Local Search

Nokia Builds Mobile Craigslist for Developing Countries

There have been other mobile classifieds marketplaces but none with the potential heft of Nokia. Craigslist has many associated third party apps on the iPhone that mobilize its listings content; eBay of course has had great success in mobile, to name two big names. 

Nokia has now created Listings, a sales and services marketplace aimed right now at the developing world. It's only available in India during the beta test. 

The downloadable app features several categories of information:

  • Buy & Sell – Find or post items for sale
  • Jobs – Find or post a job
  • Local Services – Access or advertise services such as auto repairs, driver services, plumbers, etc.

The success of such a service is all about penetration and inventory. If lots of people use the service it could become quite successful and potentially generate meaningful revenue on a global basis. User experience is key but more important is getting the listings content into the system so that users show up.

The service is also more likely to succeed in countries where there aren't already established online marketplaces, which means developing nations primarily. Yet if the content is there and the UX is good enough it could potentially compete elsewhere in world, in Europe perhaps.

Why It May Be Time to Buy Skyhook

The news that Skyhook's triangulation data had been replaced on iOS 4 with Apple's own proprietary system is seemingly very bad for Skyhook Wireless. Apple was the company's sexiest and most visible client. I confirmed that had happened last week with founder Ted Morgan.

Here's how the WSJ presented the news this morning:

Beginning with iPhone operating system version 3.2, which was released in April, Apple began using its own proprietary database of WiFi access points to help determine the location of a mobile device. Apple disclosed the change in a July 12 letter to U.S. Rep. Edward Markey and Rep. Joe Barton. The congressmen had asked Apple to explain its privacy policy after the computer maker alerted users in June that it would be collecting location data in order to provide location-based services . . .

The move is a blow to Skyhook, a startup that helped pioneer the practice of mapping WiFi networks to determine location. In 2008, Apple tapped Skyhook to provide WiFi-based location services for the new iPhone and iPod Touch. In the same letter to Congress, Apple also said it has stopped using Google for location data.

But this is also a moment of opportunity for Skyhook and the time may be ripe for an acquisition by a third party. Skyhook arguably has the best location database in the market -- Morgan says so and believes it. It's undoubtedly better than Apple's new system and better than Google/Android (for sure).

Skyhook has raised (by my count) just under $17 million in funding and so would not be terribly expensive for an Apple, a Google, a Nokia, a Samsung or a Microsoft to pick up, given the strategic nature of location on mobile devices. Skyhook's challenge, however, may be the perception that its database can be replicated or recreated with sufficient time and effort. 

Apple is perhaps unlikely to make the Skyhook acquisition given the recent development, so perhaps Google or Microsoft should step up and buy the company. Google would certainly benefit immediately from Skyhook's assets and creativity around location products. I'm not sure Skyhook CEO Morgan would like to be a Google employee but perhaps if the price were right . . .

_____

Update: Another reason to buy the company is that it has 15 patents around location and locaton detection.  

Tellme/Microsoft Executive Joins TeleNav

Former Tellme CEO Mike McCue is off with his new company Flipboard; and mobile navigation provider TeleNav has named former Tellme executive Dariusz Paczuski as marketing VP. It also announced Tom Erdman as enterprise solutions VP. 

Paczuski was responsible for Bing and Tellme carrier strategy at Microsoft. Before that he managed consumer services at Tellme. Prior to Tellme/Microsoft, Paczuski was at AOL running search. He was at Netscape and several other online companies before joining AOL.

Paczuski will be responsible for consumer product marketing and mobile advertising and commerce for TeleNav, which is behind many of the carrier GPS navigation tools and products. TeleNav now has to compete with formidable challenges from free navigation services offered by Google, Nokia and Mapquest.

Shooger Launches PC Site, Aims for Broad Consumer Adoption

In case it isn't clear, deals, coupons and local offers are very hot and will continue to be. The incredible rise of daily deals (e.g., Groupon) and the evolution of Foursquare as a couponing and loyalty platform reflect this. Indeed, deals have emerged as a uniquely popular and critical form of mobile marketing. I previously discussed data showing significant (100% YoY) growth for digital coupons. 

In the iTunes app store alone there are more than 245 stand-alone apps that respond to the query "coupons." And there are well over 100 daily deal providers in the US market. But how many "vendors" can and will the market support?

Historically coupon sites were plagued by an "inventory" problem; there wasn't enough content there to be useful or that interesting to consumers. Cellfire, an early mobile coupons pioneer, was the exemplar of this problem until the company switched to grocery coupons. This was also a challenge with ValPak's PC site as well. Models that emphasize "push" (daily deals, ValPak's blue envelope) require less "inventory" than "pull" (search) models.

For those publishers, apps and sites seeking to build consumer brands and destinations, aggregation of others' deals has become a key strategy. Yipit, RetailMeNot, TheDealMap, 8Coupons and Shooger, among a number of others, are seeking to be one-stop destinations for offers of various sorts from a broad range of sources. Some of these players also seek to cultivate direct relationships with advertisers as well. 

Accordingly, the coupons and deals ecosystem has "sellers" that own the advertiser or are the source of the deal, consumer-facing brands that distribute offers and those entities that try and do some version of both. ValPak does both, so does Groupon, so does Yelp. Google aspires to do both. Google of course is the ultimate, if imperfect, coupon "aggregator" because search is how most people online find deals. And Ask.com has a dedicated deals site.

In the daily deal segment, Yipit is angling to become a "one stop shop" for consumers. It only distributes others' offers. Shooger, which started in Florida and has recently expanded nationally, also seeks to be a comprehensive consumer destination, though it also allows advertisers to create coupons. The site also now crosses platforms. Shooger just launched its online presence after being exclusively a smarpthone app. 

photo

One of our most popular webcasts was on mobile coupons with Shooger and ValPak. And our next webinar will be on daily deals with Yipit and Closely.

While the entire deals segment shows no signs of slowing winners and losers will emerge in the near future -- though many companies on the consumer side (though not hundreds) can succeed. There's a land-grab going on for consumer awareness and usage. Winning sites and apps will need to offer both great content, which means comprehensiveness outside of the daily deals, as well as superior usability -- and probably cross-platform distribution for maximum and brand-building purposes. 

Shooger is taking aim at all three. 

Report: Local Search on Mobile Growing in 'Double Digits'

Data released today by comScore and the Yellow Pages Association show that local search on mobile devices is growing significantly. The data focus on use of directories and IYPs on mobile (and online). Here are the top-line mobile figures:

  • Mobile subscribers accessing business directories on a mobile phone increased 14% year-over-year to 17.3 million users in March 2010
  • People accessing directories on a mobile device at least once per week increased more than 16% YoY growth to nearly five million in March 2010.
  • Mobile browser was the most common access method for users, with 10.8 million subscribers in March 2010 and 21% YoY growth.
  • Apps grew at a more rapid pace with 42% YoY growth (4.1 million subscribers)

http://www.insideyp.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Mobile-Browser-vs.-App-Access.jpg

 Mobile IYP users are more affluent and better educated than the general population: 

  • 58 percent are 34 or younger.
  • Over half have a household income in excess of $75,000.

 Study methodology:

ComScore utilized "both 1) a unique survey sample of over 10,000 U.S. respondents each month, resulting in a sample in excess of 35,000 when running 3-month average reports and 2) a meter-based smartphone mobile browser measurement tool based on a representative panel of approximately 2,500 devices."

ComScore has always been conservative regarding how it defines a "local search." These data too likely undercount activity online and on mobile devices directed toward offline purchases and other local commercial behavior.

The slide above also reflects activity on IYP and directory sites exclusively and doesn't look at search engines or locally focused apps in the aggregate. 

Related: Report: Local & Social Huge on Smartphones

Survey: 36% of Retailers Have Mobile Site, 33% Have Apps, 9% Spending $25M+

A recent Research In Motion-Forbes survey of 305 executives at leading U.S. retailers with $100 million or more in annual revenues showed they were mostly bullish on mobile and moving quickly to adopt it as a key customer retention/loyalty and marketing channel. The chief motivation for "going mobile" was the recognition of customer adoption of mobile devices and the desire to capture a "first mover advantage."

Sixty-three percent of survey respondents indicated they were already in market with some form of a mobile program: "in pilot programs" (39%) or "expanding rapidly" (24%). Ten percent said they had "already widely implemented" mobile and only 7% said they "did not plan to pursue," while 20% responded that mobile was currently "under evaluation." 

Of those using mobile 61% said their efforts were "somewhat integrated" with their other maketing/advertising channels. Thirteen percent said their mobile intiatives were "completely integrated," while 17% reported they were "not at all integrated."

Which of the following statements is closest to your company’s attitude/approach towards development of a mobile channel?

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What mobile tactics are you using today—and plan to be using in one year?

Screen shot 2010-07-28 at 5.21.42 AM

What are the main factors that drive your mobile channel efforts?

 Screen shot 2010-07-28 at 5.21.54 AM

How are your investments in the mobile channel performing to date?

Screen shot 2010-07-28 at 5.23.19 AM

Source: Forbes-RIM (n=305, 4/10)

Recent US consumer survey data from Insight Express found that 82% of respondents were using their mobile devices in the store, while shopping. 

Screen shot 2010-07-07 at 11.19.50 AM

Source: Insight Express, n=1,300 (Q2, 2010)

A considerable number of retailers (47% in the Forbes survey) are clearly recognizing how consumers are interacting with mobile devices and responding rationally. And another contingent (24%) is responding to competition, following those early adopter-retailers into mobile.

Here's what the Forbes survey revealed were the top mobile spending priorities: 

  • Mobile website -- 30%
  • Mobile redemption/coupons/barcodes -- 29%
  • Mobile advertising (display) -- 27%
  • Downloadable applications -- 25%
  • Database development/obtaining customer opt-in -- 25%
  • Proximity marketing (in-store recognition/interaction on an opt-in basis) -- 23%
  • SMS: two-way communication -- 16%
  • SMS: outbound/informational -- 14% 

The bulk of retailers were spending less than $10 million annually on mobile, with the largest single group (34%) spending under $1 million. However 29% were spending at least $11 million and, of that group, 9% were spending $25 million or more. For 66% of respondents mobile represented 10% or less of their total marketing budgets but they expected mobile spending to grow as a percentage of their overall budgets in the next several years.

The "big picture" that emerges from this survey is that retailers so far see mobile primarily as a customer service and retention/loyalty channel and not as much as a new customer acquisition channel. 

Is 'OnTheFly' a Preview of Google Travel App?

The relatively new ITA OnTheFly iPhone app -- BlackBerry and Android are coming -- provides one of the better mobile travel experiences. The catch is you can't book anything directly with the app. You must go to a preferred airline's app/site or call. The company, which Google is in the process of acquiring, says that its mobile app offers a "demonstration of ITA's QPX airfare shopping engine on a mobile app." 

OnTheFly allows side-by-side airline price comparisons, easy airport and date selection and interactive mapping. Should the ITA deal pass regulatory muster the travel comparison app could quickly become part of a more comprehensive Google travel app/tool.

One of ITA's "properties" is Needlebase, which scrapes, organizes and de-dupes unstructured data from the Web. Here's a rudimentary example of its capabilities:

Screen shot 2010-07-27 at 12.30.00 PM

As you can see all sorts of related content and information have been collected regarding the destination city: events, dining, attractions.

While other OTAs and aggregators provide additional information about destinations and vacations, Google's in a strong position to quickly dominate consumer traffic in the consumer travel segment if 1) ITA's purchase is allowed and 2) it packages the presentation of content in an elegant way -- especially with this broader data. 

Ironically, while the former may be a near fait accompli the latter is not. Google's local and mobile properties are proliferating and it will be somewhat challenging to bring all the data, capabilities and interfaces together in coherent ways. 

Thanks to Gary Price for the tip.

Forrester: Wait 'n' See on Foursquare

Forrester, late to the LBS party, tells most marketers to "wait and see" on Foursquare and other LBS apps/sites. The chief complaint is that adoption is not large enough for most large marketers to care and it's a mostly male audience according to the firm's survey data.

AdAge covers the findings:

Almost 80% of location-based service users are male. Close to 70% of them are between the ages of 19 and 35, and 70% have college degrees or higher. Forrester also found these location-app users to be influential . . . and they are especially receptive to mobile coupons and offers . . . This small audience is still attractive to some marketers. Forrester recommends that gaming, consumer electronics and sportswear marketers lead the way with testing these apps . . .

To its credit Forrester does recommend that some brands and marketers go after this audience, which is acknowledged to be populated with influencers. Here's the survey breakdown:

Image credit: AdAge

While the general underlying advice -- marketer know thy audience -- is sound, the danger is that this data and the coverage surrounding it will create a "negative halo" and cause some marketers to think they can "wait another year" before testing and engaging with mobile in general. They cannot.

There are a number of LBS apps and mobile websites focused on local that are mainstream now (e.g., Google, Yelp, Yellowbook). In addition, retailers and brands should be considering mobile loyalty programs (including SMS) and actively testing them today so that later they won't be in the "trial and error phase" -- while their competitors trounce them with innovative campaigns and best practices developed while they hestitated.

Mobile loyalty marketing and mobile brand marketing have have already proven effective and in many cases much more effective than online. (However mobile shouldn't be considered a stand-alone medium.)

Regarding the 4% audience metrics, they could mislead marketers as well. The US mobile Internet is already 75 million people operating at different levels of engagement. With more people buying smartphones daily those numbers may cross 100 million by the end of this year.

There's also value in being able to test campaigns and marketing tactics outside the glare of major media and large public audiences. In many ways these smaller audiences -- still in the millions -- offer a great opportunity for marketers to try and fail and refine their approaches for broader application later. 

CardStar Lets You Check-in at Checkout

CardStar offers mobile users the ability to manage all their loyalty cards from one app. We first wrote about innovative application in March:

Cardstar is a fascinating company that sits at the intersection of offers and deals, which is fast-growing category online, and mobile loyalty marketing which is already very powerful. In terms of the latter category, we ran into Jay Highley, formerly of Tetherball360. We discussed some of the response rates to these mobile loyalty campaigns and he was sharing data from actual campaigns, which saw response rates of 20% to 40% in some cases.

Today the company announced several upgrades for its iPhone app. The bigger deal is the announcement that it is integrating with Foursquare to enable check-ins when users are showing/scanning their specific store barcodes at checkout. Both Foursquare and CardStar are mobile loyalty apps; the difference is that CardStar requires on-site presence to scan a barcode, whereas Foursquare allows check-ins remotely.

"One of the major pain points with LBS check-ins continues to be the inability to verify the customer was actually on-location when they checked in," explained CardStar's press materials. "This is especially important now as more retailers offer incentives/rewards based on the number of check-ins and demand a more automated redemption system." 

Here are pre-digested quotes from CardStar CEO Andy Miller (not Quattro's Andy Miller):

  • "It's always been a marketer's dream to influence a consumer before, during and after the shopping experience. The CardStar platform will provide marketers the opportunity to present customers with the right offer at the right time on the right device."
  • "The typical CardStar user already launches the app at point-of-sale in retail locations, airports, gyms and libraries. The CardStar integration with Foursquare was the next logical step to deliver a more cohesive mobile experience."

Our recent Foursquare survey shows that a large percentage of SMBs (mostly restaurants) currently using Foursquare don't really know if it has helped their businesses. Roughly 70% of respondents said they were tracking check-ins, however. 

 Screen shot 2010-07-27 at 8.34.20 AM

Source: Opus Research, Search Influence, Dream Systems Media (6/10), SMBs offering incentives on Foursquare

CardStar has collected tremendous data on customer behavior that can be used to push and target offers to users of its apps, more of which are coming. It is evolving into a promotions platform beyond a simple but efficient customer card loyalty tool. 

Foursquare early on became a loyalty platform and is becoming a new customer acquisition tool as well. It will be interesting to see whether this CardStar-Foursquare integration becomes a model for others and, then, whether Foursquare becomes a Twitter-like promotions platform that pushes offers through third party apps such as CardStar. 

My suspicion is yes it will.

Google Offers More Attractive Places to Go

Google has offered a browse centric (as opposed to search) directory of local business listings for quite some time: Places Directory. But with its new Maps upgrade for Android the company is encouraging users to put "Places," a cleaner, more attractive version of Places Directory, on their homescreens:

On Android-powered phones with Google Maps 4.4, you’ll find the new Places icon in the app launcher with the rest of your apps. Press and drag it right onto your home screen to use it when you’re looking for a restaurant, shoe store, movie theater or any other type of local business. You'll get a detailed list of all the nearest places and can choose one to learn more about it on its Place Page.

 

Some folks are seeing this as a bid to compete more aggressively with Foursquare and Yelp on mobile devices, with check-ins to come. Maybe so, however Google is equally motivated to create uniformity and correspondence between Places online and on mobile devices. It has made a big investment in Places online and wants to extend usage to mobile devices. 

Regardless of its precise motivations Google is obviously a formidable competitor in mobile, especially on Android devices. It basically "owns" the home screen unless users actively set up alternative content sources to Google. 

Google now has a range of interesting and varied local assets in mobile that it needs to better integrate: Buzz, Places, Latitude, Maps, Navigation. Google can also benefit by aggregating and presenting geotagged data from the Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare APIs in one or more of these properties. 

One of the issues with all of these "around me" or "near me" tools is that they fail to recognize the "near future" use case: where I'll be tonight or tomorrow. I suppose the thought is that "conventional" local search will address this need. However "where I'll be later on" is a scenario currently not well served in mobile. 

Tabbed Out a Model for Mobile Payments

Though previously covered at its launch at SXSW in march, I only recently became aware of an intriguing app called Tabbed Out, which offers mobile payments for restaurants and bars in a few cities. You enter one or more credit cards in the system and the app (iPhone, Android) generates a code that goes into the register. You don't provide your card to the bartender or server.

While there's some "heavy lifting" involved in getting people to download the app and building out locations that will utilize it, Tabbed Out represents a way into the "mobile wallet" that people have been predicting for years. The consumer security benefits are obvious and, my guess is, restaurants and bars will like it because it will promote spending and creates more efficiency for the venue (faster checkout).

Consumers pay 99 cents per transaction but sometimes fees are waived. If the company is successful at adding venues it may be a way for those venues to attract customers -- not unlike restaurants that accept credit cards vs. those that don't. There's a directory of locations as part of the app too.

The most important thing here is that this represents one viable way to facilitate mobile payments. Some simple standardization around code acceptance -- I'm unfamiliar with how proprietary this is -- would accelerate consumer and merchant adoption of such systems. 

Here's the demo video:

AOL Renews Emphasis on Mobile, Bets on Android

Several years ago AOL had the idea that it would lead consumers onto the mobile Internet the same way it did online. However amid turmoil surrounding the company's future and its leadership those plans faltered and largely failed to materialize. A particular example of that is ad network Third Screen Media, acquired by AOL in 2007 and effectively shuttered at the end of last year.

But mobile is apparently back at AOL. Now as a content and display advertising company with new leadership and a new focus AOL yesterday announced a renewed emphasis on mobile, a new mobile portal and some Android-only apps:

AOL Inc. is unveiling today a new smartphone portal, m.aol.com, that takes the best of AOL and optimizes it for any mobile device. In addition, AOL is increasing its focus on the Android operating system with the launch of the AOL app for Android, giving users a simple and convenient way to access dozens of AOL’s most popular properties, and the DailyFinance app for Android. AOL’s renewed focus on mobile apps and content comes on the heels of the arrival of David Temkin, the company’s new Vice President of Mobile . . .

In addition to the new smartphone portal, AOL has released two new free applications for Android-based devices.

Mobile VP Temkin is quoted in the release saying, "Android has emerged as a top-tier smartphone platform . . . So, while we’ll continue to focus on development for multiple mobile platforms, this time, we are releasing an early version of an app on Android first – the AOL app."

I count at least seven Andoid apps from AOL mobile. The new Android AOL portal would get a mixed review, if I were doing one, and in some ways its mobile Web portal is superior. Regardless AOL has wisely embraced (or rembraced) mobile as a critical distribution channel for its content. 

Mapquest of course has had a steady mobile presence throughout, and the company's mobile apps have recently been upgraded

Crisp Bringing Rich Media to Local with Verve

Mobile ads provider Crisp Wireless has teamed up with Verve Wireless "to bring Crisp’s rich media mobile ads to Verve’s global local media and newspapers." Verve develops and hosts the mobile sites for more than 700 newspapers in North America and Europe.

Quattro Wireless started out building mobile websites for companies and then became an ad network. The rest is, as they say, history (Apple). Similarly Verve is effectively now a local ad network that will offer a range of ad unit types and capabilities to marketers and publishers via Crisp. According to the release:

Verve publishers will utilize Crisp’s ad formats and interactive features, such as location-aware and click-to-call, and will have capabilities to deliver campaigns to smartphones and tablets, including Google Android devices and Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

Verve is one of several mobile ad networks and exchanges targeting the local market specifically:

  • CityGrid 
  • Chitika
  • Local AdXchange
  • LSN Mobile
  • Verve
  • Where 

Of course the traditional ad networks for mobile (e.g., JumpTap, Millennial, Yahoo, Google/AdMob) also offer geo-targeting as well.

Vlingo Seeks to Take Siri's Place

At the recent Bing Search Summit Microsoft mentioned in passing that some of their internal research revealed that 60% of mobile users wanted input alternatives to the keyboard. There are basically three: voice, the camera and some sort of visual shortcut on the touchscreen (images/icons).

Voice search has improved so dramatically that I use it on my EVO at least 50% of the time. I have Vlingo on my device and I've casually been testing it beside Google voice search. In my very non-scientific and non-controlled tests I've actually found Google voice recognition to be slightly more accurate and reliable than Vlingo. But Vlingo is a broader tool and can do a wider range of things on the device.

CEO Dave Gannon told us several weeks ago when he was last in town that there's a perception in the market that speech is now a commodity. Vlingo, which has both free and paid versions of its app, is trying to become a much broader tool -- moving into Siri-like "personal assistant" territory -- that consumers will think of "front door" on the device and way to get acces to everything from their contacts and apps to local search results. 

Siri was not long ago acquired by Apple for an undisclosed amount.

Vlingo is now releasing what it calls "Super Dialer," a local search tool that includes sponsored results from directory publishers. This also diversifies the revenue that Vlingo collects, which has largely been subscription based to date. TechCrunch reported that Gannon said that about 8% of users who try Vlingo convert to the paid version. 

Here's a general demonstration of Vlingo for Android devices:

Screen shot 2010-07-15 at 7.39.52 AM

What Is Facebook's Next Mobile Move?

At the Mobile Beat conference Eric Tseng, head of mobile products for Facebook (and former Google-Android exec.), announced that Facebook now has 150 million "active" mobile users (that means daily usage). That's up from 100 million in February.

Against that backdrop there are indications that, at least in the US Facebook's growth, may have slowed. The company however sees mobile as a driver of its next phase of growth. Overall, there are more than 500 million Facebook users globally. 

Tseng suggested that Facebook would soon become a "mobile platform." That means that Facebook will be extending "the social graph" to third party applications and sites. The Open Graph API and the Like button will also make their way into mobile according to Tseng.

Facebook is poised to roll out some sort of location-based service. Its exact form is uncertain. I've argued that instantly Facebook would be a huge mobile ad network should it decide that it wants to become one. Yet there are reasons to believe that won't happen in the near term. 

Facebook's forthcoming Q&A service is also one that could be a potent location-based recommendations engine. And the Like button data will be a huge source of local favorites and recommendations. Third parties will be tapping all this data to enhance their apps and sites. 

The company sees mobile devices as a growth engine party because in developing countries (e.g., India) mobile is the primary (and maybe only) tool for Internet acces. This is why Facebook developed its SMS-based "0.facebook.com" site earlier this year. 

Google Sends Maps to More Connected Cars

The car is the ultimate "mobile device" isn't it? And increasingly cars are becoming "connected" to the Internet. Google now has an impressive roster of car brands on a global basis to which users can send Google Maps directions.

According to the Google LatLong blog:

With today’s additions, drivers can send destinations from Google Maps directly to their connected vehicles in 19 countries and more than 20 different brands.

In the US alone, Send-To-Car is now available on more than 15 car brands and we hope to see even more partners join us soon.

 

On a smaller scale Mapquest and Nokia's Ovi Maps offer in-car integration. However Navteq (owned by Nokia) powers most of the PND devices that operate in vehicles in the US. In Europe it's Teleatlas, owned by TomTom. 

Google Offers Social Parking App: Open Spot

Google has introduced a social network (of sorts) for parking: Open Spot. Before you say, "How is Google gonna find open parking spots?" it's actually fairly simple and clever. The idea behind the new Android app is to create a network of people telling each other where there's available parking locally.

Open Spot app users indicate when they're leaving a spot. The phone's location awareness finds/locates that person on the map and broadcasts that information to other Open Spot users.

Spots are hypothetically "open" for a maximum of 20 minutes. There's a color-coded, time-based system to indicate the probability that spots remain open. According to the FAQs:

  • Spots are removed from the map after 20 minutes. We know that 20 minutes is a long time for a parking spot to stay open, but we think that more information about available parking is better than less.
  • Red pins are freshly-marked spots.
  • Orange pins are spots marked over 5 minutes ago.
  • Yellow pins are spots marked over 10 minutes ago.

Humorously Google has even created a name for those who might try and fool others by creating fake parking spots: "Griefers."

We call these people ‘griefers’. We’re watching for behavior that looks like a griefer spoofing parking spots. We have a couple of mechanisms available to make sure someone can’t leave a bunch of fake parking spots. If we see this happening we will take steps to fix it. 

This is a very clever and social approach to parking inventory. It sidesteps the creation of databases and other potentially costly or unwieldy mechanisms that could be used to indicate available spots. The drawback is that it requires people to download an app and join the network. 

Paradoxically this is a network that you don't want to be too small or too large. Too small and you don't have enough "inventory." Too large and you may have too much competition for that inventory. However, at least in theory, as the network grows so too will the available parking spots. 

Where to Now for Geodelic?

Geodelic is one of a handful of independent LBS content providers in the market. Where.com and Aloqa are also part of that group. They pre-date Foursquare and its geo-social-gaming kin. Geodelic has had some success with carriers, white labeling and with its consumer-branded smartphone apps; yet it remains a "tier 2" player for at least the time being.

Yesterday the company announced new funding, bringing the total to $10 million over two rounds: 

Geodelic, a mobile media platform, announced today that it has raised $7 million in a Series B equity financing. MK Capital led the investment, and current investors Clearstone Venture Partners and Shasta Ventures joined the round.

Founded in 2008 and incubated by Clearstone Venture Partners, the company has quickly gained traction since the launch of their first application with T-Mobile in 2009. This latest round of financing brings total investment to over $10 million. To date, the Geodelic smartphone application has been downloaded over half a million times on Android phones. It is also available for iPhone, and currently in development for Blackberry devices.

There are lots of companies and lots of noise in the LBS segment and it's seemingly getting more crowded by the day. There's also the question of revenues. This is the same question that Foursquare confronts as it seeks to grow and develop a business model.

Without a sales channel it's very difficult to sell to local businesses; and without massive reach it's tough to get brands' attention -- though Foursquare has managed to because it's so "hot."

All the "traditional" Internet companies, with any interest in local are pushing into mobile. Google is coming at mobile and location from several directions at once. Twitter just announced Places. And Facebook, with 100 million active daily mobile users, is threatening to launch both a local capability as well as a Q&A service. Yelp recently announced that it had two million mobile users and that 27% of its search query volume was coming from the iPhone. 

Over time LBS on mobile devices will probably be dominated by the major online services and companies. There will be room for a few independents and start-ups. But most of those will need to focus and specialize. The "horizontal" market will probably go to the giants. 

One of the questions for Geodelic is whether to continue with its consumer strategy or push white labeling more aggressively. They're not mutually exclusive of course but it will be tough to have success in both areas equally.

The company refers to itself as a "mobile media platform." That may be an indication of its future direction. 

Report: Apps Trump Browser for Map Access

One of the long-standing debates in mobile is "apps vs. browser" and what will win over time. Many people are betting on mobile browsers because they're smartphone-platform agnostic and the "open" Web has to win vs. the "closed" world of apps -- right? Maybe not.

ComScore just released numbers that shows consumer mobile usage of map applications is growing and now trumps browser-based maps. That makes sense because the map-app experience is richer and offers more functionality than Web-based mobile maps. (We just wrote about the hybrid "wapplication" category, which to some degree will extend to maps.)

As you might expect, most of mobile maps' usage is for navigation in car (87%). ComScore also reported that 69% of users are accessing maps at least once a week, with 9% using them on a daily basis. Here are the comScore charts:

 Picture 22

Revisiting the Local Queries Question

One question making the rounds -- without a good answer -- is "what percentage of mobile search is local?" Let's put aside app usage, which can be a form of search, for the time being.

Google previously said that on the PC "20% of searches on Google are related to location." Because of the challenges in defining a local search -- is "flat panel TV" a local search because 95%+ are bought in stores? -- this 20% figure is probably conservative.

On the mobile side of the house, two Google employees have been cited (Paul Feng and Diana Pouliot) as sources for the metric that roughly one third (33%) of mobile search have a local intent. I asked Google to unpack this figure for me and I was told by a Google PR person that this number came from BIA/Kelsey Group.

I'm not confident that's actually the case, but if it is it's really weird that Google would repeat a piece of third party data when it has actual mobile query data. BIA's data are survey based and self-reported. Surveys are good directional indicators but not as accurate as actual behavioral data. 

Previously Microsoft presented data (from 2008) that argued if "local intent" is the value, at least 50% of mobile searches featured local intent:

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Source: Microsoft (3/10, based on 2008 data)

This morning I was playing around with Google's keyword traffic estimator tool, which allows you to look up mobile search volumes for specific queries. I looked at a number of categories and query terms: doctors, restaurants, movies and a few others. One caveat here is that I selected terms that are predominantly local terms. Product-related terms are far less local (in Google's attribution) though most products are going to be bought in stores. 

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What I discovered was that the portion of queries attributed to "local" on a monthly basis varied, as one might expect, by query and category. The range was 29% at the low end to 67% at the high end for the terms I selected. The average of this small sample came out at around 43%. 

Someone with API access could probably do this calculation across a broad range of queries and get a better "average" than I got off my small non-scientific sample. But the point here is that there's a lot of LBS action in the query mix on mobile devices. And with specific local-intent queries there's going to be an accompanying "need it now" interest in many or most cases as well.

So let's not call it "one third." Instead, let's say there's a "local intent" mobile query range from about 20% in ambiguous categories to as much as 70% (or more: e.g., restaurants) in some categories where fulfillment is offline.