including those made by giant panda Tai Shan and Sumatran tiger Soyono.

The 11 Zoo-animal ringtones also feature an African lion, cheetah, giant anteater, white-cheeked gibbon, golden lion tamarin, Grevy’s zebra, Asian small-clawed otter, and adult giant pandas Tian Tian and Mei Xiang. Other wildlife ringtones, including a gray wolf’s haunting howl and a bald eagle’s high-pitched screeches, are available courtesy of Conservation Calling, a collaborator on the program. The wood thrush, D.C.’s official bird, and the state birds of Maryland (Baltimore oriole) and Virginia (Northern cardinal) are also available.

Animals vocalize to defend territory, attract a mate, signal danger or distress, and for a variety of other purposes. Understanding these signals is vital to understanding animals’ lives and behavior and thus an important aspect of the Zoo’s animal care and research. The vocalizations available as ringtones were recorded by Zoo keepers, scientists, and staff for research projects, educational displays, and specifically for this program.

Shocking enough, ring tones are a big business. The NYT reported last month that there were projections that the ring tone business was predicted to be a $11 billion a year business, but now it is leveling off.

A couple of years ago, there seemed to be no upper limit to the sale — for a couple of euros, or $3 to $4 — of snippets of music that blast out of cellphones. Billboard magazine created a “hot ring tones” chart in 2004 to track their popularity, and at one point in 2005, analysts predicted an $11 billion ring tone business by 2010.

The good folks at Jupiter Research explain why:

"JupiterResearch has significantly tempered its ring tones projections due to the following:

• Prices have declined
• Attempts to reach relatively older demographics have been unsuccessful
• Most new content category growth occurs at the expense of growth of traditional ring tone formats: Young consumers have limited budgets
• Piracy issues and availability of free online content concern many executives, according to interviews conducted by JupiterResearch
• Third-party and pure-mobile players have relatively lower margins on real tones, tending to decrease advertising pressure that had stimulated the market as a whole

So now the sounds of Pandas will have to compete with Spanish king Juan Carlos' face off with Hugo Chavez when the Spanish monarch said to him, a touch irritably, "Why don't you shut up?" That became a huge ring tone hit... in Spain, of course. AT&T just issued its ring tone best seller list.

And... I have been asked to take the Fishbowl DC interview. I just sent it to them, so I'll let you know when it gets published. As an early preview, my ring tone answer:

What's the name of your cell phone ring?

I’m a gadget guy, so I’ve downloaded a few on to my iPhone. Right now, I’m using Elvis’ “A Little Less Conversation” – JXL remix version, to be precise, but I may soon move on to Madonna singing “Hung up” (cute, hmmm?)… Nina Simmon’s “Sinnerman” (the Felix Da Housecat’s remix).

Now, I guess I'll have to change that to... Zebra... or Hyena.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Jan 14, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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