Mobile Advertising

Mingler: 'Close-Range' Social App Rides on Top of Existing Online Networks

Israeli company MobiApp announced that it received a small funding round from Maayan Ventures, an Israeli government-funded VC. The company has a social networking mobile app/client called Mingler, currently operating only is Tel Aviv, Israel. Here's how the funder describes Mingler:

Mingler enables creating close range social networks which interface the WEB.

When a user enters the social event he will receive a message in his mobile which will ask him if he wishes to connect to the local network, after he confirms he will join the Mingler network.

The user doesn't need to have any prior application installed; he will get the application on the spot by the air with no cost (based on Bluetooth).

The Mingler lets the user fill his local profile and in the future this profile will be available on his web social network. The users can send (and receive) personal messages/Instant messaging (like SMS but without charge) to his network friends and of course search, filter etc'. All the users are in the same location which is defined by approx. 100m radius (can be extended with aggregation) are connected to the local network. This creates a free local network.

The Mingler website will provide lots of web/location services to Mingler members for example: getting the location of your friend and sending them free messages from the web, it'll give the option to see who is in specific event and more.
Moreover Mingler will allow the users to interface with their WEB social networks(FaceBook, mySpace, linkedIn…).

The application and the services are free for the users but it is based on ads, this gives advertisers the option to advertise to specific market focused by: gender, location, age, company segment, position in organization, etc.

At the moment there isn't ad inventory "granular" enough to fulfill the promise of these temporary, very local networks envisioned by MobiApp. That will come as more LBS ads are assembled "on the fly" dynamically. There are a few use cases one can think of for Mingler: B2B (conferences), colleges or other institutional settings and dating.

The fact that this rides on top of existing social networks is a significant factor. Stand-alone mobile social networks will find it almost impossible to compete with established online players such as Facebook and Twitter. There may be one or two exceptions that succeed.

Services like Loopt and Google Latitude are competing friend-finder/dating platforms. 

Idle Screen Ad Receives 18% Response

Idle screen mobile ad platform Mobile Posse put out a press release that touted an 18% click-through rate on a holiday promotional campaign for Ace Hardware. According to the release:

A national campaign launched around Ace’s Memorial Day Sale invited consumers to visit their local Ace Hardware to take advantage of great deals. The campaign was executed by Horizon Media and generated an average CTR of 18%. In addition, consumers that viewed the campaign were nearly 30% more likely to visit an Ace Hardware retail store . . .

The Memorial Day campaign, consisting of two ads and a seven-day sponsorship of weather forecasts, delivered strong overall results. Ace Hardware ads generated an average CTR of 18%, while the weather sponsorship generated an average CTR of 17%. Nearly 65% of Mobile Posse customers viewed at least one component of the Ace Hardware campaign during the promotion . . .

In follow-up to the Ace campaign, users were asked whether they had visited an Ace Hardware store within the past seven-to-ten days. Users that viewed the campaign were 29% more likely to have visited an Ace Hardware retail store than users that did not view the campaign.

These are impressive response rates, especially when one considers it's entirely a "push" display campaign. Compare online display CTRs of .06% to .17% (per DoubleClick), although clicks are not the right metric for display measurement. There was also a local component of the campaign, likely a store locator, based on the language in from the release.

The idle screen ads are targeted to feature phone users, who must "opt-in to Mobile Posse’s free application to receive informative and fun content, along with valued offers from local and national retailers."

We've seen varying levels of interest, generally, in mobile advertising. It depends to some degree on how the advertising "value proposition" is presented.

If consumers understand clearly the benefits they'll receive, they're more favorably disposed toward mobile ads. Offers and coupons are categories of greater interest than generic mobile advertising. More sophisticated mobile phone users (e.g., smartphone owners) and those that are more engaged in the mobile Internet are also more favorably inclined toward mobile ads as a rule.

Text to Donate: Another Side of Mobile Payments

On Sunday my family and I were at a free concert featuring the San Francisco Symphony at a place called Stern Grove. It's a kind of amphitheater in the park that offers free concerts during the summer in San Francisco and has for the past 72 years. The organization that runs the concert series said the season costs $2 million to produce, which must be raised from donations and corporate sponsors.

At various breaks they asked people in the audience to donate $5 to the facility. One of the ways to do that was via text message. There was a large sign (pictured) that requested people to "Text 'Grove' to 90999." Once you sent the text you received a message back asking for simple confirmation that you wanted to give the donation. The payment would appear on your mobile phone bill and there was nothing more to do or complete. 

The company behind this is mGive, which has a large roster of non-profit organizations that use the service. The amount that can be given by any individual in any single transaction is limited (by the carriers) but the system is very efficient because of its simplicity and the fact that there's no credit card involvement.

Focused on the non-profit sector the company is very much like Zong, which similarly uses SMS for mobile payments. The company makes money by charging set up fees, monthly fees and some transaction fees, depending on volume. The pricing makes it appear expensive for smaller non-profits.

The situation I was in was a perfect use case: an event where direct appeals were being made to a group. But the company also provides examples of outdoor campaigns (billboards). While it's very unlikely that someone walking down the street or driving is going to pull out a credit card and make a donation via telephone, sending a text message is much easier and more likely to elicit an on-the-spot contribution. 

QSR Chain Qdoba Does Mobile Rewards with Tetherball

Qdoba is the latest "quick service" restaurant to push into mobile. Competitor Chipotle offers online and mobile ordering. Qdoba is using Tetherball for its mobile marketing and loyalty program. According to the press release out this morning:

Tetherball’s fully customizable permission-based text messaging mobile marketing platform allows brands to intimately interact with customers through their mobile phones and allows loyal customers to benefit instantly from offers. The Qdoba Mobile Rewards program kicked off at an Indianapolis market festival during which nearly 20 percent of festival attendees engaged the mobile program – indicating strong acceptance of offers made via mobile.

Unlike other mobile marketing programs, no downloading of special software or an expensive mobile data plan is necessary. The solution is simple and it works on any phone. Tetherball clients’ mobile loyalty programs have seen up to 24 percent redemption rates on initial opt-in offers followed by 10 percent redemption rates on proceeding offers — substantially better results than the less than two percent redemption rates offered by traditional paper and online coupons.

In the restaurants at the point of sale, consumers are prompted to text the word “BURRITO” to a short code to opt-in to the program. They then receive promotions via SMS that also direct them to nearby restaurant locations.

Fast food restaurants, because of their focus on younger audiences, are among the early adopters of mobile marketing, promotions and mobile loyalty programs. And, indeed, as the PR materials above suggest, these programs do work. 

Here's our prior write-up of Tetherball and its novel RFID couponing program. 

Legal Minefield Awaits in Mobile Marketing

A new group called the Mobile Advocacy Coalition has formed to combat a legal ruling handed down earlier this month by the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in a case called Satterfield v. Simon & Schuster. Book publisher Simon and Schuster generated a text message promoting a Stephen King novel to plaintiff Satterfield, who had previously downloaded a ringtone from a mobile marketing firm (not explicitly affiliated with publisher Simon & Schuster). The marketing message to Satterfield was unsolicited and a class-action lawsuit followed.

The reference to TCPA below is to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. Here's the 9th Circuit's discussion of the factual and procedural background:

Satterfield filed suit, alleging a violation of the TCPA for Simon & Schuster’s transmission, of this unsolicited text mes- sage to her and other class members’ cell phones, by an Auto-matic Telephone Dialing System (“ATDS”). Simon & Schuster moved for summary judgment, arguing that (1) it had not used an ATDS, (2) Satterfield had not received a “call” within the meaning of the TCPA, and (3) Satterfield had consented to the message and had not been charged for its receipt. The district court granted the summary judgment holding that (1) Simon & Schuster and ipsh! had not used an ATDS and (2) Satterfield had consented to receiving the mes- sage. The district court did not rule on Simon & Schuster’s argument that a text message is not a “call” under the TCPA. 

The TCPA requires consumer consent to receive automated "calls" (interpreted here to include SMS messages). According to the 9th Circuit's ruling:

[W]e hold that it is reasonable to interpret “call” under the TCPA to include both voice calls and text messages.

The 9th Circuit reversed summary judgment for Simon & Schuster and remanded to the lower court for further adjudication. The potential consequences, according to the Mobile Advocacy Coalition are as follows:

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against Simon & Schuster, and in doing so, has twisted the meaning of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 in a way that imperils the entire mobile marketing industry.

The court has ruled that any computer that sends texts is considered an auto dialer, which puts any mobile marketing campaign on the wrong side of the law.

If the coalition's view is correct, a heavy burden might be placed on SMS marketers to obtain explicit consent to marketing messages before they're sent. Given consumers' abstract aversion to much of mobile marketing, the danger here is almost self-evident. 

Mobile marketing is also confronted by a more expansive, pending complaint before the US FTC about a range of issues surrounding mobile marketing and advertising brought by the Center for Digital Democracy and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) as an extension of their 2006 complaint regarding behavioral targeting online. The complaint is far reaching and touches practically every element of mobile advertising and marketing on consumer privacy grounds. 

These are significant legal threats to mobile marketing and advertising. However, it is unlikely that Congress and regulators will allow litigation or regulation to kill mobile advertising. But there may be more stringent rules that emerge around consent that could add considerable friction to the process and dampen ad revenues accordingly. 

More on this to come. 

Google Doing Display Ads for Mobile App

Perhaps they were there before and I just didn't notice. But yesterday I saw two ads for Google's iPhone app, one on a blog online and another in the new Fluent Mobile news app. The latter was on the AdMob network. Below is what the online version of the ad looked like. Why is Google advertising its mobile app, which has been in the top 20 in the iTunes store for many months?

Despite the public confidence of Google and others who see little future distinction between the Internet and the mobile Internet (and user behavior accordingly), I think it's not a foregone conclusion that everyone will be using search in the same way on mobile devices that they do on PCs today. Mobile is a different animal and the mobile market is quite fluid and evolving rapidly. 

I find myself using Google's voice search on my Android (HTC Magic) phone quite a bit -- especially voice search in Google Maps -- and like it. But on my iPod Touch (on a WiFi connection) I use apps and bookmarks far more than I use traditional search. However I don't have access to the iPhone's voice search capability on that device. If I did, my behavior might be different. 

On Android devices search is on the home screen and, given that, it's a bigger part of the Android experience than on the iPhone, notwithstanding the recent addition of spotlight. If we do get the promised 18 Android devices and they sell well, we may see search become a prominent navigational tool in the way it is on the PC. However, if apps become the dominant way that people access sites and content on smartphones, where most of the mobile Internet "action" is taking place, conventional search may become a "secondary" tool. 

Then there are now obscure "search" tools that may gain mainstream adoption down the line, such as the camera as doorway to "augmented reality" or as a barcode scanner. And a range of others are working on mobile searching without search: offering up data and content based on location or context without entry of a formal search query. There are a range of iPhone apps that do this using a browse approach (business category X "nearby"). Geodelic is pursuing this model as the back end for T-Mobile's new "Sherpa" app

None of this means that paid "search" ads or Google won't be successful in mobile. It means that user behavior and the market may evolve in ways that are distinct from PC-based Internet activity. But we'll see won't we.  

google mobile ad

Sense Networks: Interesting but Is the Market Ready?

Last June we wrote briefly about CitySense (from Sense Networks) and its effort to use real-time, aggregated urban heatmap data to profile and make recommendations to people looking for things to do. VentureBeat reported yesterday there was a bit of a bidding war by two VC firms to provide the second round of funding ($6 million) to the company:

Semiconductor giant Intel led the deal, after beating out Sequoia Capital, the well-known Silicon Valley venture capital firm, we’ve learned from a source very close to the deal. The negotiations got tense after Intel made its offer for investment. The following day, after hearing about Intel’s offer, Sequoia tried to make the company’s CEO take money exclusively from Sequoia. The company’s chief executive Greg Skibiski, we’re told, wasn’t impressed, and decided to take Intel’s money. One point we aren’t able to confirm is whether Intel offered better deal terms. Neither Sense Networks nor Intel nor Sequoia responded to requests for comment. An announcement about the deal is expected in about a week.

The idea behind CitySense is to provide recommendations to end users about things to do and "eliminate the need to search" by using aggregated profiling data. Whrrl originally was pursuing a similar idea and, conceptually, so is Geodelic but without group profiling.

The so-called alpha version of CitySense offers a pretty poor user experience. However, the company is reportedly just demonstrating its technology with the app and is ultimately not interested in competing in the consumer market directly. It's apparently planning to aggregate and provide data to other consumer-facing companies and mobile ad networks, perhaps even brands and marketers directly. Hence the $6 million second round. 

Sense Networks' techology uses machine learning to identify patterns and trends that third parties could then use for recommendation or advertising purposes:

Sense Networks applies advanced statistical algorithms to normalize activity based on years of historical data combined with demographic, weather, and other variables. Once a broad understanding of the spatial behaviors in a city is available, companies and investors can leverage the continuously updating framework to better understand their own customers from sparse location data, discover trends in aggregate consumer behavior for correlation with financial indicators, and predict demand for services and places.

Here's how the company describes its process for identifying the top nightlife destinations in San Francisco:

  1. Identify and isolate the top 200 nightlife destinations
  2. Create a network of movement between these locations
  3. Machine learning algorithms analyze each location in the context of the overall movement and categorize it (colored dots added) by examining everyone's point of origin, and where everyone goes afterwards
  4. The categorized places are now grouped by behavioral similarity, not proximity (convergent dots represent places with the most similar "type" of people present, in real-time, versus geographical proximity)
  5. The spatial behavioral map is overlaid onto a spatial geographical map and the system continuously learns as new live data is received

 Picture 4

Clearly there's value in this data to third party publishers and apps, as well as to ad networks. But like the promise of LBS and the notion of the "right ad, right time, right place," marketers and ad networks may not be prepared or able to truly to take full advantage of such data for some time.

Screenwerk Digest: Krillion and Shopping.com; Google Maps Morph into City Tours

Greg has been posting some very interesting items over at Screenwerk. He notes that Krillion and Shopping.com (owned by eBay) have collaborated to introduce a widget that helps searchers find local merchants for the products they seek online. Called the Krillion 360 Product locator, it is not positioned as a mobile utility, but the transition from online search to offline purchase is a natural for mobile search.

Likewise, the Screenwerk feature on "City Tours", which is under development (ergo available for use) at Google Labs is a neat way to organize one's local itinerary. To me the mental bridge to a shopping tour and presentation on a browser based phone is a natural. As I recall, Local Matters includes a similar planning service in its Destination Search(TM) suite. It's one of those services that requires a bit of marketing to reinforce regular use. 

Verve Adds More Publishers to Mobile Network

Verve Wireless is behind the AP iPhone app and is enabling many newspaper publishers' mobile efforts. Today the company announced that it had expanded its roster of clients:

Verve Wireless, the leading provider of mobile publishing technologies to local media companies, today announced partnerships with Media News Group, A.H. Belo Corporation, Hearst Corporation, and Cox Newspapers to mobilize local media properties such as The Denver Post, The Dallas Morning News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Palm Beach Post, and Examiner.com. Verve now mobilizes over 450 local media properties, covering the top 200 designated market areas in the U.S. and continues its international expansion by partnering with the Khaleej Times of the United Arab Emirates.

These properties also constitute a local-mobile ad network. In addition, the company announced that its platform now automatically generates iPhone optimized versions of publisher sites/content for the Safari browser:

Verve rolled out enhancements to their platform that automatically creates a version of the publisher’s site optimized for the new Safari browser on iPhones, as well as providing mobile video delivery across the leading smartphones in the market. The iPhone module allows publishers of all sizes and markets to participate in the fastest growing smartphone segment. Publisher’s can create a specialized version of their own mobile site to take advantage of the Safari browser’s unique capabilities, such as location awareness, automatic short cut that places an app icon on the phone for quick access, exceptional layout and navigation elements, and world class rich media delivery. The demand for this new module was stemming from news organizations like The Orange County Register who see in excess of 40% of their mobile web traffic coming from iPhones. 

As we wrote before, when it comes to newspapers and magazines, smartphones are the new print

Google Expands AdSense for Mobile Apps Program

Tested with a small group of roughly 10 publishers for several months, including Urbanspoon and Pandora, Google is now expanding its beta for AdSense for Mobile Apps. These are display ads (text and graphical) that appear within apps on the iPhone or Android. New publishers are welcome to apply but must meet page view thresholds and a few other criteria. 

Unless they opt-out all advertisers in the Google content network will automatically appear on these apps, if contextually and/or geographically relevant.

Most of Google's advertisers don't yet have optimized-for-mobile landing pages. So the landing page or CTR page will be the one designated by the advertiser as part of its traditional online campaign. Google feels that the browsers on the iPhone and Android will make for a good enough experience for users to not require a mobile landing page or mobile-optimized site. In fact Google shut down its mobile landing page building tool several months ago. 

For those advertisers that do have such landing pages or sites, Google will detect the handset and if it's an iPhone or Android device show the appropriate mobile site/page accordingly. 

While mobile-only ad networks such as AdMob, JumpTap or Quattro have advantages for publishers over Google because they're only focused on mobile advertising, Google brings many more advertisers to the table and can potentially monetize more page views and queries accordingly. It's a trade-off. 

MSFT: Mobile Will Be 5-10% of Global Ad Spend in 5 Years

Speaking in Cannes, France Scott Howe, VP of the Advertiser and Publisher Solutions Group at Microsoft, said that he believed mobile advertising "will account for 5-10 percent of global media ad spending within five years." That's quite a bullish prediction but we like it. 

Microsoft also recently announced that Hyatt is the inaugural client for its mobile partnership with Verizon. Here's a screen showing one of the Hyatt ads:

Hyatt ad on MSN

Here are some Bing-Verizon screens (Bing is now the default search provider on Verizon). This is mobile Web.

 Bing 1

Yellowpages.com (AT&T), as Microsoft's partner, is a huge beneficiary of the deal and is the sole (current) provider of local ads:

Bing 2

We're waiting for a rebranded and updated version of the Live Search client, which was very useful and effective but under-appreciated. This time around it will likely get more attention, given that Bing is having some initial consumer success and as part of the multi-million dollar Bing ad campaign. It will also probably offer an improved user interface/experience as well.  

Push IM vs. SMS: Will IM Take Over Eventually?

The advent of push notifications and IM on iPhone 3.0 has raised the question (again) of how IM might impact SMS and related carrier fees. In 2007 we speculated about whether IM on mobile devices might one day take over vs. SMS:

[O]ver the long term IM could potentially replace SMS for mobile users, especially if people shift from text plans to Internet plans (unless they're bundled) as the mobile Internet becomes more important.

With a growing range of SMS alternatives such as Facebook, Twitter, mobile Skype, Google Latitude "shout outs" and various mobile IM clients (and aggregators) we're likely to see some shift in messaging volumes to IM from SMS. There's no immediate danger to SMS (and carrier fees) but that's certainly going to be the long-term trend. 

Initial MSFT-Verizon Campaign with Hyatt

Microsoft put out a press release that announced its initial mobile advertising campaign under the Verizon partnership is with Hyatt Hotels, a local advertiser, although the campaign doesn't appear to leverage location:

The mobile advertising display campaign is designed to drive people to register for the Hyatt Gold Passport frequent guest rewards program and encourage people to visit Hyatt’s new, fully functional mobile Web site using their mobile phone.

I haven't seen the campaign, but Verizon is providing data and placement to Microsoft and Redmond is offering mobile in the context of a multi-screen "one stop shop" digital ad solution:

“The powerful combination of Microsoft’s popular destination sites like MSN and Verizon Wireless’ Mobile Web service not only offers exceptional reach to our target audience, but provides us with an efficient solution to work with both a large publisher and service provider through one simple platform.”

As part of the announcement Microsoft released some impressive findings from an earlier study done in France:

To demonstrate the value of mobile advertising, Microsoft conducted a research study for Toyota in France in preparation for the launch of its IQ car. The goal of the study was to determine the impact of using a “two screen versus one” advertising approach in reaching consumers. The findings indicated that incorporating mobile advertising with online display advertising provided an increase to Toyota’s online presence, driving a 200 percent incremental lift in ad recall and a 40 percent lift in brand recall. In addition, the synergy between mobile search and mobile display showed similar results, with mobile display experiencing a 350 percent lift in ad recall and a 125 percent increase in brand recall through the inclusion of mobile search ads.

Geodelic Creates Personalized 'Geobrowsing' App for New T-Mobile Android Phone

T-Mobile is announcing today that its myTouch 3G (G2) is coming out formally in August. As I've written it's a much better phone than the G1. One of the features I like quite a bit is the Google voice search capability in general and on Maps. I find that it's accurate most of the time.

One of the featured apps on the new myTouch 3G is called "Sherpa," a personalized LBS discovery tool. The company behind the app is Geodelic, which put out a release about the app this morning:

Created by Geodelic, in partnership with T-Mobile, Sherpa is a local discovery application that learns a user's favorite types of locations and preferences over time. The more it's used, the more it customizes itself to the user's taste, learning their likes and dislikes so it can prioritize recommended and relevant local retailers, restaurants and attractions. By combining a user's location and interests, with other contextual information such as time of day, Sherpa aggregates and presents contextually relevant, location-based information about the "real world" that surrounds a user at any moment.

Sherpa uses a learning engine called GENIE (Geodelic ENgine for Interest Evaluation) that automatically learns a user's favorite locations and lifestyle behavior. If a user eats out more than they shop, it modifies itself and tailors the experience to begin showing more restaurants and less retail stores. So no matter where a person goes, whether they are traveling or exploring their neighborhood, Sherpa prioritizes recommended locations and presents them to users.

Just as a browser allows Internet users to surf the web, the Geodelic application serves as a "geobrowser" for users allowing them to browse the "real world" through an interface optimized for a mobile experience. Geodelic's advanced technology searches the web, gathering the best public and proprietary information from sites like Yelp!, MenuPages, City Search, and a large number of specialized sources to supply the most complete content based on users' location and interests. The application's learning capability allows it to then automatically organize a user's environment by what is most important to them.

Accordingly, the app aims to present information to users, based on their location/context, and not require them to actively search for it (enter keywords in a query box and evaluate links). This is by no means the first app with such an ambition. Indeed, the interface and some of the features resemble those from other iPhone and Android apps: AroundMe, Earthcomber's mobile client, MapQuest4Mobile and Google's Places Directory. However Geodelic's Sherpa seeks to combine location awareness, recommendations, advertising and local data in a more comprehensive, "next-generation" sort of way.

I've spoken at some length with Geodelic founder and CEO Rahul Sonnad, but haven't yet used the app. So all of this remains abstract until I can actually test it out. 

geodelic

The Geodelic site offers a video of the user experience and some of the ad capabilities.

JumpTap Issued Potentially Sweeping Mobile Ads Patent

Mobile search provider and ad network JumpTap has been issued a mobile advertising patent (No. 7,548,915) that appears to have broad implications. Here's how it's described in the press release:

The patent relates to a method for presenting an advertisement in association with a web page displayed on a mobile communication facility, the method comprising the steps of:

  • determining a first relevancy score based upon a statistical association between at least a first advertisement and one or more keywords;
  • determining a second relevancy score based upon a statistical association between at least a second advertisement and the one or more keywords;
  • receiving a web page request from the mobile communication facility;
  • receiving contextual information from the web page, wherein the contextual information includes at least the one or more keywords; and
  • presenting the first advertisement in association with the web page to be displayed on the mobile communication facility based upon a determination that the first relevancy score is greater than the second relevancy score.

The patent application was originally filed in 2006 and is among more than 30 applications that the company filed that year. The patent appears to be focused on ads responding to mobile search queries (through a variety of input methods, including voice). Here's the "background" discussion from the application:

Online search driven by Web-based search engines has proven to be one of the most significant uses of computer networks such as the Internet. Computer users can employ a variety of search tools to search for content using different user interfaces and search methods. In some circumstances, mobile device users can also access Internet search tools to search for content. However, users of many mobile devices such as cell phones encounter difficulties using search technologies intended for conventional online use. Difficulties include the inability to display appropriate content, difficulty entering queries and taking other suitable actions such as navigation in an environment adapted to full screen displays, full-sized keyboards, and high-speed network connections. Furthermore, Internet search engines are currently unable to optimally deliver search results for a mobile communication facility because these search engines are specifically designed for the Internet and not mobile uses. A need exists for improved search capabilities adapted for use with mobile communication devices. 

Again the implications appear to be very broad, however we're in a period of flux with patent law and it would be foolish to make any definitive statements at this point. However a strong IP portfolio makes the company more attractive as an acquisition target or potentially gives it another (licensing) revenue stream down the line if it remains independent. 

Millennial Mobile Advertising Scorecard for May: Instinct No. 1?

Having spent some time with it, I can tell you that the Samsung Instinct is a vastly inferior phone to the iPhone. However, according to Millennial Media's Mobile Advertising Scorecard for May, "the Instinct replaced the iPhone as #1 on the list of the Top 20 Mobile Phones across our network."

This created something of a mystery in my mind because it's inconsistent with most other data in the market. 

The following chart shows the hierarcy of devices across the Millenial network: 

Millenial May

The traffic above doesn't include iPod Touch devices. Although the Instinct has sold reasonably well for Sprint, it has not sold numbers that approach the iPhone. How then do we explain this result? 

Like all mobile platforms and providers putting metrics into the marketplace, these data are based on activity on Millennial's own network. AdMob's data are based on traffic it sees on its network and Opera's data are drawn from the Opera Mobile and Mini browsers. While they may be reflective of trends across the mobile Internet, they're not an "objective" view of the marketplace.

The answer to how the Samsung Instinct beats the iPhone lies in a closer examination of Millennial's network itself, which over-represents Sprint traffic vs. AT&T and other carriers relative to their actual shares in the US market. 

If there are 270 million wireless subscribers in the US this is how the numbers break out on a percentage basis (numbers are approximate):

  1. Verizon: 30%
  2. AT&T: 28%
  3. Sprint: 18%
  4. T-Mobile: 12%
  5. Other: 10% 

However the traffic distribution on Millennial's network's is as follows:

Millennial's network

In terms of the mobile Internet, until the Palm Pre the Instinct was the most user friendly Sprint device and the one driving the highest engagement among Sprint users. But as you can see from the comparison, AT&T is considerably under-represented (not counting WiFi) and Sprint is somewhat over-represented on Millennial's network.

It's likely that Sprint users who want a smartphone and wish to remain with Sprint will opt for the Pre, which supersedes the Instinct in almost every respect. 

Another Ad Forecast: Mobile Advertising Revenues $1.5 billion in 2013

Parks Associates released its mobile ad forecast, which predicts that mobile advertising revenues will reach $1.5 billion in the US and Canada by 2013. Those dollars are mostly going to be US based because of the relatively small size of the Canadian market. The IAB recently said that in 2007 Canadian mobile ad revenues were $2.7 million.

The Parks forecast reportedly includes apps, SMS, search, display and video. Our previous mobile ad forecast, which is being substantially refined, predicted ad revenues of $2.3 billion in North America by 2012.

Parks mobile ad forecast

Parks also estimated that there were 62 million smartphone users in North America in 2008, with user penetration to reach 239 million in 2013. If the combined mobile user population of the US and Canada is roughly 290 million, 62 million smartphones would represent just over 21% of the current market. That number is about 7 points too high. Smartphones are selling well and represent a key growth driver of mobile Internet adoption, but the number is closer to 14% of the market. 

ChaCha Announces Big Q&A Milestone

There are a wide range of companies that have been dancing around a user experience that combines search, machine algorithms and human editorial input. Companies such as Yahoo! (Answers), ChaCha, Mahalo, Mosio, Amazon (Askville), kgb, Vark -- and now arguably Facebook and Twitter -- among others are playing in this space. Whether we call it "social search," "social DA," "Q&A" or something else it's an effort to scale human discrimination and input into unstructured queries and questions over the Internet or mobile networks.

ChaCha, one of the pioneers in the space, just announced it had hit "150 million questions" since the January, 2008 launch of its mobile offering ChaCha Answers: 

ChaCha ranked among the top 10 short message services with the most traffic -- including Facebook, Twitter and American Idol -- according to the newly released Q1 Mobile Messaging Report from The Nielsen Company. Providing answers for the Sundance Film Festival to the history-making Presidential Election, ChaCha is growing faster than any other SMS answers service, including Google SMS and Yahoo! SMS. Since its launch 18 months ago, ChaCha has answered more than 150 million questions via mobile cell phones and the web . . .

ChaCha's audience extends to the web, too. According to Quantcast, www.chacha.com (http://www.chacha.com) ranks among the top web sites in the United States with more than 2.3 million monthly unique users. With more than 14 million searchable questions and answers and thousands of new answers published to the site every day in categories such as sports, entertainment, health, beauty and travel, ChaCha has increased its traffic 1,000 percent since its launch in January 2008.

Like all mobile marketing firms ChaCha is seeking to educate marketers about the value and ROI of mobile. The firm uses sponsorships, contextual and geotargeted advertising to monetize up to three SMS messages that a user may receive during an individual session.

Digital OOH Company Danoo Adds Mobile to Mix

Danoo refers to itself as a place-based media network. The company puts screens (1,000+) in local stores, airports, retail sites and cafes, providing content and advertising to those locations. There are other companies doing this as well. But Danoo recently added mobile marketing to the mix -- or rather is using its screens to validate their worth as well as get people to take action (i.e., downloads) with their mobile devices.

According to the press release:

 Danoo, which delivers relevant, entertaining and localized media to highly mobile, upscale audiences in coffeehouses, cafes and airports, announced the results of its first mobile content download campaigns. Initial trials were conducted in 39 venues in Los Angeles, with each advertiser leveraging Danoo’s web-connected HD screens to drive discovery of and engagement with a mobile content download opportunity. Visitors to Danoo locations viewed video content on Danoo’s digital screens accompanied by an on-screen prompt to download exclusive content such as sneak peeks and ringtones from their Bluetooth or Wi-Fi-enabled devices via the Danoo network.

Results show that Danoo’s audience is particularly receptive to downloading content to their mobile phones while in a Danoo venue. On average, 10% of Danoo’s audience had their mobile device set to “discoverable”, nearly one-third above the national average, and of those viewers, 28% opted-in to receive the mobile content download. These numbers translate into to a net download rate of nearly 3% of total venue traffic, which could result in more than 200,000 downloads per two-week campaign as this product rolls out to the rest of the Danoo network.

Again, Danoo can report on action rates and advertisers get immediate response. ADCENTRICITY and Impact Mobile recently partnered to bring mobile and digital OOH together as well. Other companies such as HipCricket are using SMS with traditional media (radio, TV) to both measure and extend the value of the traditional media buy. 

This combining of media types, especially with mobile as a metrics tool and extender, will become more and more common in the next couple years and may be one of the primary ways that agencies and traditional brands enter mobile marketing. 

Some time ago I wrote about Danoo and place-based media at Screenwerk. 

Smartphones Are the New Print

A number of years ago I thought that print newspapers would remain relatively "safe" because commuters still found them more user-friendly than trying to read news on a laptop on a train or standing on public transportation. Cut to 2009 when smartphones are rapidly gaining mainstream acceptance. (See also, the Kindle and forthcoming e-readers from all quarters.)

Over on Screenwerk I posted a link to a video interview with Rob Samuels, director of mobile product development for the NY Times. Samuels says there were more than 60 million mobile page views for the NY Times in April, 2009. The Times has an iPhone app (1M downloads and "tens of millions" of monthly page views) and a couple of mobile Web sites (40M monthly views). 

News is already a huge category on mobile and represents a critical opportunity for publishers to extend their reach and the reach of their advertisers. It also represents a more viable subscription or paid opportunity than trying to turn back the clock online and get people to pay that they're used to getting for free.