Mobile Advertising

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. 

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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. 

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?

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

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

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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. 

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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:

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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. 

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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.

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.

Takeaways from the IAB Mobile Conference

The following are some "takeaways" by Citi analyst Mark Mahaney from the recent IAB Mobile Marketing Conference in New York (we didn't attend): 

  • JumpTap reported 3X user engagement in Rich Media Ads on mobile smartphones vs. PC display. Also: 2X the views of mobile movie trailers for studio clients vs. on PCs.
  • PointRoll also noted iPad Ad (display) interaction at 1.10% vs. Mobile at 0.5%, and desktop at 0.26%.
  • Jumptap: 42% of its customers advertise on RIM, followed by 24% on iPhone, 15% on WinMo, 13% on Android. By contrast 55% of JumpTap’s mobile traffic comes from non-smartphones.
  • Quantcast: the iPhone had 65% mobile Web traffic share and Android had 12% less than a year ago. In May the iPhone had 59% share, while Android had 20% share.
  • Mobile Search ads: Advertisers Citi spoke with said search on mobile works well for branded terms, but not for generic terms. Also CPMs continue to be prohibitively high due to the current 2 ads at the top of Google, which result in aggressive bidding of keywords to get ads one of those two spots.

These data reflect a nice snapshot of the market today. There's higher engagement with mobile ads but the medium is more complex and challenging in some respects, as the search data suggest. Android is an increasingly viable #2 platform to the currently dominant iPhone.

Feature phones (and SMS) should also not be neglected. While smartphones in the US constitute about 23% of the market, that means non-smartphones are 77%. While the numbers will become more balanced over time there are still lots of people on feature phones in the US and around the globe. 

IAB Wisely Holds Off on Ad Standards for Mobile

Though many will not say it publicly many digital agency executives and industry observers believe that ad standardization killed online ad creativity. Some also believe that standardization paved the way for so-called "banner blindness" and consumer willingness to simply ignore much of what passes for advertising online.

This led the Online Publishers Association last year to introduce huge new display ad formats, used by selected sites such as the NY Times. Their explicit aim was to revive online ad creativity and grab consumer attention. According to the press release put out at the time: 

These new advertising units reflect the publishers’ desire to achieve four key objectives that will guide the evolution of online display advertising into its next phase:

  • Inspire creativity and high-quality advertising: Develop display units that will inspire a creative renaissance in high-quality advertising by providing a larger canvas for creativity, content and functionality.
  • Provide a greater share of voice for the advertiser: Increase the relative proportion of advertising space (in a single unit) to editorial content and, where possible, run fewer but more captivating ads on the page.
  • Introduce a measurement to capture impact: Develop a metric that emphasizes the impact creative advertising can have on Web viewers while preserving the Internet’s well-established ability to engender response.
  • Enhance interactivity to build user engagement with brands: Offer a broad range of interactivity built into units such as video players, lead capture and advertiser content that will be sharable and have permalinks to spotlight and encourage the best in creativity, while weaving the advertisements deeper into the social fabric of the Web.

Yesterday the IAB published a document called "Prevailing mobile in-application advertising formats." Not standardization per se, it seeks to "codify" mobile ad formats in use today but stops short of recommending consistent ad units at this point: 

Any effort to promote simplification of ad formats must make it easier or cheaper to produce creative for the medium, without stifling the creativity of those designing content or advertising for that medium. At this stage, the in-app ad landscape is too new and dynamic to be ready for creative standards.

The IAB intends this document to offer guidance to both sellers and buyers of in-app ads. We plan to maintain this survey as a living thing, responsive to the astounding pace of change in the in-app ad landscape. We envision updating it as new formats emerge on the scene and gain traction, and as devices and platforms evolve (we note that the iPhone 4’s screen resolution will render much of this document obsolete if that device catches on and older iPhone models leave the market). We’d also like to highlight not just the more popular formats, but also new and innovative ones as well.

While standardization promotes media buying efficiency it also threatens to diminish the excitement and creativity of the new medium. The IAB was wise to restrain itself and let mobile (and tablet) advertising develop organically -- at least for now. 

iPhone Competitors Smell Blood in The Water

Even before Friday's Apple press conference about "antennagate," Verizon was exploiting Apple's problems in ads promoting its Android phones in a full-page newspaper ad in the NY Times. Part of the ad copy read:

And most importantly, it comes with a double antenna design. The kind that allows you to hold the phone any way you like and use it just about anywhere to make crystal clear calls.

Then on Friday, during the press conference, Jobs now infamously said that the iPhone's antenna problems weren't unique, other smartphones have them too. Then the angry reactions and pile-on began.

At once defending themselves and sensing that there was "blood in the water" out the competitor's statements came

"We have not received significant customer feedback on any signal reduction issue for the Omnia II," Samsung said in a statement . . .

"Apple's attempt to draw RIM into Apple's self-made debacle is unacceptable," RIM co-Chief Executives Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie said in a statement emailed late Friday.

And from Nokia

Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying human behavior, including how people hold their phones for calls, music playing, web browsing and so on. As you would expect from a company focused on connecting people, we prioritize antenna performance over physical design if they are ever in conflict.

Motorola also argued that its handsets are free from the antenna problems suffered by iPhone 4.

Quick to defend themselves against what they thought were unfair comparisons, Apple's competitors relished a rare moment of vulnerability for the iconic device. Until now it had seemed invulnerable and unbeatable. 

iOS v. Android, but What about the Others?

The media keep focusing on the "battle" between iPhone and Android. But the mobile platform and handset market is not winner-take-all. There's room for more than two players to succeed in the US and internationally. This is a key point made by Google itself several times now. 

But how many platforms and smartphone operating systems can the market support exactly?

The following charts reflect OS representation on AdMob's global network. (AdMob does not equal the mobile Internet or mobile handsets more broadly, but there's a directional correspondence between mobile Internet trends and what AdMob shows in its metrics reports.)

If you consider the chart immediately above, what you see is that the "mobile Internet" (on AdMob's network) is dominated by iOS, followed by Android in North America and Western Europe. In other regions Nokia is a major player or dominant. Despite its large, installed base RIM is barely present on this chart.

RIM of course sells more smartphones than anyone in North America. However its mobile Internet usage data and overall user experience lag competitors. BlackBerry 6 seeks to change that.  

There aren't going to be five viable global smartphone platforms. There might be four, but it's more likely three. Those will vary, as the chart above suggests, on a geographic basis, with the two "constants" across regions likely to be Android and the iPhone.

Given the scathing criticque that an InfoWorld writer offered of Windows 7 (after a demo), it's quite possible that Microsoft might not be among the winners:

The bottom line is this: Windows Phone 7 is a pale imitation of the 2007-era iPhone. It's as if Microsoft decided in summer 2007 to copy the iPhone and has shut its developers in a bunker ever since, so they don't realize that several years have passed, that the iPhone has advanced, and that competitors such as Google Android and Palm WebOS have also pushed the needle forward. 

We'll have to wait and see how accurate this very harsh review is later this year when the handsets hit the market. But the Kin debacle is not a good sign for Redmond. 

In the US smartphone market, it's currently a three-way race between iPhone, Android and RIM. In Europe it's likely to be iPhone, Android and Nokia. Other platforms may simply not have the scale and (developer) mindshare to compete. Several developer surveys certainly suggest this as well. 

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 Source: Appcelerator (6/10)

Google Q2 Earnings Call: Android Search Up 300% in 1H

Google released its second quarter 2010 earnings today. You can read the full release and see the earnings slides here. I'm going to focus only on the mobile comments made during the earnings call.

All of the remarks below are from Google SVP Jonathan Rosenberg:

On Android growth: 

  • We are now activating over 160,000 Android devices every day. This is up from 65,000 last quarter.
  • The Android market is also open of course, and now has over 70,000 apps. That was around 30,000 in April.

On mobile search growth:

  • Android search grew 300% in the first half of 2010. So, yes, search on Android devices is exploding.
  • The most popular app is a browser. And what do people do with the browser on these devices? They search an order of magnitude more than they have on any previous type of smartphones, which they had in years past. So, the combination of people browsing on these smartphones connected on very, very fast networks, and searching on them is basically the formula around how Google makes, how Google succeeds.

On click to call ad performance:

  • The click to call ads on the high end mobile phones are doing very well. The click through rates go up 6% when you put ads with a phone number, 8% when you put a local address. 

On mobile search not cannibalizing the PC:

  • I think there are also slightly different usage patterns across desktop and mobile. You tend to see more use of the mobile devices on weekends, which is not surprising but they don’t actually have any more specific data that proves those observations or that hypothesis. 

While mobile search volumes are growing from a small base, the numbers very quickly can become very large.

Citi's Mark Mahaney estimated that mobile search volumes are now roughly 10% of Google's overall monthly search queries in the US. That may be aggressive but if it's close that would mean more than a billion searches a month on mobile devices. And if we consider that the bulk of those are coming from smartphones (21% - 23% of the market), the growth potential is huge.

JumpTap: New Customers Keep All the Loot

Seeing an opportunity and trying to grab some attention from the Apple vs. Google debate/meme, ad network JumpTap is offering to let new customers (developers and publishers) keep 100% of ad revenue for a limited time:

The new program empowers mobile app developers and publishers to increase their revenue using the industry's most comprehensive array of ad solutions that run across any device -- including iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android, and BlackBerry -- all from one ad network and one single point of integration.

The Jumptap Passport to Freedom Program establishes a $4 million fund for new customers who will get to keep 100 percent of their revenues through the rest of 2010 or until the fund is depleted -- whichever is sooner. Become an advertiser and reinvest the earnings and Jumptap will actually double the amount available for advertising dollars -- that's up to a 200 percent payout. To get started, new customers just sign up for an account; download the SDK and start earning money.

As the statement above indicates, the offer is limited to the exhaustion of a $4 million fund. This 100% of revenue tactic -- reminiscent of how Google spread AdSense in its early days -- is also being used by inMobi to acquire new publisher-developer clients. 

Separately, despite all the bluster and hand-wringing around Apple's new terms of service, which appear to bar any advertising provider associated with an OS maker (Apple competitor), Apple has not in fact barred AdMob from iOS devices. Apple's devices reportedly constitute 30% of AdMob's revenues. According to Omar Hamoui, AdMob founder (now Google VP of Mobile Ads), quoted in the Wall Street Journal: 

Apple hasn’t enforced the threat, “and we’re very appreciative of that,” he said.

A number of companies, including JumpTap, are trying to seize the recent uncertainty surrounding AdMob's continued operation on iOS devices. Hence the new program. 

Report: 82% of Consumers Use Phones in Store

Insight Express (IE) has put out some very interesting data this morning (coming to me via IE's Joy Luizzo) that confirms our own research and what we've been writing about for quite some time: consumers are increasingly using their handsets in stores, while shopping. In addition, they're very interested in and open to deals in context.

Some people want to look for deals themselves and a large number of people want deals pushed to them. 

The data in IE's new mobile shopping report are based on a June consumer survey of 1,300 US adult mobile users. A whopping 82% said they used their mobile devices in the store, while shopping. 

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Source: Insight Express, June 2010 (n=1300 US mobile phone users)

Separately 72% of those open to deals expressed interest in having coupons and offers pushed to them, with almost 30% wanting to receive them in a store: 

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Source: Insight Express, June 2010 (n=1700 US mobile phone users)

The report also shows that smartphone owners are more engaged than non-smartphone owners, as one might expect.

People (males 25-34 with smartphone in particular) are using phones in the store, in front of products to make buying decisions. They're checking reviews and prices, as well as looking for deals and discounts. IE says that 53% of male mobile shoppers have smartphones.

Historically males have been adverse to using coupons, but in mobile (and even online) the "stigma" associated with coupon use is largely eliminated. Accordingly, IE reports that in its survey male smartphone users "over-index" (vs. the general population) for coupons in specific categories:

  • Electronics
  • Clothing 
  • Department stores
  • Service locations 

Finally, 51% of mobile male shoppers want to look for deals themselves vs. 39% who wanted offers pushed to them via SMS. Last week Placecast published similar findings: mobile phone owners want offers and are very receptive to those coming to them via SMS. 

___

Related: Knowledge Networks found:

Among those who use a smartphone with applications ("apps"), 40% refer to apps at least "sometimes" when making decisions while shopping . . .32% already say they are more inclined to buy from companies that advertise in apps – a much higher proportion than for other emerging platforms.

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. 

GetJar Raises Money, Flexes App Muscle

Platform "agnostic" apps store GetJar is far less well-known than its branded peers but, depending on how you count, it's either got the second or third largest app store in the market (not just for smartphones). As an aside, it becomes a prime takeover target at some point in the near-to-medium term.

The company just revealed that it has added an $11 million Series B funding round (from Accel Partners) to its earlier $6 million Accel-funded A Round.

The company was founded in Lithuania five years ago and has moved its headquarters to Silicon Valley. GetJar claims a billion downloads of 65,000 apps. Google's Andy Rubin said yesterday that Android now had "over 65,000 applications." 

Below is Distimo's June calculation of the relative size of the app stores (somewhat outdated now).

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By comparison Apple claims "more than five billion apps have been downloaded from the revolutionary App Store and more than 225,000 apps are available to consumers in 90 countries."

Trying to Steal Apple's Thunder Verizon Announces Droid 'X'

The morning after glowing iPhone 4 reviews, Verizon and Google tried to steal back some attention for Android with the announcement of "Droid X." There was a splashy press event in New York. I was not there. Here are the major specs on the new Motorola device:

  • 4.3 inch screen
  • 1GHz processor
  • 3G Mobile HotSpot capabilities
  • Adobe Flash Player 10.1

This is essentially Motorola's answer to HTC's Android EVO.

Android boss Andy Rubin said in press materials that “There are 160,000 new Android-powered devices activated daily and Android Market has grown to over 65,000 applications." The new phone runs "Froyo," Android 2.2, which has some impressive capabilities.

According to an associated Google blog post, "there are 60 compatible Android devices, delivered via a global partnership network of 21 OEMs and 59 carriers in 49 countries."

Multiplatform app software platform vendor Appcelerator conducted a survey of 2,733 developers from June 15-17, 2010. It found that developers favor Apple in the near term but are betting on Android in the longer term:

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The potential reason behind developers' more favorable view of Android longer term goes to the platform's "flexibility" and "adaptability" to other devices (TV, in car, etc.) and the distaste for Apple's control. The overwhelming majority of respondents (86%) said that Apple had become "too controlling." 

But what's also striking about these findings (top graphic) is the diminished interest in virtually all other smartphone platforms. Just as Nokia prepares to abandon Symbian for MeeGo, the Appcelerator survey shows very little interest among US-based developers. Even BlackBerry, which has greater market share than the iPhone and Android, is seeing declinging interest among developers: 75% of developers thought that it would eventually be eclipsed by Android and the iPhone. 

SMS Marketing Still Looking for Respect

Although it has greater reach than any other form of mobile marketing and though it is highly versatile and can be quite effective, SMS based marketing programs are still struggling for attention and respect. Many CMOs and even some mobile industry insiders simply perceive it as a kind of interim step to a future dominated by apps, mobile search and rich media on mobile devices (e.g., iAd). 

In recognition of this and in a move to diversify its offerings 4Info has acquired New York City-based Butter, a development shop that builds apps for brands. According to a piece appearing in AdAge on the acquisition:

4info plans to take its newly acquired app expertise to its 300 brand partners, which include USA Today and other Gannett newspapers, the NBA, Yahoo and Evite. Today, 4info sends nearly one-third of all content-based texts in the U.S., said Ms. Shumaker, adding up up to about 100 million texts per month. Butter, on the other hand, is on track to bring in 5% of app content-sponsorship ad revenue, she said. 

This is a bid for more revenue and mindshare but also an ironic move to remain "relevant" to brands and other types of marketers that want sexier mobile offerings.

Earlier this morning I also received this email from a PR person for LSN Mobile, which operates a local ad network and serves TV affiliates:

Did you know that LSN Mobile, a leading mobile marketing and media company, sends more than 10 million permission-based SMS news alerts each month? The company empowers media companies and advertisers to deliver their content and advertising to 97% of mobile device users in the U.S—all 270 million of them. By providing local media content in all 210 DMAs and on every major carrier, LSN Mobile gives advertisers extensive opportunities to reach mobile subscribers where and when they want to be reached.

Text messaging has much greater penetration than any other form of mobile marketing. It is also the cornerstone of most mobile loyalty programs, which can be extremely effective. And it has the added virtue of being able to track other forms of media, including traditional media. 

As more brands and marketers adopt mobile, SMS will continue to be an important part of the overall marketing mix. But many executives don't see this because they aren't thinking clearly about the segment and they're mesmerized by the sex appeal of apps.

Bing Upgrades iPhone App, Adds New Features

Microsoft has relatively quielty released a new version of Bing for the iPhone. It adds a range of features and capabilities, as well as improving some existing features. Bing on the iPhone was already a very strong app and now it has a lot more to offer.

Among the list of things that are new:

  • Barcode (and cover art) scanning with the iPhone's camera
  • Bing Social integration with Twitter and Facebook. It offers search results from your social network and alternatively becomes a Facebook and Twitter client
  • More movie clips and trailers
  • Improved shopping/product results with "reviews, ratings, and prices" (accessible via the barcode scanning as well)

The barcode scanner, like others in the market, makes it possible to quickly check prices and product reviews in the store without typing in product names or other identifiers. The social features are also fun/useful. You can search on a product or place and see if your friends have said anything about it.

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The Bing iPhone app is underappreciated in my view. It's quite a bit richer and more user-friendly, for example, than the comparable Google app for the iPhone. Google offers many of the same capabilities spread out across Maps, Product Search and Goggles however.

These new Bing upgrades have made it more useful in my opinion. Beyond this, though not new, it has very good voice search. At some point soon, I'm going to do a quick "head to head" comparison of Vlingo, Nuance, Bing and Google voice search results.

This is just a quick overview. There's more on the new Bing iPhone app at Search Engine Land.

Where Launches Opt-In Deal Alerts

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:

  • Within the Coupons widget, I went to the preferences page to manage my alerts. First, I selected “Restaurants”, then “Mondays”, and finally “6:00am”. This set me up to receive offers in my area that were related to early morning food, and Bagel Station happened to have a deal.
  • That’s it. WHERE will automatically update you with a text message every week at the specified time if there’s a deal available in the area. The combination of category and location-relevancy with day and time makes Deal Alerts incredibly useful. For once, you’ll actually want the coupons you receive.

Where has aggregated lots of coupon inventory from multiple partners (e.g., Valassis, ValPak) to provide sufficient coverage to make the program interesting. 

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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. 

Android, iPad Grow in Latest 'Mobile Mix' Report

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:

  • Android requests grew 15% month-over-month, and have now grown 338% since January.
  • The Apple OS remained the leading operating system on the Millennial network, but it had a month-over-month decrease of nearly 14%
  • iPad requests grew 160% month-over-month
  • For individual manufacturers, HTC received the largest share increase month-over month for the second consecutive month

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.

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Compare AdMob's most recent mobile metrics report (April, 2010) in terms of devices and operating systems on its network:

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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:

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Millennial (top four):

  • iPhone: 48%
  • RIM: 19%
  • Android: 15%
  • Other: 8%

AdMob (top four):

  • Android: 46%
  • iPhone: 38%
  • RIM: 9%
  • Palm: 3% 

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).