Mobile CPMs: High Now, Going Down

We get questions about mobile CPMs and ranges. The answer is that "it depends" on the network, the campaign and other variables. However the general range in our survey is $20 to $40, with rates going as high as $120 or more in a couple of outlying cases.

At the IAB mobile show the following was said: There’re a lot of inflated CPMs—anywhere from $25 to $125, which is “completely unsustainable.” In general, Bader sees CPMs ranging from around $7 or $8 to $35. You’re not seeing the $70 CPMs you were seeing a few years ago.”

One big network reportedly just cut rates across the board, which will put downward price pressure on others.

GOOG411 and Ubona Offer Voice Search in India

In what it characterizes as a "trial", Google is offering voice search on a toll-free phone line that is accessible in Hyderabad, India (population 10+ million). Callers to 1800-41-99-99-99 reach live operators who provide information on local business and movie showtimes. As with the GOOG411 service in North America, callers are also offered the option to be connected directly to the local business for free and Hyderabad residents will also be possible for users to request this information through SMS.

Like so many voice search services these days, this offering is characterized as a way to gauge user preferences and refine the service before a full-fledged launch.

In a realated story coming out of India, Bangalore-based Ubona Technologies scored Series A funding to help subsidize further development and marketing of a phone-based voice search service for "foodies" in Bangalore. Its patent pending speech recognition software claims that its differentiator is the ability to recognize utterances in various local dialects.

Its Web site exhorts visitors to call the toll-free, automated service at 080-40700000. It says that caller can "just say ‘Mainland China' to get connected to [the restaurant called] Mainland China, or to get their address and phone number." Callers can be connected for free and then "Go on...reserve a table, order a takeaway, or just check out the menu."

Up next for Ubona, according to its Web site is voice search of Automotive, Entertainment, Fashion, Healthcare, Hospitality, Travel & Leisure, Beauty & Wellness, Banking & Financial Services, Insurance and Real Estate.

Limited Interest in Social Nets -- For Now

According to comScore, 132 million people visit a social networking site every month, spending 3.5 hours per month per visitor. That represents about 69% of the total US Internet population. One would thus anticipate that this behavior will translate into mobile. Yet early survey work indicates barriers to adoption.

A recent Vodafone-sponsored study has generated results that are broadly consistent with we found in our study of mobile social networking in North America with Multiplied Media. The Vodafone study was conducted in the UK by ICM Research in May and June of this year as part of a larger, omnibus survey (n=709). The survey was conducted by telephone.

Here are the top-level findings:

  • 94% of respondents who used the Internet had mobile phones
  • 43% of this group used their mobile phones (at any point) to access emails and websites
  • 24% had visited social networking sites on their mobile phones
  • 7% visited social networking sites via mobile phones on a daily basis

Demographic differences:

  • 18-24 year olds were most active in mobile social networking: 20% used mobile devices to visit social networking sites daily; 37% among this group checked email daily (on mobile phones) and 32% visited mobile websites
  • 25-34 year olds: 11% used mobile devices to visit social networking sites everyday

Cost was the greatest deterrent to those who didn't access social networks on mobile phones; but this goes beyond social networks alone to all manner of mobile Internet access and activity.

Below are some sample slides from the mobile social networking study we developed (2008, n=1,022). Only 6% of respondents currently accessed social networking sites (mostly Facebook and MySpace) on their mobile devices.

Barries

Reasons

Note: small base

Beyond cost, which is present in our study and the UK study as a barrier to mobile social networking, our study reflected a lack of interest or perceived need: "generally not interested, no need."

But how does one reconcile these findings with the previously reported data from both Vodafone and Opera.

Vodafone (May, 2008):

Top 4 searches on the Vodafone Mobile Internet (VMI) (ranked by most searched first)

  1. Facebook
  2. Bebo
  3. eBay
  4. Windows live Hotmail

Top 10 mobile internet sites on VMI (ranked by most visited first)

  1. Facebook
  2. Google
  3. BBC
  4. MSN
  5. Bebo
  6. Sony Ericsson
  7. Yahoo
  8. MySpace
  9. Windows live Hotmail
  10. YouTube

Opera (May, 2008):

Top 10 sites in the US (per Opera):

  1. www.myspace.com
  2. www.google.com
  3. www.mocospace.com
  4. www.yahoo.com
  5. www.facebook.com
  6. www.live.com
  7. www.hi5.com
  8. www.wikipedia.org
  9. www.itsmy.com
  10. www.ebay.com

Top 10 sites in the UK (per Opera):

  1. www.facebook.com
  2. www.google.co.uk
  3. www.live.com
  4. www.bebo.com
  5. www.mocospace.com
  6. news.bbc.co.uk
  7. uk.yahoo.com
  8. www.itsmy.com
  9. www.faceparty.com
  10. www.ebay.co.uk

These Vodafone and Opera data are behavioral data. But there's also reason to trust the UK and LMS surveys. The discrepancy can perhaps be explained by the "early adopter" nature of the Vodafone and Opera browser users. They are potentially a leading indicator of the potential future popularity of social networking on mobile devices.

Cultural factors will likely drive social networking on mobile devices; when the person on your left and on your right are doing it you'll be similarly inclined. Until that time, cost considerations and a lack of need or urgency will likely keep the mass of mobile users from tapping mobile social networking.

Olympics a Big Opportunity for Mobile Marketing

It remains unclear whether marketers and NBC will seize the "Olympic moment" to mainstream mobile marketing. I'm skeptical. But clearly fans will be tapping mobile resources (WAP, SMS) to check results and standings. Nielsen Mobile (via Fierce Wireless) has found strong interest in access to Olympics coverage and results on mobile:

What information do users want on the mobile internet?

US mobile users:

  1. Event Results (66.3%)
  2. Medal Counts (44.3%)
  3. TV Schedule (43.7%)

UK mobile users:

  1. Event Results (73.5%)
  2. Read Articles (37.4%)
  3. Medal Counts (34.2%)

On the desktop, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Live Search have created shortcuts and special "onebox" features to efficiently showcase the medal counts and standings. Yahoo has also developed a mobile site (as well as SMS alerts) to provide coverage to mobile users:

Picture 5

Note the Visa banner, which when clicked leads to this site:

Picture 6

The near-term growth for mobile marketing and advertising will come in the form of "mobile response" or other mobile tie-ins with traditional media (e.g., TV, newspapers, magazines). The benefits of this are more self-evident to advertisers and there are fewer questions about reach, analytics, etc.

It will be interesting to see how much mobile is referenced or otherwise promoted by NBC and/or its sponsors during the games. I'm guessing not much. If not, however, it will be a missed opportunity given the huge audiences that are expected to tune in.

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NBC does have a mobile site for the Olympics it turns out:

The NBC Olympics Mobile website will enable Olympic fans to get real-time access to NBCOlympics.com content wherever they are. The NBC Olympics Mobile website currently offers top Olympic headlines, news for every Olympic sport, exclusive videos, slideshow galleries, profiles of Team USA, and other feature content. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the NBC Olympics Mobile website will also offer live results and schedules, medal counts, and detailed TV and online listings for NBC Olympics programming. Mobile users will also be able to watch video highlights, vote in daily polls, and sign up for alerts.

NBC mobile site

Here's the "alerts" screen:

Alerts

When Will Mobile Be Mainstream? It Is With 'Gen Y'

Forrester's latest demographic research contrasts technology usage and adoption among "Gen X" and members of "Gen Y." Those in Gen Y are currently 18-28 years old, while Gen X are 29-42. (A "generation" used to be 20 years.)

The big "takeaway" is that Gen Y is the first "native online population." That means technology and the Internet are more central to their lives that previous generations, even Gen X.

Here are some of the characteristics of the group according to the Forrester research:

  • Gen Y is online more hours than its members watch TV (this is the first group to do so)
  • Just over 80% of Gen Y members own mobile phones
  • 72% of Gen Y mobile phone owners are SMS users
  • About 20% access the mobile Internet at least monthly

In another "generation" we'll see some of these numbers grow higher, even mobile phone penetration and especially mobile Internet access. Data plan penetration will likely drive more mobile Internet and a further erosion of landlines. We may even see mobile become the primary Internet access vehicle for some number of users.

LiMo Reaches Out to Google, Google Demurs

The Mobile LinuxWorld conference, covered by both InternetNews and InformationWeek, representatives of the LiMo Foundation appeared to reach out to competitor Android/Google to join forces on a common platform to expedite development and create broader reach. Google, for its part, appeared to resist the call:

"Unification for the sake of unification is not the path we decided to go down," [Google's Eric Chu] said during a panel discussion of the mobile marketplace at the LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco. "In the end, what matters most is what consumers are looking for. But having too many people on the design phase, especially early on, would have hurt the project. You could have three different user interfaces and a couple of application layers. That doesn't make sense."

LiMo already has a range of phones from Motorola, LG, Panasonic and others in various markets today. Android phones are supposed to be out (from T-Mobile, HTC) by the end of this year.

There are a number of overlapping members in both the LiMo Foundation and the Open Handset Alliance.

Sprint Spins Quarterly Loss

U.S. number three carrier Sprint released Q2 results. Losses continued but the company suggested that things were stabilizing:

  • Stable post-paid ARPU, driven by the success of Simply Everything with high value customers, and lower operating expense drive $87 million sequential improvement to Consolidated Adjusted OIBDA of $2.1 billion
  • Post-paid churn improves more than 45 basis points from 1Q '08, to below 2.0%

Yet:

  • The company served 51.9 million customers at the end of the period, compared to 54.0 million at the end of the second quarter of 2007. The company’s mix of prime customers improved sequentially and year-over-year for new customers and the post-paid base.
  • For the quarter, total wireless customers declined by 901,000, including losses of 776,000 post-paid customers and 250,000 traditional prepaid users, partially offset by gains of 112,000 Boost Unlimited customers and a 13,000 increase in the number of wholesale and affiliate subscribers.
  • At the end of the second quarter, the company served 38.9 million post-paid subscribers, 4.2 million prepaid subscribers and 8.7 million wholesale and affiliate subscribers.
  • Subscribers by network platform include 35.5 million on CDMA, 14.6 million on iDEN and 1.7 million PowerSource users who utilize both networks.
  • In the second quarter, the company added to its device and service capabilities with the launch of the Instinct, the nationwide introduction of four Nextel Direct Connect handsets on CDMA using the EVDO-Rev A network, and the Blackberry Curve. The company also simplified its service pricing and completed its conversion of post-paid subscribers to a new unified billing platform.

(emphasis added).

These continuing subscriber losses compare unfavorably with AT&T and Verizon, which posted subscriber and revenue gains.

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Here's more on the Q2 financial results from Bloomberg.

U.S., EU Moving in Opposite Directions on in-Flight Mobile

The EU has moved toward broad access to in-flight mobile phone usage and related Internet services. However, the U.S. House of Representatives last Friday voted to advance a bill that would “permanently ban” cellphone use on flights in U.S. airspace.

I agree generally that the prospect of dozens of people talking on cellphones might be disruptive, although one could argue it’s no more disruptive than people talking to one another on the plane.

It’s likely that the following situation will now arise on EU-based carriers leaving U.S. airspace: “We’ve just left the United States, you may use your mobile phones.” A compromise position which will likely survive in the U.S. will be “Internet” but not mobile Internet access. (But if access is permitted via laptops how would they prevent VoIP calls?)

American was the first U.S. carrier to introduce in-flight Internet access on selected flights. Others in the U.S., that have announced similar plans are Virgin America, JetBlue and Alaska. Virgin would allow Internet and email access via a console that is part of the carrier’s in-flight entertainment system (”Red”).

Eventually all major U.S. carriers will probably offer Internet but the question is: will it be available in coach or only business class?

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Delta just announced that it will offer broadband on its full fleet.

Checking in with ChaCha

A post on TechCrunch yesterday suggested ChaCha was cutting the pay rate of its human guides to save costs as a prelude to “implosion.” When I had last spoken to ChaCha the company had presented a very different picture so I decided to investigate and contacted co-founder Brad Bostic.

Bostic told me that ChaCha had been seeing near triple digit growth in query volume and that the company was beginning to introduce advertising, having done a successful mobile campaign with Coke around MyCokeRewards in connection with a Nascar event. He also said ChaCha was gearing up for mobile commerce.

Regarding the compensation of guides, Bostic said that the company was trying to improve the compensation of efficient and successful guides and do the opposite with those who weren’t performing. He told me this was just another step in an ongoing process of refining their compensation.

Based on my history of conversations with Bostic and dealings with ChaCha I have no reason to doubt the veracity of what he’s telling me. But if one was a skeptic one might want additional, “empirical” confirmation of Bostic’s growth claims. I asked the company for some data.

The rest of this post is at Screenwerk.

Shopping Engine TheFind Launches iPhone App

We got time with TheFind CEO Siva Kumar a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of the company's iPhone launch. The company has formally announced its app and it's likely to be a game changer for TheFind, which is a terrific engine but has had limited consumer awareness on the desktop:

TheFind: Where to Shop bridges the gap between online research and offline purchases, enabling shoppers to compare products and pricing -- while out and about -- and ensuring that they find exactly what they're searching for, quickly and easily within their neighborhood. With a comprehensive index of more than 250 million products covering 200,000 store locations, TheFind’s iPhone application aims to be the best resource for savvy shoppers.

TheFind is sourcing local inventory data from Krillion and NearbyNow and will bring that information to the iPhone, together with the phone's location awareness. (Slifter offers a less elegantly presented version of this content.) That means individuals out and about will be able to determine what store near them has the desired pair of Brooks running shoes or the particular flat-panel TV they're interested in.

When they're in store X and it's out of a particular item people will be able to check and see if another nearby store offers the same or a comparable product. There's also nice continuity between the desktop and mobile.

Mobile users are already doing in-store price comparisons on mobile devices and this new iPhone app represents a more complete mobile shopping experience.

TheFind

On the desktop TheFind offers local shopping as well:

TheFind Local

Consistently, consumers use the Internet to conduct product research before buying in local stores. Krillion, Where2GetIt, Shopatron, Channel Intelligence and NearbyNow are creating the inventory data and infrastructure that make possible mobile applications like TheFind and Slifter.

NearbyNow in fact is doing some amazing things with text-based advertising after users reserve products for in-store pick up.

Retail/shopping is a near-term mobile use case and advertising opportunity for obvious reasons. These mobile apps and the supporting inventory data show that product search is just as much a part of "local" as service business lookups.