There's lots of discussion about whether the avalanche of new tablets/eReaders/slates will "save" traditional journalism and media. No is the short answer; journalism and publishers will have to save themselves, although the new devices may create new opportunities.
What's more interesting is the way in which mobile can integrate with traditional print to enable the medium become more dynamic and more "accountable." This has been going on some time sporadically here and there, most notably with ads including short codes. More publishers are experimenting with QR/barcodes now.
The NY Times has a lengthy piece about it:
[M]agazines like Esquire and InStyle are adding interactive graphics to their articles, while Entertainment Weekly and Star are including them in ads.
Meanwhile, publishers using text-messaging programs to try to enliven their pages are packing information into the messages and using reader responses to calibrate their coverage.
The article also discusses the early and failed CueCat print-online convergence effort that attempted to do something similar but relied on specialized hardware. Now with smartphones everyone has (or millions have) the necessary device.
Meanwhile Time Inc. is using QR codes to promote this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in interesting and creative ways:
Print ads containing the promotional barcodes will begin to appear Jan. 25, two weeks before the issue’s Feb. 9 publication date. The ads will run in SI and other Time Inc. titles like Time, People and Fortune.
The barcodes also will appear on Las Vegas hotel room keys and in New York City subway car ads.
Users who snap a photo of the barcode with a camera phone will see photos of this year’s “rookie class,” or first-time swimsuit issue models.
The technology is from JagTag, which doesn't require end users to download a barcode reader and delivers multimedia content as well as text. This opportunity exists for magazines, newspapers and Yellow Pages.
The media get the added value of measured response rates, which may capture activity that call metering does not. And the consumer gets immediate, additional information -- and the potential ability to make a purchase on the spot (or save for late purchase).
In all it makes traditional print media much more interesting to advertisers and potentially consumers as well. Accordingly we should continue to see the growing integration of mobile and barcodes into print media advertising and editorial over the next 12 to 24 months. Publishers and advertisers will have to continue to experiment and find the most effective and useful implementations.
Right now we're still in the early "novelty" phase.
ChaCha is coming back from a difficult period -- 2009 was tough for everyone -- but founder/CEO Scott Jones says the company is now profitable on a per query basis and heading toward overall profitability hopefully later this year or early next. The company has a massive audience of teens and young adults but has struggled a bit in getting its message through to advertisers.
Here are some slides from the presentation Jones shared with me this afternoon:
Response rates have been very high for the campaigns run on ChaCha. Jones told me, for example, that when the company runs polls or asks open-ended questions of users it sees response rates of 80% in some instances. Most campaigns are not at that level, but significantly higher than comparable online advertising response.
Distracted by apps and smartphones, the thing that many advertisers still fail to understand is that SMS offers the greatest mobile reach in the market. Smartphones are 15% to 17% of US handsets (though growing), and they text as well. Today in the US alone there are roughly 4 billion SMS sent daily. This is not the same thing as search query volume but it shows you the scale were talking about.
ChaCha has refined the way it uses human guides, it's original differentiator, so that queries are about 90% automated today. Jones also said that questions/answers on ChaCha.com are showing up in Google search results and that's driving considerable traffic to the dot-com site (where it can be monetized).
I asked about how coupons were doing. Jones said that the program remains restricted to one market but that it's doing fairly well. The company offers online coupons, which can be sent to mobile, but not mobile coupons per se. He said that some merchants are entirely comfortable with mobile redemption and many still are not.
Ultimately ChaCha offers a pure national or national-local advertising play rather than one for SMBs, given how hard they are to corral.
Google is happy that Apple has decided to acquire Quattro. The company believes the new acquisition will help with regulators taking a closer look at its proposed $750 million acquisition of AdMob.
According to the Google Public Policy blog yesterday:
When we announced our planned acquisition of AdMob in November, we noted that the mobile advertising space is highly competitive -- with more than a dozen mobile ad networks. In fact, the experts at MobiThinking recently called mobile advertising a "very fragmented" space, in which "no ad network is dominant" and "no one really knows what ad network is biggest."
Today's news that Apple is acquiring one of AdMob's competitors, Quattro Wireless, is further proof that the mobile advertising space continues to be competitive. And with more investments and acquisitions in the space, including from established players like Apple and Google, that's a sign that vigorous growth and competition will continue. That's ultimately great for users, advertisers and publishers alike.
It's not clear to me whether in fact this does help Google's case, but the company is obviously trying to use the event to its advantage.
Here's the blog post that confirms the reported $275 million acquisition:
Happy New Year from Quattro Wireless
We are thrilled to let you know that Apple has acquired Quattro. We want to share with you our excitement about this news and what it means for our customers.
We have built our business by enabling advertisers to reach the right consumers across the mobile web and in applications. We remain focused on delivering more engaging, relevant and useful ads to mobile devices, and improving the measurement and execution of digital campaigns. Together with Apple, we look forward to developing exciting new opportunities in the future that will benefit our customers.
For now, the offerings and services you receive from Quattro Wireless will not change. We will continue to operate the Quattro Wireless network across all devices and platforms. Your client and support teams will remain the same, and you can continue to expect the world-class service we are proud to deliver to our customers.
We look forward to working with you during this exciting time.
Vice President, Mobile Advertising
A year ago at this time we put on our inaugural Internet2Go event, whose ambition was to showcase mobile advertising case studies to ad agencies. The objective was to prove the value and efficacy of mobile advertising. By all accounts it was a very strong event. But the case studies and discussions still had elements of surprise and novelty.
Many people in the audience were there to learn and lacked knowledge about the mobile market in general.
Roughly nine months later, with our online Mobile Marketing Summit (presented in conjunction with BrightTalk), there was still very much the need to educate people and overcome ignorance and even skepticism to a degree surrounding mobile advertising and marketing.
With tablet fever raging out of control and the forthcoming announcement that Apple is buying mobile ad network Quattro, there can be no denying that the mobile market is the hottest thing around.
Mobile stories and writing about mobile devices is dominating the coverage on Techmeme. Without question, we can say that the mobile Internet has formally arrived.
Massachusetts-based mobile ad network Quattro Wireless is reportedly being acquired by Apple for $275 million. AllThingsD has the exclusive -- although it's not so exclusive since I spoke to someone earlier tonight who was holding her story until she could get confirmation. Regardless here are the details per Kara Swisher:
The announcement might come as soon as tomorrow, upping the ante in the mobile advertising business significantly.
Waltham, Mass.-based Quattro has raised close to $30 million from two main venture investors–Highland Capital Partners and Globespan Capital Partners. Founded several years ago, its clients include Ford, Disney and the National Football League.
Quattro is clearly a "tier one" player in the mobile ad network segment.
Google previously announced the acquisition of AdMob for $750 million in stock, which is now being scrutinized by the FTC. Apple is unlikely to face the same level of scrutiny however -- and the $275 million looks like a steal by comparison (assuming that's the price). The AdMob acquisition, which has been arguably the primary display ads network for the iPhone, could well have sparked Apple to make this move.
There were rumors that Apple was also trying to buy AdMob but, obviously, was unsuccessful.
It's not clear to me whether, if true, the Apple-Quattro acquisition makes it easier or more difficult for Google with FTC approval. Apple isn't in the advertising business (yet), while Google is. In other words, Apple isn't buying a competitor, while some have argued that Google is with AdMob.
There will surely be more M&A in this segment and Apple might have figured that if it had waited it would loose a chance at one of the top-tier players. Millennial and JumpTap remain for the courting. There are other candidates as well: Mobclix comes to mind.
As Apple relies increasingly on the iPhone/iPod touch as a major revenue stream. And as it's poised to launch it's long-anticipated tablet at the end of this month, Apple may feel that it needs its own monetization engine to support and nurture its developer ecosystem. But the acquisition of Quattro puts Apple in a new business as well -- mobile advertising.
Tomorrow is Nexus-One/Android day at Google and tech bloggers and journalists are practically convulsing with anticipation. The dominant tech narrative (and drama) is no longer Google vs. Yahoo and Microsoft in PC search, it's become Google vs. Apple and the battle of the mobile handsets.
Previously comScore reported that Verizon's advertising blitz surround the Motorola Droid had paid significant dividends for Android brand awareness more generally -- and, specifically, future purchase intent:
The "genius" of Google's position and strategy is that it's getting partners and third parties to spend money to build the Android brand, whose adoption benefits Google arguably more than any other party, but certainly more than the carriers. Now ChangeWave provides data that confirm Android brand awareness translating into future purchase intent. According to ChangeWave:
21% of those planning to buy a smart phone in the next 90 days say they'd prefer to have the Android OS on their new phone – a monstrous 15-pt jump in just three months.
To put this in context, three months ago Android OS was tied for last place in consumer preference among the major mobile operating systems. But since then it has surged into second place ahead of all competitors except the iPhone OS X (28%) – which remains the number one choice for operating systems, although down 4-pts from previously.
This is an amazing development for the new OS, just a little over a year old. As you see from the chart immediately above, the US smartphone market is becoming about three sets of devices. It's increasingly a three-way race between the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android.
Palm is once again in an extremely difficult position and is being marginalized quickly. While the Pixi has possibilities as a feature phone upgrade, the Pre (which I own) is all but done without some major improvements. Similarly, Windows Mobile (absent a fantastic Windows Mobile 7 upgrade late this year) faces a similar challenge.
But the arrival of the Nexus One and the proliferation of Android devices across US carriers presents Apple with an imperative: get out from under AT&T exclusivity now or stall in the face of the "good enough" device in Android.
The new flagship Android handset, the Nexus One, is faster and has some features not found on the iPhone but it's still not a superior device overall. But the public won't care very soon. Those who've switched carriers to get the iPhone have already switched. That trend has run its course. Those that refused to or resisted won't switch now; they've got options.
So what if Android isn't the iPhone; increasingly it's "good enough."
TechCrunch points to a promotion on the FourSquare site that gives the "mayor" of a particular organic food restaurant in North Carolina, Blynk Organic, a free meal. One becomes mayor by being the most frequent visitor to "check in" at a venue. Here's a full list of businesses offering what amount to mobile coupons or deals to FourSquare "mayors."
One should see this as a mobile loyalty program of sorts. I still don't believe that FourSquare is mainstream but these local business promotions potentially give it much broader appeal. Nothwithstanding my "non-mainstream" remark, in some ways FourSquare represents the perfect expression of the convergence of local, social and mobile.
In filings at the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission, Jingle Networks Inc. has indicated that it has issued and sold new shares for $6.651 million, raising the amount of money it has raised since inception roughly five years ago to $68 million. Reports indicate that nine investors participated in this round, but the company would only disclose that participants in previous rounds took part in this recent underwriting. That list includes First Round Capital, Goldman Sachs, Hearst Interactive Media, and Liberty Associated Partners. The company's Board of Directors include Ken Bronfin of Hearst, Chip Hazard of Flybridge Capital Partners, Josh Kopleman of First Round Capital, Louis Toth of Comcast Interactive Capital and David Berkman of Liberty.
Scott Kliger, former CTO, is now the CEO. In an email, he told TechCrunch that the new funds would be used to build up its mobile ad network dramatically and that the "voice service is profitable."
Update: Our research and that of others shows that two-thirds to three-quarters of mobile users are not aware of free 411 alternatives. Most people, aware to varying degrees of the cost of calling 411 on mobile handsets, call directory assistance infrequently.
Jingle may be "profitable," but "free DA" a market that basically never happened (there may still be opportunity). The carriers, which launched their own free DA services in anticipation of usage that didn't occur (i.e., Verizon's 800-THE-INFO), now have no incentive to promote them. And Google's GOOG 411 (probably most used after Jingle's 800-Free-411) has used the service primarily as a way to train its speech recognizers to support voice search on smartphones.
Earlier 2009 research we conducted shows that 411 usage in general is threatened by smartphones (many of which will have voice search). Below "owner" is smartphone owner, "planning" refers to those intending to buy one in the next year and "non-owner" refers to feature phone owners.
We reported on this earlier but Nielsen has released its year-end mobile lists: handsets, brands and top sites accessed via mobile devices. It's not entirely clear what the distinction between a "site" and a "brand" is in this set of rankings but below are the charts.
Compare the top Nielsen sites (for 2009) with Opera's top sites for November. There's overlap but the lists are also different, Presumably the Nielsen data capture iPhone, Android and a somewhat broader spectrum of device usage than the Opera data:
And finally, the top handsets for the year:
The latest mobile metrics report from AdMob shows the growth of Android devices and the increase in WiFi mobile Internet access. It also shows where in the world the now almost 80 million iPhone OS devices reside. Here are the top-level data and some of the familiar charts:
Finally, in the US market -- at least on the AdMob network -- it's really shaping up to be a contest between the iPhone, Android and RIM; the other operating systems are really shrinking or being squeezed out.
All of these data are qualified by the fact that this is a reflection of AdMob's network and not the "mobile Internet" as a whole; however the trends are going to be consistent with the broader mobile Internet.
I'm not going to keep doing this for the next week or so, but here are JumpTap's and the MMA's predictions for next year:
10. Hypochondriac? We've got an app for that!
Ongoing global pandemics and concerns about socialized healthcare warrant a prescription for mobile content geared toward the sick and the paranoid. Symptoms to watch for include apps that diagnose, doctors that text and medical reminders at hand. Mobile health is just what the doctor ordered!
9. Back to Reality...
Oh, those boring old coupons - they get lost, forgotten, left behind or expired. Look for augmented reality to start playing a larger role in location-based advertising. Now, when you're walking into your favorite coffee shop, the real-time mobile coupon you receive gives you instant gratification with your discounted daily grind.
8. I want my Mobile TV.
In the coming year, both the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2010 World Cup will heighten mobile video consumption. The introduction of new ad units, including interactive and partial screen, will subsidize free content.
7. Practice Safe Text
Governments and safety advocates around the world warned against texting and driving in 2009. We expect 2010 to bring about technology solutions that disable handset features when the owner is driving.
6. A guy walks into a Barcode...
Proliferation of standardized technology and higher quality camera phones will not only lead to increased adoption of mobile barcodes and coupons, but will also offer a whole new access point to content.
5. Have you hugged your aggregator lately?
Look for aggregators to expand their businesses beyond shortcodes. Aggregation services in the areas of location, customer service and mobile commerce will begin to emerge.
4. Turn free in 1.2 miles
Free is a very good price. We're keeping an eye out for no-cost turn-by-turn navigation applications rolling out on more devices in 2010. The end of stand-alone GPS is in sight. What great news for consumers...and McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts and Dairy Queen.
3. Your Skype is Showing
Services that enable video conferencing and the networks and handsets that support it (like cameras on the front of the phone!) will proliferate in the coming year. More consumers will connect via WiFi, offloading traditional non-wireless video conferencing services.
2. How does mobile measure up?
Moving into 2010 and beyond, campaign effectiveness will be measured in a variety of different and very creative ways. The number of eyeballs, shakes and finger swipes. The number of blogs, articles, tweets and diggs. The number of acquisitions, conversions, calls, responses or purchases. Total basket size, consumer recall, loyalty and recommendations. Check-ins on foursquare and check-outs on Amazon.
1. Mobile's Sixth Sense
Over the past few years, the mobile device has moved beyond standard technology inputs. We're no longer talking, typing and clicking. Now, we're photographing, recording, touching, locating, shaking, accelerating and blowing. What's next? We're rooting for smell recognition.
Morgan Stanley's Mary Meeker gave a mobile-centric Web 2.0 conference presentation that everyone was talking about several months ago. From our point of view there wasn't anything particularly new in her remarks but she put everything together into historical context. And the crowd there, which may not have seen mobile as "distruptive," was paying attention.
Now comes hundreds of pages and slides that everyone can download here:
There's a ton of data and projections in these documents. Read them over the holiday or before bedtime. Perhaps the most interesting part (I haven't been through everything) is the historical analysis that talks about previous disruption cycles and predicts winners and losers in the future accordingly.
The big themes are that the mobile Internet will be "at least" 2X the size of the PC Internet and that the whole thing is "ramping" much faster than the desktop did. The latter point we've made many times in the past.
We are clearly in a kind of double-transition period: traditional media are contending with the fruits of massive consumer Internet adoption but the transition to mobile is happening simultaneously and perhaps a bit obscured as a result. But just as the Internet is "disruptive" of traditional media, mobile is also potentially disruptive of aspects of the Internet. Google has seen that perhaps better than any of its competitors and moved very aggressively as a result.
Many companies, analyst firms and media outlets tend to focus on ad revenues as a measure of whether a medium has "arrived." For example, many of the articles and even forecasts about mobile ad revenues tend to talk about how small they are relative to traditional Internet advertising. And when, oh when, will it be "the year of mobile"?
Dude this year already was. We're here.
Whether ad networks and publishers can efficiently and effectively monetize the mobile Internet is not going to matter to consumers -- not going to matter. Consumers will be using the mobile Internet more and more and as a primary access point in an increasing number of situations. It will be preferred in a large number of cases.
The smartphone is going to become "the remote control for your life," in the way that the iPhone or iPod Touch can literally become a remote control device for TV. People will want to access content that they've researched, saved, collected online (i.e., in the cloud) from the mobile device. But the future is not just about phones; it's about myriad mobile devices and Internet access points in the world against near-ubiquitous connectivity.
The mobile Internet -- from a consumer perspective -- will get larger and larger. Ad revenues will come but consumers are way ahead. Millennial Media predicted that we'd see 100 million mobile Internet users in the US next year. I think that's nearly a slam dunk prediction. Frequency is another matter of course but it too will go up over time. Voice search on my handset may mean that I do as many or more searches there than on my PC.
I'm sitting on the couch and I want to know the answer to trivia question X. Do I get up and go into the other room? No, I take out the smartphone and speak the query: "Who was the 17th president of the US?" Done. Now back to the movie.
Advertisers, agencies and publishers ignore the mobile Internet at their own peril.
If you thought that the PC Internet gave people control over which ads they consumed, you ain't seen nothing yet. Less inventory and consumer ambivalence about ads on their handsets means that advertising will really need to turn into "content" or be so viral or targeted that people will be motivated to respond. This despite the fact that mobile response rates are much higher than on the PC.
That's a bit of a paradox, I realize.
Source: Morgan Stanely research
Predictions: they're unavoidable PR products this time of year, a ritual that is almost compulsory now. Mobile Marketer has rounded up a number of predictions in a new article. Some of those are from Millennial Media, which released its set independently.
Here's the Millennial Media list:
Here's what we agree with among the above:
Privacy may become a significant issue for mobile in 2010 as it has online this year. One of the predictions in the Mobile Marketer piece is that the carriers open up location this coming year to third parties. That's likely to be the case; increasingly cast in the "dumb pipe" role they need to find ways to make themselves relevant to advertisers, ad networks and consumers.
Stepping back, two broad things are important to point out:
Along the lines of the latter point, as has been repeated many times before, mobile is not a stand-alone marketing strategy. It must be considered in the larger context of an overall campaign. And all publishers (and increasingly brands) must have a mobile strategy in 2010 -- but be thoughtful about it.
I would also argue that online and mobile media buying will become much more integrated in the coming year to reduce barriers to mobile advertising and provide combined reach to marketers. Mobclix's deal with Advertising.com is a leading indicator of what's to come.
The mobile handset is a "bridge" between the digital and physical worlds and location matters -- a lot. But "local" is not the alpha and omega of the mobile experience. People do all sorts of things on their handsets that have nothing to do with where they are right now. However to realize the "location x relevancy x immediacy" opportunity argued above, dynamic ad creative will need to become more widely used (see Google-Teracent).
Social media and communication between people is also a central part of the mobile experience that wasn't really discussed in the predictions above. Local + mobile + social will be widespread in 2010. Voice search and voice control of handset functions will become more central to the user experience.
Finally augmented reality; here's what the Mobile Marketer piece says:
Augmented reality will likely gain traction in 2010, but will remain a bell and whistle compared to list and map view.
1020 Placecast believes that 2010 will be the year that this exciting technology begins to be adopted on mobile phones . . .
Expect to see retailers and entertainment companies trying out ways of showcasing their brands with this niche, but exciting new technology. Although augmented reality will appear in more applications, consumers will still prefer the list and map versions to search results on a usage basis.
I would say something slightly different. It's not going to be the list or map vs. the floating Twitter posts. Augmented Reality's use cases have already started to emerge and the "more information about what's in front of me" scenario is what will stick for AR in the near term.
AR "browsers" won't replace conventional search or be widely adopted, but the ability to gain more information through the camera or by taking a picture of an object (e.g., Amazon-SnapTell, Google Goggles) will become more commonplace as part of a larger application or experience. I won't scan the street with my camera to get reviews about the restaurants in Times Square. But I will get more information about a painting, a building or a product using the camera. I might stand in front of a restaurant to see if there's a deal or discount via AR. (Related to this is QR codes, which may become more widespread in the US in 2010.)
Augmented reality in the form of "visual search" is right now the most provocative area for mobile development in my opinion. Voice is perhaps more mundane but very important for the advancement of the mobile user experience.
Update: Neglected to mention tablets will continue to proliferate but may not have an impact until 2011.
Oracle shows a tin ear to privacy concerns with the introduction of a new mobile advertising management platform for communications service providers. Dubbed the Oracle Communications Marketing and Advertising Solution, this software is designed to provide wireless carriers with In an introductory presentation squarely aimed at showing how carriers can use the new platform to garner a share of the mobile advertising and promotional revenue streams by establishing position in the critical path between advertisers, ad agencies, ad network operators and targeted sets of mobile subscribers. Oracle claims to "put the network operator in control" of a wide variety of use cases and transactions by enabling them to operate a marketplace that manages marketing campaigns (primarily involving SMS, MMS and WAP push) which "leverages subscriber data" to support more accurate targeting. It also provides out-of-the-box portal software that supports self-service tools for flexible pricing of advertising options as well as the ability to monitor advertising performance.
In promotional literature and its Web site Oracle's overall message is that they can leverage the information they collect about their subscribers into the basis for delivering targeted ads. The special sauce is tight integration between the advertising delivery engine, with subscriber profiles and existing services to support Notification and Workflow, Bulk Messaging, Traffic Interceptor, Monitoring, Billing, and Data Abstraction. To Oracle, the Advertising & Marketing (A&M) platforms overcomes several technical challenges associated with real-time push marketing to mobile subscribers. The promotional literature makes it sound like it will be simple for carriers to leverage the tight coupling of subscriber data with service delivery into a a greater share of the revenue pie.
The unspoken term for the data that subscribers generate when they use public communications networks is CPNI (customer proprietary network information). If the Advertising & Marketing (A&M) Platform is a way to make this so-called "proprietary" data a component of a targeting scheme, it won't get very far. Yet, when one thinks of all the "network information" and activity flows that Google is able to embed in its algorithm for targeted delivery of ads, you can see why Oracle and its carrier clients might want to take a stab at it.
The very thought of using data from the existing CRM and ERP systems powered by Oracle for the purpose of targeting advertising will be a red flags among subscribers who may feel that the carriers are, in effect, selling access to their status information. With the tele-management aspects knocked, the challenges of productization and sales are just beginning. Entrenched ad networks, aggregators and other intermediaries may not be so happy to see Oracle as an arms merchant to the carriers in what's turning out to be a land grab. The red flag for wireless subscribers is red meat for privacy lobbyists who are unlikely to let the Communications A&M platform thrive unchallenged.
According to an item in the Wall Street Journal, the US Federal Trade Commission will take a look at Google's proposed acquisition of AdMob. It reportedly said nothing about two smaller recently announced Google acquisitions: Teracent or Gizmo5. The $750 million price tag of the AdMob deal, combined with the fact that it's one of the largest and most high profile of the mobile ad networks got the notice.
However there's almost zero chance that it will be blocked on anti-trust or other grounds. The mobile advertising space is highly competitive and there remain numerous companies that are very strong and independent, as well as strong competition for Google from Yahoo! and Microsoft.
As I've said many times, dynamic platforms (e.g., Teracent) are the key to realizing the potential and twin goals of mobile advertising -- reach + hyper-targeting -- which would be in conflict in the absence of the ability to insert offers, locations, etc. on the fly.
As we've argued previously "mobile search" has so far been a small-screen version of its PC sibling: a box producing links and images on a tiny version of a Web page. But as 2010 begins we'll see "mobile search" start to break away more and more and take on more of the "native" attributes of the handset (location awareness, voice input, camera).
Local "discovery" (what's nearby) apps and tools are starting to do that, leveraging the phone's location awareness. In addition voice is starting to assume a more prominent role as a query input mechanism. Verizon's Droid ads featuring voice search are an example of the increasing visibility of this utility. And the camera is increasingly a search tool. Product barcode scanning is one use case, which is gaining traction. Augmented reality (AR) is yet another example. However, AR is mostly novelty now -- although it will evolve and mature quickly.
In that latter category Google Goggles or Google Visual Search, as it's more descriptively called, is a potentially compelling use of the camera as a search tool. Currently being tested, it will allow a user to take a picture of an object, building, product, etc. and retrive information and maybe commercial content (e.g., coupons, what's on sale). AR "browsers" such as Wikitude and Layar offer an early version of visual search. But, so far, these are somewhat awkward integrations of third party data displayed in the camera viewer.
Google Visual Search is a more ambitious version of what Amazon has done with products: you take a picture of an item and Amazon will find it for you in the database. In the recent CNBC documentary "Inside the Mind of Google," there was a bit on "Google Googles." Here's the video segment that has it (about 3:58)
Google is one of the few companies, Microsoft is probably the other, that can bring all the evolving elements of search together on the handset: location/maps, camera/AR (including barcode scanning) and voice with the massive databases needed to make it all work. Unlike the PC where search is "flat," (box + links) search on a mobile device will be "variegated," featuring the integration of different tools and capabilities together in context sensitive and relevant ways.
And if Google can do "visual search" well -- again, being able to tie the database together with images and location is the key -- others will have a hard time breaking through in "mobile search." On a related note, as a kind of baby step in this realm, Google has integrated QR barcode search with local business window decals.
We don't need to worry about the business model for Visual Search, it's pretty obvious: text and display ads, videos with pre-roll, sponsored contextual links and coupons could all be presented in results, depending on what was relevant and appropriate to the information shown.
Update: Google Goggles available from Google Labs today.
Twitter has always been mobile and, in fact, was inspired by SMS character limits (160 vs. 140). But Twitter is making some powerful moves in mobile that may give it advantages vs its primary rival Facebook. Its geolocation API could have quite a dramatic impact on LBS content and services.
4INFO, a leading mobile media company and pioneer of SMS advertising and publishing services, announced today the integration between the 4INFO ad network and Twitter to create an exclusive SMS ad unit and functionality. This new functionality allows users to follow a Twitter feed by simply texting a keyword. Both publishers and advertisers will use this feature to allow users to sign up for their favorite tweets via SMS directly from 4INFO, without having to text in to a new number.
The company also just launched a new mobile site (pictured). To some degree this may compete with the various mobile clients around but it makes Twitter even more mobile centric as the company plans to grow and monetize in 2010.
Microsoft Mobile's reputation is such that, whatever tactic it pursues, it will find criticism from one or more members of the analyst community. The launch of Microsoft Mobile Marketplaces is no exception. In this post on Moconews, Tricia Duryee makes the particularly harsh observation that the new service "hints at how far behind Microsoft is in mobile advertising", and goes further by noting that Google has purchased AdMob to move on to banners while "Microsoft is still meddling around in mobile search."
I dunno, on the other hand, what choice does Microsoft have. It is not as if it has to choose between banners and search marketing. Especially as it builds the Bing.com brand, we would argue that it is wise to link mobile marketing and advertising campaigns to all of the resources and capabilties baked into the Bing brand. That includes a shopping engine that provides "cash back" as well as the potential to build additional vertical or specialized mobile search engines that leverage off of the Bing platform for purchasing sponsored links.
Sure, today's results are modest. The service only supports search of Ringtones. But it is a good test case for future offers that establish marketplaces for a wider variety of products and services, both for download and order from real-world merchants. The Ringtone Marketplace may be a pale precursor to what's ahead, but before we concede all mobile advertising and commerce to Google and Apple, let's not totally discount Microsoft's ability to build a business around mobile search marketing and Bing.
In the wake of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States when retailers hope for sales to put them "in the black", SoundBite is teaming with loyalty-marketing specialist Mall Networks to issue alerts to tell mobile customers about each "Deal of the Hour" offered on Shop.org's cybermonday.com Web site. This is the third year that Shop.org, the digital division of the National Retail Federation, has sponsored this sort of eHoliday activity. The trade organization sponsored a customer survey that leads it to expect that "53.5 percent of workers with Internet access, or 68.8 million people, will shop for holiday gifts from work" this year.
The survey, conducted by BIGresearch in early November 2009, also showed taht 73.8% of young adults 18-24 with Internet access will shop at work. The notion of using text alerts to inform shoppers of impending bargains is merely reinforcing a well-established behavior.
Over 600 online merchants participate in Shop.org's activities. The majority of them have both brick-and-mortar stores, as well as a cyber-presence. When you count "free shipping" as an offer, nearly nine in ten (87.1%) of these retailers will have a special promotion for Cyber Monday. According to Shop.org, "the most popular promotions are expected to be specific deals (42.9%), one-day sales (32.9%), and free shipping on all purchases (15.7%). Half of retailers (50.0%) will distribute promotions and deals to shoppers through a special Cyber Monday email, and now self-identifying shoppers can register to receive text messages regarding the hourly specials from participating online merchants.