Where, which has built its own local ad network for mobile devices, is now lauching "Where Deal Alerts." These are SMS-based coupons, offers and deals, that factor in user preferences (by shopping category) and location:
By opting into the service, customers can set up a user profile that will allow them to receive WHERE’s Deal Alerts via text message. Consumers simply select proximity, day of week, time of day, and content categories such as restaurants and shopping, and WHERE will automatically send coupons via SMS based on preferences.
Where Deal Alerts launch first on AT&T (though not yet on the iPhone) but will expand to other carriers over time. The one limitation of the system is that users have to specify a single time of day for delivery of the alerts.
Deal alerts are set up from within the Where application but, as mentioned, come in the form of SMS notifications tied to location. Thus proximity to a QSR chain or particular merchant (at a particular time of day) would trigger delivery. Because Where has access to location from the carrier, users don't need to be in the Where app itself, "check in" or even be "online" to receive the offers.
From the Where application users configure deal alerts from within the coupon widget. Here's how the site describes the sign-up process:
Where has aggregated lots of coupon inventory from multiple partners (e.g., Valassis, ValPak) to provide sufficient coverage to make the program interesting.
Placecast offers a conceptually similar program for the retail category with ShopAlerts, and individual marketers and stores are doing their own ad-hoc opt-in SMS-based loyalty marketing.
The Where program, however, is novel in several respects. And because it's category-based (after opt-in) it can function as a new customer acquisition program and not exclusively as a mobile loyalty vehicle.
Mobile ad network Millennial Media is now putting out two reports on a regular basis: one about mobile advertising (SMART) on its network and the other about devices (Mobile Mix) on its network. Consistent with other networks and data vendors in the market, Millennial has seen considerable Android growth. But the iPad is also growing dramatically.
According to Millennial:
Below are some of the report's charts, showing the hierarchy of devices and operating systems on Millennial's network. In addition, the company shows the percentage breakdown of developers working on the various smartphone operating systems.
Compare AdMob's most recent mobile metrics report (April, 2010) in terms of devices and operating systems on its network:
Other than the iPhone and the top three Android phones, there's a different array of devices on both lists. The top Android device on Millennial's list, the Nexus One, doesn't event show up on the AdMob list. The AdMob list shows no RIM devices among the top group, whereas the BlackBerry Curve is the number two phone over at Millennial.
Comparing operating system share on the network also reflects the differences between Millennial and AdMob. Below is AdMob's US operating system share graph for April:
Millennial (top four):
AdMob (top four):
Each of these company specific reports needs to be taken with some caveats and caution. The discrepancies and differences between the networks illustrate this. However, both companies show similar trends: the growth of Android handsets, which makes sense give how many there now are, and the rise of the iPad (AdMob discussed that last month).
There's already been much discussion of some early advertising metrics on the iPad. The following results were published a couple of days ago by ad mediator AdMarvel (owned by Opera), TextPlus and PointRoll (owned by publisher Gannett):
Campaigns that ran the first four weeks after the iPad launch delivered average interaction times across advertisers of 30 seconds, and as high as 53 seconds for one advertiser. Time spent with each ad correlated with the amount of content included in the ads.
In addition, interaction rates (measuring the number of people tapping to expand and engaging with the ads, as a percentage of impressions) ranged from .9% to 1.5% in the first month of the campaign, up to 6 times the benchmark for comparable click-to-expand ads on the desktop. In addition, 67% of users who viewed a video component of the ad in the app watched it all the way through, compared to 53% completion rate for desktop. These findings show that the iPad can be a successful supplement to a 360-degree campaign across devices to strengthen and further lift audience engagement.
(Emphasis added; see ad demo.)
Dynamic Logic and Insight Express have both shown that mobile ads consistently outperform PC advertising across a wide range of metrics and brand indicators. The question of course is whether the increased engagement and metrics are the byproduct of novelty or whether these platforms are going to consistently deliver better performance over time.
Some of this better performance is clearly novelty but other factors such as less ad clutter and greater "share of voice" on pages make for higher engagement and improved response. Websites on the PC or "fixed" Internet have become a veritable wasteland of clutter and low quality ad content. That's partly why Apple's Safari 5 enables users to eliminate ads from the page.
Even as the Internet has fragmented audiences and eroded if not destroyed some traditional media (e.g., newspapers), online advertising, with the exception of search and one or two other areas, has largely failed.
The iPad is not a PC, nor is it really a mobile device in the same form as a smartphone. It's more of a portable PC with apps. We still don't have enough data to know how people use and will use the iPad and its many forthcoming rivals. In my house it has taken time from PC exposure but it's much more a "leisure" or "lean back" device than the PC, which is mostly utilitarian.
If that use case holds generally for tablets it could be that people will be more receptive to display and rich media ads on them vs. the PC.
Citi Cards has introduced Citi Shopper, a smartphone app that offers deals and local product inventory information. It's partly a branding play and partly a loyalty play for Citi. The content is provided by mobile shopping platform Slifter (GPShopper).
According to the release the free app "delivers local offers and deals on products from electronics to apparel; compares prices; provides maps to nearby retailers; as well as reminds Citi cardmembers of offers and benefits specific to their Citi credit cards . . .
Once installed on their mobile device, Citi Shopper lets users:
--Browse deals and promotions at major local and online retailers
--Be reminded of Citi credit card-specific rewards, benefits and offers
--Search local store inventory for over two billion products
--Sort products by price or distance
--View product details, images, availability, and a map to the nearest location
--Save products and promotions into a mobile Shopping List
--Share finds with friends and family
--Contact participating retailers with just one click
This is a smart idea and strong concept. The only problem is that the user experience absolutedly stinks. It may well be downloaded heavily if Citi promotes the app to card members in billing and marketing materials. However it will need to be dramatically improved if Citi hopes for repeat usage.
This app is another example of a company thinking that it needs to do something -- with an app -- in mobile and not thinking the entire process through carefully. It's very similar to the more attractive but equally unusable "Priceless Picks" shopping app from Mastercard.
There are other product and shopping vendors that Citi could have worked with. And the bank should have paid much more attention to the user experience. Perhaps it will go back to the drawing board for version 2.0. There's clearly potential here; it's just very far from realized.
Last year Hearst's Skiff project was one of at least 15 or 20 eReaders coming to market. When it was announced it was conceived of as an integrated package of hardware and software:
Skiff, formerly known as FirstPaper, specializes in the delivery and presentation of newspaper and magazine content, as opposed to other platforms that focus primarily on e-books and plain text. Newspaper and magazine content delivered by Skiff will feature visually appealing layouts, high-resolution graphics, rich typography and dynamic updates . . .
Skiff is working with major consumer electronics manufacturers to integrate Skiff’s service, digital store and specialized client software into a range of innovative devices, the first of which will be unveiled soon . . .
Skiff has signed a multi-year agreement with Sprint (NYSE:S) to provide 3G connectivity for Skiff’s dedicated e-reading devices in the United States. Plans are underway to have Skiff readers available for purchase in more than 1,000 Sprint retail locations across the U.S., as well as online at www.sprint.com. Additional distribution channels will be announced next year.
But that was before the iPad. Today News Corporation announced that it had bought Skiff from Hearst for an undisclosed amount:
News Corporation today announced that it has acquired Skiff, LLC, Hearst Corporation’s e-reading platform designed to deliver premium journalism to tablets, smartphones, e- readers and netbooks. The Company also announced an investment in Journalism Online LLC, the venture dedicated to enabling newspapers, magazines and online-only publishers of quality content to collect revenue from their online readers. The financial terms of both agreements were not disclosed.
Now it appears that Skiff will become, exclusively, a software platform for News Corp content distribution on a range of devices. There was no mention of hardware in the News Corp. release.
Just as with the smartphone market we may see three or four tablet platforms that are viable: iOS, Android, Kindle (maybe), WebOS/HP (maybe) and Windows 7 (maybe). Most aspiring eReader devices will diversify or fully evolve into software platforms or apps -- e.g. Kindle for iOS, Nook for iPad and now Skiff.
The concept of "mobile commerce" is something of a misnomer. What we're really talking about is an Internet-based electronic transaction facilitated on a mobile device, either with a stored credit card or carrier billing. The thing that's interesting and unique about buying things with mobile devices is the ability to execute a transaction anytime or anywhere. It's more like distributed e-commerce than some new and unique animal "m-commerce."
Electronics site and pollster Retrevo conducted another consumer survey (n=1,000+) showing minority but growing acceptance of buying things on a mobile device.
Thirty seven percent of respondents said that if they didn't need to enter credit card info to compete a transaction they more likely would be willing to buy on a mobile device. What this should immediately lead to is retailers and ecommerce sites seeking to store credit card information for users. Many sites, including Amazon, already do.
For the near term this fact may determine where someone who's inclined to buy on a mobile device actually makes a purhase. Indeed, with millions of consumer credit cards on file Apple's iTunes could become a major mobile payments player/platform if it pushed in that direction: "pay with iTunes."
Overall in this space, trust will be a key issue for mobile consumers.
The survey also found that "nearly 42% of those who have shopped with their phones said they have used apps to make purchases." Clearly apps provide a better user experience and that may explain why mobile buying may be concentrated in apps and, in particular, on iPhones.
Just as with e-commerce several years ago, the new "medium" is untrusted and unfamiliar to many people. That will clearly change over time.
As mentioned above, what's more interesting to me than mobile wallets or carrier billing is the idea that the gap between advertising and purchase behavior potentially narrows significantly with the ability to buy things via a mobile device. When I see the ad, hear the commercial, see the book or the article of clothing, I'm now able to "pull the trigger" much more quickly on my phone. I no longer have to wait to go home to get online.
The anomaly that is Apple just threw down another challenge to third-party application developers who look to mobile advertisements as the ultimate source of sustainability. Terms and conditions in the newly updated iPhone Developer Program License Agreement (which has been revised in conjunction with the release of iOS 4) starts with the wording that developers "may not collect, use, or disclose to any third party, user or device data without prior user consent" and then adds further strictures which, in the most damning case for many of the aspiring analytics providers, prohibit release for the purposes of "aggregation, processing, or analysis".
While the change in wording appears to be a broad prohibition against third-party analytics, it is most commonly seen as a direct attack on AdMob, the mobile advertising services company recently purchased by Google. Apple will only let developers release user information to a third-party only if it is "an independent advertising service provider whose primary business is serving mobile ads." In other words, not an affiliate of the largest provider of sponsored search services on the planet. To turn the knife a bit, or perhaps to provide transparency, Apple provides examples of the sorts of third-parties that are not, by their nature, "independent", saying explicitly that "an advertising service provider owned by or affiliated with a developer or distributor of mobile devices, mobile operating systems or development environments other than Apple would not qualify as independent."
If you take as a given that advertisers are often the companies with whom mobile subscribers want to carry out business, this is not an empowering move. Apple apparently doesn't think that it is in the iPhone user's interest to share data with third-parties even if the user consents to it, especially if release of such data might benefit Google, Microsoft, Nokia or dozens of other firms that pose direct threats to Apple's vain efforts for smartphone primacy.
Clearly, there will be work-arounds and arrangements to be made in the name of providing relevant messages (promotional, social, realtime or other) to Apple's mobile customers. Still, the message is clear. None of this will take place without prior consent from both Apple on behalf of its iOS-based device users.
Velti began almost a decade ago in Greece and Europe as a mobile platform and technology play. Today the company has evolved into a full-service mobile advertising and marketing company with last year's launch of its MGage marketplace. The company's vision is to be a soup-to-nuts provider of mobile advertising and marketing solutions, from loyalty, CRM and SMS services to mobile ad campaign development and analytics.
A little over a year ago Velti bought AdInfuse for its client base and technology:
Ad Infuse’ s leading mobile ad serving and routing technology platforms enable advertisers, publishers, brands, and operators to place mobile ads on multiple networks and manage them in real-time. Ad Infuse works with leading advertisers, publishers, and operators in the US and Europe, including: Procter & Gamble, Dell, Disney, Swisscom, France Telecom, Orange and Microsoft.
Earlier today Velti announced that it acquired San Francisco-Bay Area based Media Cannon for an undisclosed amount. This appears to be an extension of the thinking and strategy that resulted in the AdInfuse acquisition last year:
This acquisition provides Velti with a complementary technology platform and proprietary solutions that enable an even richer mobile advertising and mobile Internet user experience, as well as a series of mobile marketing “post click” interactions. The Media Cannon platform also delivers carrier-class infrastructure, API access, transcoding . . .
In addition to technology, Velti is buying a client base and revenue: "well-known brands, advertising agencies and Tier-1 wireless carriers in the U.S.," according to the press release.
Both the AdInfuse and Media Cannon acquisitions have raised Velti's US and general North American presence and profile. Velti's ultimate vision is to enable marketers, publishers and technology providers to plug in to Velti's wide ranging mobile "marketplace." The company currently has operationsin 35 countries and claims to be the world's largest mobile marketing company.
However it still has a way to go to achieve the visibility and "credibility" of some of the more familiar US based ad networks: AdMob, JumpTap, Millennial, etc.
Amobee is pursuing a very similar course and strategic vision.
Separately Google announced that its beta program AdSense for Mobile Apps would support third party ad mediators (e.g., Nexage, AdMarvel, AdWhirl, Smaato) enabling ad inventory from other networks to be accessed through the program. One of the benefits to developers is one SDK to access all these networks. One of the potential mediators AdWhirl is owned by AdMob, which is now owned by Google.
In coordination with the Google announcement, AdMob said that developers and publishers could use AdWhirl to access AdSense for Mobile Apps as well as the full range of ad networks:
Today we’re launching full AdWhirl support for Google’s AdSense for Mobile Applications for iPhone apps. This makes it easier for iPhone developers who are participating in Google’s AdSense for Mobile Applications betato set up AdSense in AdWhirl. AdSense joins AdMob, iAd, Jumptap, MdotM, Millennial Media, and Quattro Wireless as AdWhirl’s seventh fully supported iPhone ad network. Today’s launch comes hot on the heels of our announcement last week of full AdWhirl support for Millennial Media for Android apps.
Each network and mediator appears to be seeking to be a gateway or doorway to the others.
One question is: who's going to own the advertiser and publisher relationships in all this? Another question is: will mobile advertising be "commoditized" in the same way that online display advertising largely has?
The good people at Nielsen have just released some interesting survey based data about mobile applications and their relative popularity. Nielsen surveyed "4,200 people who had downloaded an application in the past 30 days."
Nielsen says that 21% of American mobile phone owners had a smartphone in Q4 2009. The number is now closer to 24% per Nielsen, our data and InsightExpress. The most popular smartphone apps, according to the Nielsen survey, are Facebook, Google Maps and Weather Channel.
The following graphic shows the category breakdown with smartphones in yellow and feature phones in blue. One interesting thing to observe: regardless of handset type the category leaders are essentially the same. Smartphones just seem to make it easier for people to do what they're already doing otherwise.
While weather and maps are both local and two of the top three categories, many more of the categories on the list address offline activity: travel, entertainment/food, movies and some portion of the shopping category.
Below are the top apps by smartphone platform, according to the survey:
Notice that Facebook is the top app on all platforms other than Android. Google search is also not among the top apps except on the Android platform.
Wired magazine launched on the iPad about a week ago and I just got around to paying the $4.99 "cover price." The company reported about 24,000 downloads in the first 24 hours. It's currently the second most popular paid app, so I'd guess the downloads have nearly doubled by now.
Wired sells about 82,000 single copies per issue, according to one of the Wired blogs. The print magazine has about 672,000 subscribers.
There are a number of innovative elements in the iPad version of the magazine; however in general it felt as though the company had merely scanned the pages into the digital format. Indeed, the overall translation of Wired to the iPad was relatively uninspired.
I was also struck by how many ad pages there were. In order to "work," ads on the iPad will need to be more thoughtful and compelling than simply electronic versions of the print ad. A few ads did have video.
Below I've highlighted some of the interactive elements of the Wired iPad app:
It would be relatively easy for Wired's iPad edition to exceed newsstand single copy sales in a short period of time. However the company can and should do more in later issues to take advantage of the digital format, interactive features and video capability.
I think Time did a better job with its iPad launch.
In Japan and elsewhere in Asia 2D barcodes (QR codes) are widely used. They also have momentum in Europe. However, despite a range of efforts, they're largely unknown to mobile users in the US. I suspect that within two or three years, however, they will be mainstream in this country.
The virtue of QR codes is that they can connect "the real world" to dynamic information and the Internet. Magazines, outdoor ads, websites, real-estate signage and other marketing can use barcodes to provide offers, additional information and so on. The can also track performance of those media. It's very similar to how SMS can connect traditional media and marketing with the digital world. However QR codes only require that users capture an image of the code graphic. Yet they also require a software download.
Consumers with smartphones are getting accustomed to scanning conventional UPC codes in stores for product information. It's just a hop, skip and a jump to QR codes (or some version of them). And Microsoft Tag could become the driver of that mainstream scenario.
Last week Microsoft said it was making the Tag technology available to anyone that wanted to utilize it for free:
Today we’re announcing that Tag is coming out of beta and that basic use of Tags will be free of charge. This means you will be able to generate and use Tags that link to our standard scenarios, such as linking directly to webpages, and use the reader application at no cost. By simply going to Tag.Microsoft.com, you can create Tags and deliver rich interactive experiences on mobile phones, track your Tags, and read about how companies such as Conde Nast and others are using Tag.
An interesting use case explained in the Microsoft blog post I quote from above describes how Tags are being placed on public monuments in Amsterdam:
Amsterdam became the second world city with a Tag-led tour, with Tags on monuments, museums, restaurants, bars, and other landmarks. The Mall of America, in Minnesota, has announced plans to use Tag to help enhance customer engagement and give retailers an interactive tool to promote their products.
The challenge to 2D barcode adoption in the US is the lack of standardization; there's no single universal code in use and not enough installed users. It's a bit of the old "chicken and egg problem." Microsoft hopes to popularize Tags and overcome that problem by making them free, as well as the consumer software necessary to read them.
Facebook is also potentially going to introduce QR codes (although the use cases aren't yet clear). But if any site has the capacity to educate users about a technology it's problem them.
Despite the fact that Loopt has more than three million users it's largely running in place. Superseded by larger and more established brands as they've entered the mobile segment (i.e., Facebook), Loopt has tried to reinvent itself a number of times. For example, it went initially from a pure mobile social network to a Yelp-like application. And now it's doing a version of Foursquare -- with a twist.
Loopt's latest effort to renew itself is called Loopt Star. The idea is almost identical in concept to Foursquare, however the rewards for checking in to local places are more direct and tangible. Like Foursquare, MyTown and Gowalla, among others, Loopt Star is a "game" but explicitly conceived as a mobile loyalty program for stores and consumers as well.
Check in at stores and branded locations, gain points and rewards that translate into tangible offers, discounts, free stuff and so on. There's also a leaderboard. Users who check in most frequently can become the "boss" (rather than mayor) of their favorite places.
Loopt previously added local coupons to its app but this is a more structured and coherent effort. And it could turn out to be the one that gives Loopt new appeal and finally attracts a buyer.
Loopt Star relies on Facebook and users' Facebook networks instead of trying to create its own "organic" user base. In so doing Loopt hopes that it can more quickly gain adoption and momentum for Loopt Star. Yet it's also possible that Loopt Star will strike its target audience as duplicative of their existing LBS "games."
The LBS gaming phenomenon has yet to go mainstream. Accordingly there's an opportunity to build an app or service that will broadly appeal to mainstream consumers. That app could be Shopkick, which has yet to launch. It seeks to marry LBS gaming and retail specifically. And depending on the execution, it could appeal to mainstream shoppers and women in particular.
Millennial Media just released its April SMART report. The company is now putting out two reports: Mobile Mix, which discusses devices and share on its network, and SMART, which is about advertiser tactics and categories.
Here are a few interesting excerpts from the April SMART document.
Ten percent of advertisers in the "restaurants & retail" category used a coupon offer of some sort, according to Millennial.
Below is a drill down on that category and the various calls to action offered in the campaigns. We can probably count "retail promotion" in the deals/coupons category as well. In addition the "join/subscribe" call to action here will probably be teased in many instances by the promise of future discounts and deals notifications I'm guessing:
Finally here are the top advertising categories on the Millennial network:
One thing that's somewhat surprising and interesting is that only 16% of campaigns are using any sort of geo-targeting given that mobile offers it with precision. This likely reflects concerns over lack of audience reach with geo-targeted campaigns or perhaps the inability of agencies to formulate geo-targeted campaigns for one reason or another.
Millennial data also suggest that marketers are using mobile at or near the point of sale to capture emails and other data for future marketing purposes ("join/subscribe" and "submit form"). However their campaigns don't seem to equally be pushing users to the point of sale to drive purchases. I could be misinterpreting the data but if I'm correct is a missed opportunity.
AdMob is now officially going to be a part of Google and so we'll have to see how that changes or affects its monthly metrics reporting. This month's data compare iPhoneOS devices vs. Android devices on a global basis. According to AdMob there are roughly 11.6 million Android devices around the world. That compares with just over 27 million iPhones or a total of roughly 40 million iPhoneOS devices, when the iPod Touch and iPad are considered. If we assume that there are about 2 million iPads now in the market that leaves about 11 million iPod Touch devices sold.
The iPhone itself has largely stalled in North America (awaiting the "4G" iPhone), while Android is growing. However, outside the US the iPhone is doing quite well. The major caveat to the data below that the AdMob network is not identical to the mobile Internet and all numbers must be taken as directional and not absolute.
Taken verbatim from the AdMob report here's what the company says about the global distribution of devices:
While the iPhone is still driving the greatest share of requests vs. any other individual device, Android is now more broadly represented on AdMob's network. Again these numbers are not synonymous with smartphone market share objectively speaking; they reflect only AdMob's network.
But compare the chart (US smartphone share) above to the one from exactly a year ago:
What the comparison above shows is the evaporation of Windows Mobile an even the dramatic shrinking of RIM's representation on AdMob's network. However it's important to also point out that BlackBerry remains the leading smartphone in the US market in terms of installed units.
Finally the abundance of Android handsets in China is ironic because Google officially has exited the market (at least for now), so these devices don't provide Google search volumes there. Google had previously seen Android as a way to gain share vs. rival Baidu, which is now effectively a monopoly in China.
A report recently sponsored and released by the MMA shows that increasing numbers of US mobile users are engaged in so-called "m-commerce." The survey was conducted this past April. Here are some of the findings:
Apple and RIM users are the most active in purchasing content or services through their handsets. Here's an age breakdown by commerce category:
The mobile Internet was the avenue most people used to transact. And "young adults, age 18-24 years, were significantly more likely to purchase content for their mobile phones using mobile web (74% vs. 48% overall) while adults ages 55-64 years were more likely to purchase content through messaging (63% vs. 30%). Consumers ages 35-44 years were most likely to use mobile applications to use discounts or coupons (63% vs. 39% overall)."
Deals and coupons were a huge area of interest according to the survey findings:
Consumers are most interested in using their mobile phones to use discounts or coupons (30%) and to purchase content for their mobile phones (26%). Asians and young adults, ages 25-34 years, stood out as those most interested to use discounts or coupons (38% and 35% respectively were “very interested” or “somewhat interested”).
These findings confirm and say at least a couple of things to us:
As you've seen by now, the FTC decided not to sue to block the Google acquisition of AdMob. That decision took only six months and came grudgingly after it appeared that litigation was probably unlikely to succeed. The FTC issued a statement today citing Apple's iAd launch as the principle reason behind it's decision:
In a statement issued today, the Commission said that although the combination of the two leading mobile advertising networks raised serious antitrust issues, the agency’s concerns ultimately were overshadowed by recent developments in the market, most notably a move by Apple Computer Inc. – the maker of the iPhone – to launch its own, competing mobile ad network. In addition, a number of firms appear to be developing or acquiring smartphone platforms to better compete against Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android, and these firms would have a strong incentive to facilitate competition among mobile advertising networks.
“As a result of Apple’s entry (into the market), AdMob’s success to date on the iPhone platform is unlikely to be an accurate predictor of AdMob’s competitive significance going forward, whether AdMob is owned by Google or not,” the Commission’s statement explains.
The Commission stressed that mergers in fast-growing new markets like mobile advertising should get the same level of antitrust scrutiny as those in other markets. The statement goes on to note that, “Though we have determined not to take action today, the Commission will continue to monitor the mobile marketplace to ensure a competitive environment and to protect the interests of consumers.
The mobile ad market -- and mobile marketing more broadly -- have been gaining mindshare and slightly more share of wallet among marketers and agencies. The announcement of the AdMob acquisition last year got lots of notice and woke people up -- because Google was the acquiring company and because of the value of the deal ($750 million).
Since that time, and the subsequent acquisition of Quattro by Apple, momentum in mobile has been building. The closure of the GoogMob deal will now enable Google to put the pedal to the metal and roll out a range of new mobile and cross-platform initiatives. This will put competitive pressure on Apple, Yahoo!, Microsoft and others and further boost the segment as a whole.
We're going to see additional consolidation and acquisitions now and over the next 12-18 months. And we're going to see the mainstreaming of mobile advertising and marketing, which the MMA is trying to help along, very quickly. The issue will be how to implement mobile campaigns effectively, along side other marketing channels.
Thus the question surrounding mobile is no longer "why" but "how."
Wall Street Journal blog AllThingsD is reporting that on Monday Yahoo! will announce a partnership with Nokia:
And, according to sources, that will be a deal with Finland-based mobile phone giant Nokia (NOK) to build Yahoo (YHOO) email, search and other applications and services into a range of its devices.
While the pair had once discussed Nokia making a Yahoo-centric phone, sources said that is unlikely to be part of this deal.
Nokia remains the largest handset maker in the world, with the dominant smartphone share -- though mostly outside the US. According to the latest Gartner numbers, Nokia has a 44% share of the global smartphone market.
Obviously then if such a deal is confirmed, it would represent a huge boost for Yahoo!'s mobile efforts and network, which is considerable and global but has lost mindshare and coverage vs. Apple and Google's mobile initiatives.
Asked for a response to the rumor a Yahoo! spokesman said "We can't comment on rumor or speculation." That generally means some aspect of the rumor is correct.
Google was busy grabbing most of the headlines today with its Android 2.2 "Froyo" update and the dramatic Google TV announcement (which is built on Android). But Yahoo! also made a mobile-related announcement about the introduction of more creatively engaging rich media units. According to the Yahoo! Mobile Blog:
Mobile display ads generally take the form of static banners across the top and bottom of the screen. Although behavioral targeting has drastically increased the effectiveness of all display ads, it has been challenging to engage mobile users at the same level as desktop. With advancements in smartphone technology and the next generation of HTML5 browsers, it is now possible to display highly engaging and interactive Rich Media content on high-end mobile devices.
While there has been a lot of buzz about HTML5, much of the investment has been focused on mobile web development. Many mobile sites have been upgraded to feature compelling interactive content for smartphone users. However from an advertiser point of view, banner campaigns remain the norm. At Yahoo!, we believe the Rich Media experience starts before the click and encompasses the transition to an advertiser’s landing page. This new class of mobile display format bridges the gap between traditional banners and landing pages with creative executions of interactive advertisements.
Here's one example of one of the units:
Google also demo'd rich media ad units today at its developer conference. And of course Apple is trying to build more engaging ads for mobile devices with iAds. AdMob, Greystripe and others offer rich media units as well.
Mobile Web ads have greater reach than in-app advertising and are generally recognized as "more effective," though that's problematic when drilling down into the metrics used to determine effectiveness.
Hybrid awareness-direct response (buy tickets) ads, like the one above, are going to be increasingly common. And the "takeover" (though not involuntary) creative above will give agencies more latitude to develop better mobile display campaigns.
There was considerable coverage of yesterday's announcement of $20 million in new VC funding for Booyah's "geo social game" MyTown. The money brings MyTown to nearly $30 million in venture funding to date. The round was led by Accel Partners. Previous investors Kleiner Perkins and DAG Ventures also participated.
MyTown is the most "game-like" of the three competitors typically mentioned in the same breath, which include Foursquare and Gowalla. But in the larger context of LBS mobile apps and/or local search tools they are merely the "flavor of the month" among many other providers of the same or similar information. (Twitter and Facebook have yet to get deeply involved here.)
Beyond the silly "location wars" meme, the central question is whether these geo-social games are going to become "mainstream"? Or if they're not going to become "mainstream" are they going to draw sufficiently large audiences to make them effective advertising vehicles and revenue generators?
I would argue that whether or not these particular LBS apps succeed they're helping create a new culture of local and mobile behavior. I've discussed this in some detail in a client-only report: How Geo-Social Gaming is Changing Local Mobile Search.
According to an interview with Business Insider Booyah CEO Keith Lee says that the $20 million will be used to further enhance the gaming elements of MyTown or create new LBS games:
Because as Lee explains, the "check-in" is going to be a commodity in a matter of months -- everyone will have a "check-in" feature, ranging from the likes of Foursquare to Facebook and Google. It's what happens after the check-in that is going to be valuable, Lee says, and he and Booyah plan to use location data specifically to make games.
Foursquare, Gowalla and MyTown are interesting because they're hybrids: part social network, part cityguide and, to varying degrees, part game. Accordingly you might be inclined to dismiss MyTown as merely a "game," but if you think about it as a viable alternative to Citysearch, Yelp, yellow pages or Google it makes the stakes higher and the discussion more serious.
MyTown gets data and ads from CityGrid/Citysearch; it also shows Google display ads and could easily implement branded sponsorships and/or a Farmville-style program of credits or currency. That would mean people would buy credits to accelerate progress or toward the purchase of locations. MyTown is similar to Monopoly in many respects.
MyTown claims more than two million users. Foursquare has more than a million. By comparison, Google says Latitude has more than three million users. Google is taking the LBS phenomenon very seriously and recently invested in another location-based social game called SCVNGR. And if Google Buzz is ultimately going to gain usage it's going to be in mobile, where it offers some of the same "tips" and annotations about places offered on Foursquare and Gowalla.
Foursquare, Gowalla and MyTown are all obvious, near-term takeover targets. Foursquare has reportedly been in discussions with Yahoo! and others and is trying to decide whether to remain independent. It probably will for the immediate future. MyTown is probably the least likely of the three to be bought by a traditional local search or portal player. I could imagine a gaming company such as a Zynga ultimately acquiring Booyah.
As the major features of these LBS game sites are emulated and absorbed by others (check-ins, coupons/deals, tips and local annotations) the question becomes: does their novelty whither and die in a year or two or can they develop sufficient momentum and critical mass to be self-sustaining?