Mobile Advertising

Little Overlap in Top Apps on Mobile Platforms

App store analytics provider Distimo has released its latest report profiling activity in the various app stores. The report points out, among other things, that app prices are highest in Europe and on the BlackBerry. It also shows that the majority of apps in the Android market (65%) are from US developers, presumably catering to the US market. However that will change as Android gains momentum in other markets.

Interestingly, the charts reflecting the top free and paid apps don't show much overlap on the major platforms. Below are graphics from the Distimo report about the top free apps:

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Here are a few casual observations. Facebook is universally popular, voice search tools show up across platforms (Bing, Vlingo, Nuance/Dragon). Weather is there a couple of times (RIM and Android). Barcode scanners are also popular. Not reflected above, RedLaser is the top paid app for the iPhone, and two scanners are in the top 10 for Android, according to these data. 

Some of the differences in app popularity may have to do with timing. Pandora was released first on the iPhone and was the most popular app that year. Later it rolled out to other platforms and became popular accordingly, while its popularity in the iTunes store declined.

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Geo Most Commonly Used Targeting Feature

I was reading the Rubicon Project's Q4 market report and it cited and reminded me of a September Millennial Media mobile ad survey of "100 leading [US] agencies" and brands. The Millennial report presents a picture of increasing investment in mobile marketing but also, a lack of resources and knowledge to effectively mount mobile campaigns in some cases.

Here's an excerpt from the executive summary:

Mobile spending is expected to increase next year, with 31 percent of agency respondents stating that they will invest between $100K and $249K. More than 15 percent (15.4 percent) plan to invest more than $1 million. More than half of Q4 mobile campaigns will represent between 1 percent and 10 percent of their clients’ total spending, but, for a few, that number will be a whopping 40 percent - 50 percent. Current participation remains high with nearly ¾ of the 100 leading agencies that responded to “The State of the Industry” stating that they have developed mobile campaigns for themselves or a client. Meanwhile, 28 percent have not taken the plunge.

It's worth revisiting and showing a few of the graphs:

Targeting approaches utilized:

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Campaign objectives and success metrics:

 Picture 120

Barriers to mobile ad adoption: 

 Picture 121

Arguably this final slide is the most important, with many agencies and brands not being sure where to begin, as well as being intimidated by what they perceive as complexity (also fragmentation) in the market.

It's very curious, however, that half of the agency respondents say they have "no internal resources" to deal with mobile. Many of the big holding companies bought mobile agencies (e.g., Publicis/Phone Valley). But, beyond that, isn't it their job to deal with important emerging channels? One would think so. 

As platforms and exchanges emerge to make it easier to buy across the ecosystem or single networks with enough reach (e.g., Goog-Mob)  are established we'll see many more brands and agencies move into mobile. This year and early next, we'll see rapid advancement of mobile advertising.

Crisp Brings 'App-Like' Ads to Mobile Web

Crisp Wireless announced a new ad technology that promises to bring mobile app-like rich media display ad units to the mobile Web (for smartphones). According to the release:

Crisp Wireless . . . today announced the launch of Adhesion, a new proprietary mobile ad placement technology for smartphones. Adhesion is a fixed placement technology that brings the best of in-app advertising to the mobile Web and enables publishers to sell premium inventory more effectively.

Standard mobile web banners have limited effectiveness because they go out of view as soon as the user scrolls. Adhesion ads remain fixed “above-the-fold”, providing the maximum view time and opportunities for engagement. Publishers can easily add Adhesion to their mobile sites by using the Crisp Ad Management Platform.  No changes to the mobile site are required.

Hearst has reportedly signed on for the units across the publisher's digital magazine and other properties. Here's a video that shows some of the dynamic units in operation: 

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The Crisp Wireless technology and ad units promise better engagement and more options for "brands" seeking to do mobile advertising.

The assumption behind all of this is that mobile Web ads are not as engaging or perform more poorly than in-app display ads. However, a recent WhitePages.com/Continental study found that the opposite was true.

GroundTruth Emerges to Challenge comScore

The mobile analytics segment is starting to mature and rapidly becoming more competitive. M:Metrics has been arguably the strongest player in the segment for the past few years. The company was acquired by comScore in May, 2008. Since that time new players such as Pinch Media and Flurry have arisen, among others, to measure the smartphone apps marketplaces. These two firms merged in December.

But there are a slew of others out there trying to help marketers gauge where to place their mobile ad dollars. Today a company called "GroundTruth," based in Seattle and founded by one of the co-founders of Medio Systems, Michael Libes, emerged from "stealth mode."

According to the release out today:

To date, estimates of Mobile Internet traffic have varied markedly, making decisions difficult for publishers and advertisers.  Publishers have been unable to validate their audiences or use the information to understand their competitors.  Advertisers have struggled to justify media buys or effectively evaluate mobile marketing campaigns.

Ground Truth data comes directly from mobile operators and other data providers to report aggregate mobile data usage, on any visited mobile site.  What the company has found using this superior methodology dispels many commonly held beliefs about how consumers interact with the Mobile Internet. 

The company argues by implication that its analytics are much more accurate than competitors (read: comScore). GroundTruth is getting its data mostly from mobile carriers (probably by paying for it or cutting some sort of barter deal). The company received $2.6 million in venture capital funding to date. And GroundTruth's data set consists of 2.5 million mobile users.

As a teaser GroundTruth put out "Top 10 Mobile Web Sites"* for the first week of 2010 (January 4-10, 2010)
(Ranked by total Page Views)

  1. MySpace
  2. Facebook
  3. Google
  4. Mocospace
  5. FunForMobile
  6. AirG
  7. Yahoo!
  8. Cellufun
  9. Mbuzzy
  10. Myxer

*Not including pages served by operator portals

This is very different, for example, than Nielsen's Top Mobile Sites list for most of 2009:

  1. Google Search
  2. Yahoo! Mail
  3. Gmail
  4. Weather Channel
  5. Facebook
  6. MSN Hotmail
  7. Google Maps
  8. ESPN
  9. AOL Email
  10. CNN News 

Libes told Moconews some other observations about the market, based on its data:

  • Ad mob is/was the largest mobile ad network "by far." Quattro was/is number two
  • Most of the top-10 mobile sites (see list above) are mobile only sites
  • 64% of all mobile page views are for social networks
  • Carrier decks have about 10% of all internet page views

I'm actually skeptical of the top 10 list provided by GroundTruth. I assume this list is "everyone" and not simply smartphones or feature phones. I'm eager to talk to the firm about its methodology.

As popular as MySpace remains, I'm doubtful that it's truly the most visited mobile website. And while Mocospace has been around for some time, I'm also skeptical that it actually ranks as well as the GroundTruth list argues.

Consider the following list from Opera for November, 2009, which is based on actual usage rather than survey data: 

 Picture 131

Regardless, GroundTruth is a potentially strong and direct challenger to comScore (and Nielsen) because of its claims of greater accuracy and methodology based on actual usage and behavior rather than sampling or surveys. 

Will Mobile 'Revolutionize' Local Advertising?

There's a very strong piece in AdAge about mobile trends for 2010. Here are the top-level predictions:

  1. Mobile will completely revolutionize the way local advertisers can connect with potential customers.
  2. Growth in adoption of mobile shopping applications will continue to alter in-store consumer behavior, increasing the significance of mobile in point of sale decisions making.
  3. Brands and agencies will continue to build branded apps, but will also have more attractive display media options, thanks to Google.
  4. Advertising's outdoor real estate is fast becoming another connected channel capable of delivering high-fidelity digital experiences as unique, varied and measurable as more well-established mediums.
  5. Consumers have new power to express their opinions through social technologies from anywhere, anytime. Smart marketers will do all they can to encourage and act on this real-time feedback. 

I think all these are good observations and predictions in general. However I take issue with the first prediction. Yes, from a consumer standpoint, mobile is revolutionary when it comes to obtaining local information (which includes products in my book).

Here's what the discussion of that first point in AdAge goes on to say in part:

While online display advertising has been incredibly effective for many companies, it hasn't offered all that much value to small, independently owned businesses. For one, the web is good at scale, not so good at precision. It's difficult for mom-and-pops to reach the relatively small audiences that might reasonably be expected to patronize their stores.

The article references FourSquare, Place Pages (Google) and GoWalla (but not Yelp) as a new and improved way for local advertisers to connect with customers. In isloated cases, it may be true that FourSquare is a boon to SMBs (See our related post: FourSquare Morphing into Mobile Loyalty Program for SMBs). Indeed, some advertisers might be able to find new business and improve loyalty and frequency with a FourSquare or GoWalla. But in another way these sites/companies simply add more noise to the local (SMB) advertisers' consideration set. 

I suspect the article's authors are not that familiar with local, small business advertising and are speaking at a conceptual level. They don't know that most local advertisers with any budget to spend are getting 10 calls a day before 9 am from sales reps of one sort or another. 

With an established brand, online reach (25+ million uniques), a strong mobile presence across platforms and, let's not forget, 200 telephone salespeople, Yelp is in a much stronger position than its newer mobile challengers to successfully sell to "mom and pops." 

The local world is full of clutter, noise, confusion and fragmentation. Yellow pages publishers and independent sales channels such as Yodle or ReachLocal are trying to knit all that together into a "network" or single point of contact and simplified selling proposition. Google, for its part, is almost in a unique position here (selling only its own traffic) because of its dominance of local search and huge mindshare. 

Beyond this there are lots of others selling to the local market: ValPak, daily and weekly newspapers and other specialized print publications (e.g., Pennysaver), other local coupon providers of one sort or another and others (the list goes on). Much of all this is "opaque" to the SMB owner. He or she is growing more savvy but doesn't have time to fully investigate all the options or test what works and what doesn't generally speaking. 

Most SMBs want a trusted partner that will help them navigate the complexity of online and mobile advertising. For those that want to DIY or go it alone, they're much more likely focus on a "brand" or big name: Google, Yelp, Facebook, even Twitter. It's very challenging for a little-known startup to get attention among SMB owners, let alone sell anything to them -- especially "at scale."

So while mobile and LBS on the consumer side is increasingly compelling and will lead to more connections between local buyers and sellers, local advertiers' lives are being made more difficult -- not less -- by the advent of more local-mobile players and options. 

Having said all that, I think that FourSquare has strong momentum among various segments of users and becomes a takeover target in the not too distant future by a larger player that has a stronger capacity to "monetize" the consumer traffic. 

Will Apple's iPad Get People to Pay for Content?

There have been many rumors and articles in the past several months about Apple courting "old media" for its tablet launch. The Wall Street Journal devotes much of its article from yesterday on the forthcoming Apple tablet to the topic:

Apple has recently been in discussions with book, magazine and newspaper publishers about how they can work together. The company has talked with New York Times Co., Condé Nast Publications Inc. and HarperCollins Publishers and its owner News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal, over content for the tablet, say people familiar with the talks.

New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger declined to comment in an interview Wednesday on its involvement in the new device except to say, "stay tuned."

Apple is also negotiating with television networks such as CBSWalt Disney Co., which owns ABC, for a monthly TV subscription service, the Journal has reported. Apple is also working with videogame publisher Electronic Arts Inc. to show off the tablet's game capabilities, according to one person familiar with the matter . . .

Apple pitched media companies on a "best of TV" subscription service to television networks under which customers would pay a monthly fee for on-demand access to programs from a bundle of participating TV networks, giving consumers another way to readily access television content.

Clearly people are buying books and newspapers via the Kindle. But Apple may be uniquely positioned to pull off this pay model because of the "culture" of paid apps for the iPhone and its iTunes payment platform. It may be the case that out of the gate to get specialized, formatted content on the tablet you'll have to pay. 

However, undoubtedly there will be a Safari browser. And with an Internet connection many people might navigate around the pay wall to the desired publisher's free Internet site. As the anticipation builds toward launch, how can the company possibly live up to the hype?

We'll see next week. But in the meantime, here's a scenario to consider . . .

Are people going to have an iPhone or other smartphone, a laptop (with a dongle) and now a tablet (with a plan)? That's a lot to ask and probably closing in on $300 in monthly connectivity fees. That's not counting the home ISP charges starting at $30 per month at the low end.  

But let's say that Verizon or other carriers offer a reasonable subsidy, bringing the device down to under $500 with a two-year contract. An all-you-can-eat data plan or MiFi hotspot (as an alternative) might run $40 per month. What if this tablet could truly be a netbook substitute (with a dock and USB keyboard) as well as have a gallery of apps like the iPhone. That would be pretty interesting. 

You could potentially do VoIP calling (Skype, Truphone, Vonage, Google) and entirely ditch the carrier voice plan. Most people won't pursue this, but it's quite possible. This also argues for a time in the next three years where people are only interested in a fast data connection and are less and less willing to pay for voice . . . 

Here is a roundup some of the latest speculation:

Google’s Q4 Earnings Call Comments: Mobile

Mobile is one of the areas on Google's Q4 earnings call that received the most attention and interest during the Q&A session. Here are verbatim comments (from the transcript) about mobile. I have grouped all of a particular individual's comments together though they may have been made at different times during the call.

CEO Eric Schmidt:

Everybody knows about the success of Android, our search traffic increased 5 times in the past two years. The Droid and Nexus One show the power of the Android approach. Great devices, multiple partners, great features, [lost] for use cases. Again, a pretty clear success at this point . . .

There the most obvious one in terms of growth rate would be mobile and a lot of that depends on the competitive dynamics of the industry, how successful the new AFMA product from us is, the AdMob acquisition if that comes through. We have a lot of evidence that people are moving to these data friendly mobile devices very, very, very quickly. Our search traffic growth rate is quite a bit faster than on PCs. We expect that to continue. So for lots of reasons 2010 will be a year of significant mobile revenue growth for the whole industry. I am sure we will be able to play a major part of that.

CFO Patrick Pichette:

As we enter 2010 we are very excited about the opportunities our core business, display, mobile and apps and so you should expect us to continue to drive real investment in significant ways in the areas we believe have real long-term opportunities for Google and that will accelerate our pace of innovation.

Product SVP Jonathan Rosenberg:

Personalization is also getting more important and we think mobile is a big part of that. More users both for search and other products are accessing us from mobile devices. With all the capabilities these phones that are coming out have like GPS, cameras, we think there is the potential to actually make this mobile web better than the PC web...

[W]e are starting to see . . . that advertisers are getting better at figuring out what kind of ads work on the mobile devices. The simple addition, for example, of things like including a phone number or an offer is substantially increasing the click through rates and the ROI for the subset of advertisers who are correctly optimizing their mobile campaigns. So we are certainly seeing very strong growth there . . .

I am not going to give specifics on mobile RPMS versus desktop RPMs but I think the main thing we can say is the new formats, the targeting tools and the reporting we are giving the mobile advertisers is making the huge difference. I mentioned Click to Call putting phone numbers in the mobile ads making a difference. Try something like auto insurance on your phone and you will see that the Progressive ad on the phone actually shows the phone number while on the PC it doesn’t. Nikesh gave the Razorfish example in his opening remarks and we are also letting the advertisers target high end devices, specific devices or specific carriers and we have also launched the reporting with analytics to the mobile phones. We are starting to see much improved monetization in general across mobile.

Head of Sales Nikesh Arora:

Finally with the trends that Jonathan mentioned, the penetration of smart phones and other mobile devices our sales teams are continuing to work with advertisers who can reach and target their customers through mobile advertising like never before.

One campaign of specific note was done by Razorfish, an agency partner of ours, who used a targeted mobile campaign to improve conversion rates towards monetary retail clients by approximately 10%. So we continue to see promise in this area.

Finally, regarding Apple specifically . . .

Eric Schmidt:

With respect to Apple it is probably better to say that Apple, I as a former board member have a special spot for Apple in my heart but I will tell you Apple is a very well run company. They have a lot of very good stuff coming. We have a couple of very good partnerships with them and we also compete with them in a couple of areas. My guess is that is a pretty stable situation for awhile . . .

We are not going to speculate on the market share of Apple mobile products. That is for Apple to discuss with you. As far as I can tell our business structures with Apple are quite stable. I am not going to speculate on any deals of any kind, rumored, true, not true, you name it we are not going to talk about it.

WhitePages: Mobile Web Better Than App Ads

Yesterday MediaPost covered a case study/mobile ad campaign from Continental Airlines that appeared on WhitePages.com's iPhone app and its iPhone mobile website. Continental and WhitePages had expected ad performance (as measured by CTRs and bookings) to be better on the app than on the mobile website.

But that was not the case. In fact the iPhone mobile web version of the same ad creative performed better than the app.

I reached out to WhitePages to get more insight and information. The company shared their slides about the campaign with me. Here was the ad creative shown on the WhitePages mobile website and in the company's iPhone app -- essentially identical:

Picture 111
Here's what WhitePages and Continental found in terms of consumer response to this same creative in the two iPhone environments:

Picture 112
How did the WhitePages and Continental attempt to explain the outcomes of this campaign; and what other insights emerged?

  • Task oriented utility app users don’t want to leave the app
  • Top banner ad placements performed better than bottom ads
  • Day part targeting has potential (heavy travel searches late in the day)

As the bold bullet above asserts, they observed and inferred a reluctance by users to click on the app ad and potentially leave the app environment. This is a very interesting finding and requires more investigation. 

There were also some open questions that WhitePages, Continental and its agency partner said needed further study:

  • Is mobile is best for reaching, servicing and up-selling existing customers?
  • Are bigger incentives needed to drive ticket purchases in the mobile environment?
  • Are mobile internet users still hesitant to purchase high consideration/price items?

This study should not be too broadly generalized; it's one campaign. But it raises interesting questions about in-app vs. mobile Web advertising and how they might be used differently or in complementary ways -- assuming similar results or outcomes are observed by others.

I'm grateful to WhitePages for sharing this data because marketers are still in a largely experimental stage with mobile advertising and the marketplace still needs a great deal of education about "best practices" and successful case studies.

AdMob December: Nokia Leads in Developing Markets, Slipping in West; Apple, Android Showing Growth

It's always important to point out that AdMob's data come from its network, which is not the same thing as the mobile Internet as a whole. Certain trends may be exaggerated or underrepresented accordingly. But I believe that directionally the data capture what's going on in the broader market. With that caveat, AdMob has released its December, 2009 metrics report

This report captures handset and smartphone operating system share around the world. Here are some of the regional bullets the company has released:

  • Asia: Nokia continues to be the leading manufacturer in Asia by a wide margin with 53% of requests in Q4 2009.  After launching in several countries in Asia in 2009, the iPhone had a strong Q4 and doubled its share of smartphone requests to 27%.
  • Eastern Europe: Nokia’s share decreased slightly throughout the year to 35% in Q4 2009.  Apple, Sony Ericsson, and Samsung devices generated 23%, 12% and 9% of requests, respectively.  Eight of the top 10 smartphones in the region were Nokia devices, including the 6300, N70, and N95.
  • North America: In Q4 2009, Apple lead with 40% followed by Samsung with 17% and Motorola with 11%.  The iPhone generated 54% of smartphone requests in Q4 2009. Android share grew throughout the year reaching 27% in Q4 2009, by far its highest penetration in any region.
  • Western Europe: Apple made strong gains in manufacturer share in 2009. In Q4 2009 the Apple iPhone and iPod touch generated more than half of total requests from the region at the expense of Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson.  Android had a strong Q4 2009 and generated 8% share of smartphone requests, second only to North America in penetration.

 Here are the market share graphics . . . 

Global manufacturer and smartphone operating system share: 

Picture 250

Picture 251

 Devices Western Europe:

Picture 245

 Devices North America:

Picture 246

North America shows strong Android growth above (though it's off in Europe), while Palm is fading. In particular Droid showed significant growth vs. the previous quarter. In AdMob's data BlackBerry is flat or off (BlackBerry had huge international sales last year, which should show up at some point in AdMob's data). Finally Windows Mobile is MIA in these data. 

Nokia should see these data (as well as others in the market) as alarming. Symbian will get an update and new UI upgrades this year but it may not be enough in the face of iPhone, RIM and Anroid competition. Nokia has a very strong position in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe but it's losing momentum everywhere else according to AdMob. 

Google AdWords Gets Some New Targeting Options

As was reported yesterday Google has added some new targeting capabilities to AdWords for mobile devices:

If you've chosen to show ads on iPhones and other mobile devices with full internet browsers, you can now target specific mobile devices or carriers.

This feature makes it easier for you to reach the right users if you have a carrier- or device-specific message. This includes landing pages that have been optimized for a specific device, billing relationships with certain carriers, or mobile apps developed for a specific platform . . .

We're also making sure that ads linking to mobile app downloads will automatically appear only on devices that offer those apps. Plus, the ad will display a 'Download' link instead of a URL. Simply include 'itunes.apple.com/' or 'market.android.com/' followed by the app name in the ad's visible URL, and it will automatically display as 'Download iPhone App' or 'Download Android App.'

Here's what the screen looks like:

Picture 241

As the Google AdWords blog points out this is helpful if the advertiser is targeting a specific type of handset or specific carrier's users for a promotion. But there's also proxy demographic information here too. Ad networks such as JumpTap that work directly with carriers actually provide that data ("by age, gender, context, demographics, location, ethnicity, finance, occupation, handset, and language") to advertisers at varying levels of anonymity. Presumably Microsoft is also getting access to some of that data through its deal with Verizon. 

However, the profiles of users of MetroPCS and Cricket are going to be quite different than Verizon for example. Much of this information is out in public.

What's also interesting is that Google is adding carriers for whom there are effectively no smartphones. Boost/Nextel (Sprint) just added its first BlackBerry device and MetroPCS and Cricket have very limited smartphone selection. The prerequisite here for the showing of AdWords in mobile is the presence of a full Internet browser on the handset. This anticipates, in my view, Android devices for these carriers. 

This list of check boxes in the screen above will likely become more elaborate and precise over time. For example, the ability to target BlackBerry users (ultimately) might be important for advertisers wanting to reach an enterprise audience or more affluent users in certain cases.

Google's mobile AdSense units have a range of targeting options, including location (which also exits for AdWords). AdMob, which Google is seeking to acquire, offers more elaborate targeting including by gender and age. 

YellowPages.com Would Benefit from iPhone-Bing Deal

BusinessWeek is reporting that Apple and Microsoft are in talks to make Bing the default search engine on the iPhone. I've discussed this at some length at Search Engine Land. Given the intensifying competition between Google and Apple, this would clearly be a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

However, I don't think Bing will become the default. Rather I think Apple will add Bing as an option. But we'll see. 

Regardless of the scenario, a beneficiary of any such increased exposure on the iPhone and iPod Touch devices for Bing will be Microsoft's local monetization partner YellowPages.com, which is owned by AT&T.

YellowPages.com's YPMobile iPhone app has seen good uptake but the volumes of searches coming through the Safari browser default would likely be considerably larger.  

Opera Buys Ad 'Mediator' AdMarvel

Google bought AdMob, Apple bought Quattro, Amobee bought RingRing; now Opera announced that it has acquired ad meditor/exchange AdMarvel:

AdMarvel, based in San Mateo, California (USA), works with a broad set of constituents in the advertising ecosystem to improve the performance of mobile advertising. The company was founded in 2006 by a team of mobile veterans led by Mahi de Silva and has a broad customer base across the globe. AdMarvel strives to make mobile advertising an open ecosystem through better transparency of performance and simpler management of ad traffic to optimize revenue. AdMarvel’s suite of services is designed to put publishers, developers and mobile operators in control of performance and enables ad networks, agencies and brands to deliver better results.

TechCrunch reported that the purchase price was $8 million, plus a $15 million earnout. Compared with the hundreds of millions paid for the larger ad networks, this price (if accurate) reflects AdMarvel's relatively limited traction and revenues to date. 

The acquisition at least offers new potential monetization opportunities for Opera partners and represents an effort to diversify further for the Norwegian company. The company has millions of installed users on handsets across the globe (in addition to its small PC share) and has been a leader on the mobile Internet. However, smartphone growth threatens Opera, because each of the majors has its own browser (RIM will offer an improved browser soon). 

Picture 237

While I can't predict who will be next, more acquisitions are certain in the mobile ad network segment.

January 27: Will Apple's Tablet Dazzle or Disappoint?

What exactly will show up at the Apple event on January 27? Will the tablet/iSlate/iPad? Almost certainly. Will we get a new iPhone? Maybe. Will there be other stuff announced too? Probably.

It's almost impossible for Apple to deliver a tablet device that lives up to the intense hype that has been more than a year in the making. But at the end of the month in San Francisco the heavily anticipated tablet computer, eReader and media player will likely be revealed. Will it dazzle everyone and usher in a new era of mobile Internet devices that sit between smartphones and netbooks/laptops? Or will it disappoint by offering features too common among all the tablets and slate devices emerging in the market? 

What about the price?

The "sweet spot" for the device is more than the $399 64G iPod Touch, but less than the $999 macbook laptop. That would put it between $600 and $700 dollars. There might be a lower-end and higher-end device to create an entry level price point around $500. 

Whatever turns up there will be lust for the device among Apple's core fans. However, pricing will determine how mainstream it becomes. Recall that the iPhone didn't take off until the AT&T subsidy brought it down to under $200. Speaking of which, what of connectivity and carrier subsidies? Might we see the same thing: a low price point on the hardware with a two-year contract (e.g., on Verizon)? 

We'll see . . . Regardless, the waiting will finally be at an end.

Will Apple Boot Google Off the iPhone?

Here's a little gem from the BusinessWeek (Apple vs. Google) cover story that's getting a lot of play, "analyst" speculation that Apple might bounce Google as default search provider on the iPhone:

Some analysts believe the Apple-Google battle is likely to get much rougher in the months ahead. Ovum's Yarmis thinks Apple may soon decide to dump Google as the default search engine on its devices, primarily to cut Google off from mobile data that could be used to improve its advertising and Android technology. Jobs might cut a deal with—gasp!—Microsoft to make Bing Apple's engine of choice, or even launch its own search engine, Yarmis says. "I fully expect [Apple] to do something in search," he adds. "If there's all these advertising dollars to be won, why would it want Google on its iPhones?"

Apple might add Microsoft's Bing as a choice -- Bing also has a very nice iPhone app -- but don't bet that Apple will try and get rid of Google search. Also don't expect Apple to launch its own general-purpose search engine; the company would be foolish to do so unless it radically reinvented search. Still, I think it's extremely unlikely.

One area where Apple could well do something is in local search/maps. It could potentially bounce Google as the default maps provider for the iPhone. After buying mapping firm Placebase and creating a "geo team" within Apple it is quite possible that Apple will offer its own maps. There are various Apple patents around maps and location on the handset.

Google is serving relatively discreet ads on iPhone maps and Apple is probably not entirely pleased with Google's "ownership" of so central an asset on its device. Back when Google was a friend rather than a "frenemy" it was less of an issue.  

However Google is in a much stronger position than Apple when it comes to providing data and other local content on maps. That content would have to be licensed or otherwise obtained if Apple were to create its own iPhone maps. However this is the arena where we're far more likely to see Apple do something, including potentially with advertising, than in general search. 

CBS Launches Local News Apps for iPhone

CBS is smartly launching stand-alone apps for local TV affiliates (for the iPhone/iPod Touch) that complement its several national CBS News apps. According to the release, the apps will feature:

  • Local and national news (incl. sports)
  • Local weather
  • Twitter feeds
  • Video (local and national news)
  • The apps will be supported with both display and pre-roll video ads

Thirteen markets are covered:

WCBS-New York, KCBS/KCAL-Los Angeles, WBBM-Chicago, KYW-Philadelphia, WBZ-Boston, KPIX-San Francisco, KTVT-Dallas/Fort Worth, WCCO-Minneapolis/St. Paul, WFOR-Miami, KCNC-Denver, KOVR-Sacramento, KDKA-Pittsburgh and WJZ-Baltimore.

Picture 205

The analogy in a local directory context would be a flagship "horizontal" app complemented by more vertical apps covering specific categories -- as AT&T has tried to do with YP Mobile and its "Have2" verticals.

Smaato Publishes Handset CTRs, Mobile Network Fill Rates

Mobile ad network platform/network Smaato has published some very interesting data on mobile ad click-through rates (CTR) by handset. The company also offers "fill rates" for ad networks globally as well as those in the US. It proclaims Quattro Wireless (Apple) and Millennial Media as the "top performing mobile ad networks" in the US (as measured by fill rates).

Most curious, however, is the handset CTR data, which shows Symbian owners over-indexing vs other handsets in terms of ad response rates/clicks. There's no explanation offered for why Symbian users CTRs are much higher. There's also no discussion about the ad units themselves; are these display units? One assumes so. But there could be SMS messages/ads in there as well (at least on the Symbian handsets, most are not smartphones); it's not entirely clear. 

Symbian has almost no presence in the US at this point (at the high end) and so these CTRs are likely coming from Europe, Asia and "ROW." 

Picture 172

 Ad network fill rates worldwide:

Picture 173

 Ad network fill rates US:

Picture 174

It's also interesting to note that, according to these data, ad network fill rates are much higher in the US market than worldwide. In another way of thinking this makes sense. While Asian and Western European markets may be slightly more "mature" in some respects than the US, "ROW" is going to be far less developed from an ad infrastructure perspective. 

These extremely high fill rates are striking, assuming their accuracy, because it wasn't long ago that US ad network fill rates were well below 50%. 

Amobee Buys RingRing for Mobile Ad 'Exchange'

The mobile ad acquisitions keep coming. First Google AdMob, then Apple Quattro, now Amobee acquires agency/exchange RingRing. From the press release:

Amobee Media Systems, the world leader in advertising solutions for mobile operators, today announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire the world's largest mobile advertising agency, RingRing Media. The acquisition brings Amobee one step closer to fulfilling its long-term vision aimed at creating the industry’s largest mobile advertising exchange dedicated to connecting publishers, advertising agencies and brands to premium inventory in real-time, on a global scale. Amobee’s customers include some of the largest mobile operator networks, including Telefonica SA and Vodafone Group PLC.

Based in London and co-founded by industry veterans Ben Tatton-Brown and Media Week Rising Star of the Year, Harry Dewhirst, RingRing Media has earned a world-wide reputation as a leader in mobile advertising, representing some of the largest brands in the world and exchanging over 4 billion impressions per month.

With this strategic move, Amobee is complementing its rich, operator-centric inventory and portfolio of services and technology with RingRing Media’s revolutionary mobile advertising exchange. RingRing Exchange is the world’s first mobile advertising platform dedicated to connecting top tier mobile advertisers, media buying agencies and local and global ad networks with leading mobile publishers, operators and application developers to maximize yield for sellers and improve campaign performance and ROI.

This was essentially Amdocs' vision for mobile, but the company is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps Amobee itself is a takeover target. 

Longer term telco/carrier "inventory" will diminish except in developing countries. 

More Than 50% Using Mobile Phones During Shopping

The survey is from Motorola and TNS International. It was conducted during this past November and December. It had 4,500 respondents. Respondents were from the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, India and China.

Here are the findings:

  • 64% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 used their mobile phones while shopping in the preceding two weeks, and about a third of Baby Boomers, or people over the age of 50, also used cell phones. Across countries and ages, just over 50% did.
  • 39% of shoppers overall were ready to walk away from a purchase if coupons and discounts were unavailable 
  • Use of mobile phones for shopping was highest in Asia, with 78%, and lowest in Canada and the United States, where 45.1% of shoppers did, the survey found.

These are not simply smartphones either. Consumers are doing a range of activities on the phones: looking for price comparison information or reviews, taking photos of products, looking for coupons or deals and so on.

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We've argued for a long time that shopping was one of the "near-term use cases for mobile phones." It's only going to be more so in the future. 

Related: Clients see our recent mobile coupons report

Will Barcodes Bring New Life to Print?

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 Growing, Now It Needs More Advertisers

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:

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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.