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)
*Not including pages served by operator portals
This is very different, for example, than Nielsen's Top Mobile Sites list for most of 2009:
Libes told Moconews some other observations about the market, based on its data:
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:
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.
There's a very strong piece in AdAge about mobile trends for 2010. Here are the top-level predictions:
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.
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 withCo., Condé Nast Publications Inc. and HarperCollins Publishers and its owner , 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
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:
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 . . .
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.
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:
Here's what WhitePages and Continental found in terms of consumer response to this same creative in the two iPhone environments:
How did the WhitePages and Continental attempt to explain the outcomes of this campaign; and what other insights emerged?
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:
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.
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:
Here are the market share graphics . . .
Global manufacturer and smartphone operating system share:
Devices Western Europe:
Devices North America:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
While I can't predict who will be next, more acquisitions are certain in the mobile ad network segment.
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.
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 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:
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.
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.
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."
Ad network fill rates worldwide:
Ad network fill rates US:
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%.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.