Mobile Advertising

ValPak: Mobile Coupon 'Prints' 4X Online

When I was the Ad:Tech conference earlier this week I spoke at some length with Todd Leiser of ValPak. We were talking about coupons in the recession and his deal with RetailMeNot. I was also talking to him about how, in our research, we've found high degrees of receptiveness to mobile couponing and its equivalents -- despite ambivalence or hostility toward other forms of mobile advertising from many respondents.

In our most recent survey (3/09, not yet published) we found that 57% of respondents agreed "strongly" or "somewhat" with the statement: "I'm interested in any ad that offers me a discount or way to save money." Here's a related question and answer from and online survey we conducted in August, 2008 (n=789): 

Appetite for mobile offers

What ValPak told me in a follow up conversation on the phone is that they quietly optimized ValPak.com for mobile in March. Leiser said they were happily surprised by the adoption and response with no promotion or formal announcement.

Now for the significant information: I was told that for every four site visitors to ValPak.com on the PC the company sees one coupon print (25% response/conversion) on average. But in April, with a smaller base, the company saw four coupons selected/downloaded for every mobile site visitor (400% response/conversion). This grew from 200% in March. 

Though mobile users of the site are at this stage a much smaller group, their engagement is striking. It's evidence of the demand for coupons in a mobile context and the potential performance of those offers. 

Boston Emerging as Lo-Mo Hub

Quattro, Skyhook, uLocate, Nuance and others in the mobile space are all in Boston, which is starting to become something of a hub or HQ for mobile and local-mobile companies. Witness the growth in investment capital flowing into Boston-based companies with mobile ties:

VC investment in boston mobile companies

Yahoo Q1 Earnings Call: Mobile-Related Comments

When Yahoo announced Q1 earnings on Tuesday, CEO Carol Bartz spent a good deal of time discussing what she believed were Yahoo's strategic assets, in which the company would continue to invest. Prominently discussed among those assets was mobile.

Here are Bartz's mobile-related comments from the earnings call transcript:

On my first point, the best candidates for focused investment and renewed innovation are those products that generate the majority of our traffic and corresponding economic value. These include the homepage, sports, news, finance, entertainment, mail, search and mobile . . .

Yahoo! also continues to improve the way people connect to the experiences that matter to them most, regardless of time, place or device. For example, for the NCAA basketball tournament we created an integrated experience that provided fans with access to their brackets and breaking news anywhere at any time via their PC’s and mobile devices.

Speaking of mobile, I really have to tip my hat to that team. Our mobile team has clearly demonstrated that innovation is alive and thriving at Yahoo! They wowed the mobile world at the recent CTIA Wireless Conference. We received overwhelmingly positive response from users and press to our Yahoo! Mobile for Web and Yahoo! Mobile and Messenger iPhone apps. They are applauding Yahoo! Mobile’s simple and clean design and its easy customization. One reporter praised it as the “most comprehensive and attractive personalized mobile home page yet.”

Yahoo! Mobile on the browser is now available on more than 300 devices around the world and the iPhone app is among the most popular in the Apple iPhone app store. If you haven’t seen it, be sure to check it out on our Mobile site or on the app store. All of these examples speak to the power of Yahoo!’s network to attract and engage users through great products delivered in any format on any device.

Hulu iPhone App to Kill Subscription Model for Mobile TV?

Mobile video continues to grow in popularity and adoption -- but not the subscription model for "mobile TV." In terms of consumer-pays models, one could imagine that movie rental services might have a future on mobile devices. In addition, companies can potentially extend their offerings to mobile (where consumers might be willing to pay a small additional monthly fee for access to the service), although the SlingMedia mobile apps enable consumers to watch their home TV on mobile devices.

What I'm wondering is whether the rumored Hulu iPhone app may effectively be the penultimate nail in the coffiin of paid mobile TV services such as MediaFLO TV, VCast and others.

There are now a range of free, mobile video sites and offerings such as CBS's TV.com, YouTube, Joost, Truveo and a couple of others. The subscription services had an uphill battle to begin with, given that we're in a recession and users don't want to pay additional fees for a generally medicore experience on their mobile handsets.

The proliferation of free video sites will make it that much harder to get subscribers to pay anything for access to mobile video content. Sports and adult content are the possible exceptions.

More TV networks and local stations will also be airing free video. Last week NBC reported:

NBC.com's mobile website served 2.4 million video streams in Q1 2009. That is more than the total number of streams served in all of 2008. And Q1 2009 was the mobile site's highest quarter yet, seeing 24 million page views, a 64 per cent increase over Q4 2008.

While a subscriber-pays model can co-exist with ad-supported mobile video in the context of full-length movies and several other kinds of programming, as it does on cable TV, the market will be dominated by ad-supported offerings -- especially as TV producers and networks try and sell their advertisers reach into mobile as part of their overall proposition. 

The premium mobile TV offerings that require a distinct subscription will likely turn into marginal or highly verticalized or niche offerings -- unless they become part of an upsell to "all you can eat" bundle that includes other incentives. 

Google Q1 Earnings Call: Mobile Remarks

Google released Q1 earnings yesterday, beating expectations but posting its first quarterly decline in revenues. There was a fair amount of discussion on the call about mobile, which was identified as one of three growth areas for the company. The other two were apps (enterprise) and display advertising.

Mobile continues to be a major area of strategic focus for the company and it appears there will be many more devices running Android (or announced) by this time next year. The following are comments from the earnings call transcript relevant to mobile.

CEO Eric Schmidt

Look at the success of Android and the mobile space in general. By improving the mobile web experience people search many, many times more than they did in previous mobile devices. We benefit both in terms of end-user happiness as well as ultimately in strong revenue growth from that area.

SVP Jonathan Rosenberg

Patrick highlighted in his remarks that Google has rigorous management of expenses, but we also have a history of making big investments based on technical insights and we are going to continue to do that today, especially in areas like display, mobile, and Android . . .

On the mobile side, more people are accessing the web from their phones. The number of mobile searches has gone up five times in just the last couple of years and this new generation of phones has eyes, a camera; ears, a microphone; skin; a touch screen; and they know their location. This makes them a great platform for very compelling applications.

We launched Google Latitude which you can use to share your location with friends with a fun Google news cluster just this morning on Latitude helping catch a thief in San Francisco. If you go to Google news and type in Latitude thief.

We are also investing in Android to make a great mobile web experience available to everyone and over 8% of mobile browsing is now conducted through Android, which is second only to the iPhone.

Spencer Wang - Credit Suisse

On mobile, can you give us a sense of what the click view rates look like on mobile relative to traditional search?

Jonathan Rosenberg

I don’t have specific data on click through rate. We are certainly seeing more advertisers are choosing to run their ads on mobile devices. You can see examples if you query auto insurance on the iPhone or an Android device. And the RPMs on the iPhone and Android are high, even though we’re in very early days of the mobile ecosystem, but I don’t have any specific data on how click through rates differ.

Sandeep Aggarwal - Collins Stewart

[W]hat kind of traction you are seeing for Android on mobile and what do you think about the potential of Android on the netbook?

Eric Schmidt

Overall it looks like Android is going to have a very, very strong year. We are already aware of many, many uses of Android, which as you know is open source, where literally the devices we hear about near the announcements, so the open source part of the strategy is working. We have also recently just announced an upgrade in new software for Android which is out now among the technical community and again, the stability, the proof points are really there now.

There are announcements happening between now and the end of the year that are quite significant from operators and new hardware partners in the Android space, which I won’t preannounce except to say that they really do fulfill much of the vision that we laid out more than a year ago.

On the netbook side, there are a number of people who have actually taken Android and ported it over to netbook or netbook-similar devices. So we think that’s another one of the great benefits of the open source model that we’ve used. We’re excited that that investment is occurring. And again, largely outside of Google, which we think is great.

Millennial Media Releases Mobile Advertising Scorecard for March

Mobile ad network Millennial Media is launching a monthly advertising "scorecard" that provides data and metrics from campaigns running on its network -- similar to what AdMob is doing very successfully -- to the broader market:

This monthly program details relevant insights about the U.S. mobile advertising market by focusing on reach, targeting, impressions and handset information. Millennial Media’s SMART also changes the dialogue from publisher-focused industry sizing metrics like number of impressions, to advertiser and media-relevant metrics including reach and engagement. Additionally, the SMART provides analysis and recommendations for advertisers looking to better understand and excel in the mobile advertising market.

Highlights from Millennial Media’s March SMART include:

  • More than 10B U.S. impressions in Q1 2009 (January through March); 3.39B in March alone
  • Reach of nearly 31M out of the 56M Nielsen-identified mobile internet users
  • The top 20 mobile handsets account for 43% of all mobile web traffic on Millennial Media’s networks
  • 58% of campaigns utilized some level of geo targeting
  • 10 of the top 20 U.S. mobile DMAs by ad requests were in three states: California, Texas and Florida.
  • 42% of campaigns utilized frequency capping
  • 1.09 were the average number of ad requests per page view
  • 42% of brands are utilizing other Third Party tracking capabilities, while 58% rely on Millennial Media for campaign tracking

(Emphasis added)

Top devices on Millennial's network:

Top devices

Top DMAs by ad requests:
Top DMAs

These kinds of data from the traditional sources (e.g., comScore, Nielsen), as well as the ad networks, form an important part of marketing conditioning and education for brands and agencies, which we can describe as "mobile curious."

Finally, Millenial brings it up in the company's release but it's worth showing again: mobile outperforms online across all traditional metrics (per Insight Express). 

IE mobile vs. online

JumpTap Introduces tapMatch PPC Marketplace for Text, Display Ads

JumpTap debuts a new PPC mobile ad marketplace today called tapMatch. CMO and agency veteran Paran Johar says that tapMatch is distinguished from other mobile marketplaces (e.g., Google mobile AdWords) because it offers the most sophisticated targeting available: content, keywords, demographics, handset type, carrier, location and publishers.

The demo video shows the creation of a mobile banner campaign but the system equally accommodates text ads. What was impressive to me was its simplicity:

tapMatch screen

When JumpTap briefed me a couple of weeks ago, we digressed into a number of other discussions related to mobile advertising. One of the issues Johar and I discussed what whether it was desirable to make the click the coin of the mobile marketing realm in the same way it is online. That metric may be appropriate for mobile search advertising but not necessarily beyond that. However in a bad economy people are more inclined to pay on a PPC basis rather than CPM, as a general matter. 

Clearly Johar personally believes that a broader range of considerations should determine mobile ad performance -- he discussed those at our Internet2Go event earlier this year. But online marketers live and die by CTRs so it makes sense that the metric would transfer over -- marketers already "get" it.

However mobile offers more options to advertisers and agencies than simply direct response. I believe it's wise to reflect and be a bit cautious about turning the click-through into the uber-metric of mobile marketing. 

UK Users: We'll Watch Ads for Free Content

Global accounting and consulting firm KPMG surveyed mobile consumers in 19 countries and collected a range of data regarding attitudes toward mobile advertising, content and services. Some of the findings are contrary to the "consumers are hostile to mobile advertising" narrative and related figures that have come out in the recent past. In particular Nielsen found the following (as paraphrased in a Citibank research note): 

In the U.S. 68% of mobile data users are opposed to mobile Internet ads, even if those ads subsidize a portion of their mobile bills. Only 8% feel mobile ads are trustworthy, and 87% are not open to mobile ads even if those ads are relevant to their interests. However, in Europe, users are more open to mobile ads – In France, Italy and Spain, 41%, 52% and 54% would be receptive to mobile ads if they lowered their bills.

The KPMG "global Consumers and Convergence survey" produced the following highlights:

  • Approximately 60% of UK consumers would rather watch ads in return for free online content, than pay for it. Only 16% of UK consumers prefer to pay for online content and avoid ads, although more (21%) would pay to avoid ads on their mobiles.
  • Almost 40% of UK respondents indicated they are willing to watch ads on their mobiles in return for free music, followed by 28% who will view ads to access instant messaging. These figures are even higher globally - 49% for free music and 44% for instant messaging. 
  • The UK leads Europe in purchasing music via mobile (34 percent of respondents having undertaken this in the last 12 months) and is the fourth highest among the 19 countries surveyed.
  • Globally, most people (53%) are willing to use their mobile phone for financial transactions but very few (19%) currently do so. In the UK 67% of respondents uncomfortable with using a mobile phone for any financial transactions.

The Nielsen data quoted above argue that EU residents are more open to mobile ads. But results can also be dramatically impacted by the way questions about mobile advertising are framed. If consumers see an obvious benefit or a way to avoid costs, many of them will embrance advertising. If the questions are framed in a way that emphases the ad rather than the benefit, they're less inclined to accept it -- or even overtly hostile toward it.

See also:

Marketers Interested in Local-Mobile Search

SEMPO's 2008 survey covered the waterfront in terms of the state of search engine marketing. The professional organization surveyed 800 search marketers and agencies from all over the globle. (68% of respondents were from the US, with 20% coming from a range of countries; 7% were from Canada and 5% from the UK.)

On the issue of interest among search marketers in mobile and mobile search in particular, here's what the survey reported: 

Q: How interested are you in being able to serve geographically relevant advertising to mobile search users? (Scale of 1-5, 1=lowest, 5=highest)

mobile interest

Source: SEMPO/Radar Research (2009)

The graphic above shows at least 57% of respondents (a subset of the entire survey sample) said they were somewhat or very interested in geotargeted search marketing in a mobile context.

In addition, 20% of survey respondents said they would pay a premium of between 10% to 50% over conventional search marketing. The majority (39%) said they wanted to pay the same amount as online for keywords/ads in mobile search results.


ADCENTRICITY and Impact Mobile Combine for OOH + Mobile Ads

ADCENTRICITY is a digital out of home (OOK) technology provider and aggregator of ad inventory. There are literally more than 100K digital OOH screens at various locations around the US (supermarkets, franchise stores, gas stations, malls, retail stores, movie theaters, etc). ADCENTRICITY makes it easier for brands and advertisers of all stripes to buy these screens and get access to the audiences in these places.

The firm has just teamed up with Impact Mobile to add mobile reach and capabilities to its campaigns. From the release:

With Impact Mobile as the mobile service provider, this offering will provide advertisers with hyper-targeting capabilities to increase interaction with audiences on-the-go through mobile devices and help extend campaigns across even more channels. Capabilities include:

  • Call-to-Action: SMS, votes, polls, sweepstakes, contests, promotions, coupons, call-back request, text4info, surveys
  • Retail & Redemption: Mobile coupons (bar codes), unique PIN numbers (drive2web), ticketing
  • Content Deliver: Rich content, ringtones, wall papers, games, videos
  • Mobile Applications: Mobile Internet Sites (WAP) & Smart Phone Applications (more comprehensive and customized solutions)

Consumers engaging with digital out-of-home media are on-the-go and the interaction with mobile can be used for example, to send pre-programmed, customized messages to specific geographic targets throughout the life of the campaign. A mobile component to any digital out-of-home campaign can also help to drive a call to action, increase brand awareness and point-of-purchase sales.

Digital OOH is a fascinating (and effective, according to reports) marketing platform that can be used for both branding and direct response. Combining it with mobile makes it more actionable and dynamic in a range of ways implied by the release excerpt. For example, it can motivate someone to go to a point of sale (POS) and buy immediately with an offer or discount; it can get someone to sign up for alerts; it can motivate someone to download an application and so on.

Mobile can do this type of thing in general for traditional media (i.e., newspapers, mags, TV, radio) as well. And, eventually, most traditional media will (or should) offer some sort of mobile tie-in both to extend reach and to measure effectiveness. However, digital OOH is like combining TV and mobile at or near the POS. 

Yet these dynamic capabilities and the integrated marketing campaigns they imply are still quite a bit more sophisticated than the advertisers who would potentially be buying them. 

____

Related: Here's some additional color on the announcement from MediaPost

Microsoft Emphasizing Local in Live Search BlackBerry Client Promotion

There's an impending branding change coming to Microsoft's Live Search. But for the time being Live Search is still the Microsoft brand online and in mobile. And Microsoft is making its Live Search client app (with voice search) available on a broader array of BlackBerry devices including the Bold and the Storm.

I haven't been able to use it for awhile given that my WinMo HTC phone's touchscreen phone broke. However I like the Live Search app and used it when I had the phone. Until the Pre comes out I'm using an iPod Touch for WiFi mobile Internet access and a very low-end feature phone on the go. 

Here's a wacky site that showcases the local dimensions of the Live Search client for BlackBerry:

 Live Search for BlackBery

Separately, Yellowpages.com (AT&T) is the direct beneficiary of Microsoft's mobile distribution when local searches are performed: 

Live search Web

UK Study: 40% of Consumers 'Heavily' Use Mobile Internet

A study commissioned by IT and business services company Logica offers some interesting findings about mobile Internet usage in the UK. The results were released last month and were based on a survey of 1,000 mobile users. Here are, verbatim, some of the top-level findings:

  • 40% of consumers admit “heavy” usage of mobile internet
  • 42% say mobile advertising is “relevant to no-one”
  • 41% stated that they would be happy to receive targeted advertising content
  • 77% will switch operator if needs are not met

There were also these findings:

  • More than 45% of consumers stated that they wanted to see a service from their operators that brought together all of the content that they would otherwise need to go looking for via their mobile; friends, news, content and social networking access.
  • When asked whether the recession would reduce the time spent using the internet via mobile, over 50% of consumers stated that their mobile usage patterns would not change, clearly pointing to a business opportunity that is relevant in today’s climate

Grain of salt time:

Beyond what's stated here I know nothing about the methodolgy used or the sample. I'm struck by the finding: "40% of consumers admit 'heavy' usage of mobile internet." What does "heavy" mean exactly? Regardless, this finding cannot be generalized to the whole UK user population -- 40% are not currently "heavy" mobile Internet users. 

That makes the rest of these findings suspect on some level. However, all survey data should be seen as directional and not an exact reflection of the larger market. 

The finding that states 41% of respondents would be interested in targeted mobile ads is, in that sense, directionally suggestive of greater acceptance of mobile advertising -- especially among more experienced or heavier mobile users. LMS data show this correlation. 

The response that the recession would not change mobile usage patterns is generally supported by other third party data. There are indications that in the US some segments of the market are more price sensitive and some people have switched from post-paid to pre-paid offerings -- especially given some of the "deals" that are in the US market (e.g., Boost nd MetroPCS unlimited plans). 

Finally, the "77% will switch operator . . ." finding shows the danger that if carriers don't figure out "value-added" offerings they're well on their way to the "dumb pipe" scenario. 

Has 'Point & Search' Finally Arrived in North America?

This week at CTIA Nokia announced "point & find" for the UK and US. Software embedded in selected Nokia phones (e.g., the N95) allows people to use the phone's camera to do things like:

Point at a movie poster and watch the trailer, read reviews and check showtimes in your neighborhood. Oh, and we can get you there with directions to the cinema, too!

Scan a barcode with your camera phone to get the latest product information and read dependable reviews. And we'll show you where to find the lowest prices online.

This functionality has existed for some time in the US and Europe and is widely used in Asia (QR codes). Nokia has had a "point & shop" arrangement (similar idea: codes in newspapers) with The Sun newspaper in the UK for at least a year. And Yell, the UK yellow pages publisher, is experimenting with QR codes on its printed phone directory.

Versions of this functionality are being pushed by a number of companies that want to convert mobile phone cameras into search tools or ways to deliver more data and information from traditional media and objects in the real world. Some of those companies include Mobot, Neomedia, GeoVector, SnapTell and Scanbuy. One broad extension of this functionality is "augmented reality."

What's also fascinating is that these scenarios represent a totally different way to search, shop and generally get information. than the conventional mode of text entry being used today on smartphones. Of course the two are not mutually exclusive and should exist side-by-side. QR codes and their companion methodologies might also be a way for coming generations of non-smartphones to get lots more information than they can access today on the go. 

In Canada, MediaPost is reporting, the National Post newspaper is starting to use QR/2d barcodes to create a way to deliver more information to consumers (including video) and a way to give advertisers more value from newspaper advertising. The provider of the codes and the functionality in this case is Scanbuy. However smartphone owners must download the app that allows the codes to be read. A version of the software exists for all smartphone platforms. 

The Nokia software above is already pre-loaded on the applicable phones. 

Before Google shuttered its print newspaper ads program, QR codes were one way that Google tracked print response for its advertisers. In a simpler way, short codes can perform much the same function.

Some version of this "point & search" functionality should start to take hold in the US, especially if the software can be preloaded on phones. It also gives new life to traditional media, as suggested above. 

AdMob Introduces iPhone 'Exchange' to Drive Apps Downloads

In a move that was somewhat anticipated, AdMob has launched an iPhone exchange for developers seeking to drive more downloads. Apps/developers contribute a portion of their inventory to the exchange and they get ad space on other apps.

It creates various opportunities for apps to be discovered by users of . . . other apps. This is a logical extension of what AdMob was already doing in advertising apps on other apps. 

 

AdMob mobile exchange

 

Image credit: AdMob

The growth of this apps "ecosystem" benefits AdMob in the long run as it becomes the ad network that many of these developers will use to monetize their free apps. AdMob also needs to continue to promote downloads because many apps are "perishable" and don't have a long iPhone shelf life. 

US Carriers in Standards Deal with MMA

In a bid to accelarate the development of mobile marketing, the MMA announced that it has reached an agreement with the four largest US carriers on a path toward common standards and practices across the industry:

This industry-first agreement is a milestone toward the continued growth of mobile marketing, a dramatic reduction in the costs of launching mobile marketing campaigns, faster time to market for campaigns and improved consumer satisfaction by improving the consistency and efficiency of mobile marketing campaigns across the four major U.S. wireless service providers. The agreement underscores the industry’s commitment to work towards standardized marketing practices which will improve consumer satisfaction and understanding of mobile marketing campaigns.

In addition to the four largest US wireless service providers, there was substantial help in securing this agreement from the major aggregators, brands and content owners. In specific, VeriSign, Neustar, Limbo, and Thumbplay, all played critical roles in the process.

Under the agreement, the four companies, all MMA members, will incorporate their individual mobile marketing guidelines and codes of conduct – known as “carrier playbooks” – into a unified document to be maintained by the MMA. As a result, the operational efficiencies for the industry is upward of $200 million annually. The MMA will work with each carrier, as well as other industry partners, to craft the unified best practices, which will have five key benefits:

  • Promote a consistent consumer experience including standardizing key consumer disclosures
  • Enhance efficiencies in running short code programs
  • Accelerate the time to market for mobile campaigns
  • Ensure monitoring programs and audit results are more consistent
  • Reduce operational costs across the mobile marketing ecosystem

The MMA’s Consumer Best Practices Committee will review the first draft of the document in early April. The document will be finalized and released to the public by the end of June 2009.

This is very helpful and will remove a range of barriers that currently exist for agencies and marketers wanting to get into mobile. As a practical matter it may play out most directly in the context of SMS advertising.

comScore: UK iPhone Users 4X More Likely to Surf the Mobile Web

As it has done with US iPhone users, comScore has released data on iPhone users and their behavior in the UK. Here is the chart:

comScore UK iPhone usage

As with their US cohort, iPhone users outpace other smartphone users in all areas and by huge margins traditional mobile phone users. For example, almost 80% of iPhone owners access the mobile Internet vs. 19.8% of conventional mobile phone users. 

Demographics (per comScore): 75% are males, mostly between the ages of 18-44. Smartphone ownership also typically skews male in the UK, with males comprising 65 per cent of the audience.

Yahoo! Reportedly Putting More Coordinated Emphasis on Mobile

AdAge, via Business Insider, is reporting that Yahoo! is placing more coordinated emphasis on mobile:

We hear that under Jerry and former mobile boss Marco Boerries, the mobile unit worked more like an isolated startup. Now, under Carol and new mobile boss David Ko, the mobile team is working more closely with product teams as mobile becomes a stronger focal area for Yahoo.

We've been arguing for a version of this for some time. We argued directly to Yahoo! that success in mobile was in some ways a key to "reinvigorating" the Yahoo! brand overall. Yahoo! Mobile is a terrific improvement over Go and its previous mobile experiences. 

Yahoo! Mail has historically been the top mobile destination in the US. However, Opera reported yesterday that Yahoo! fell two places in its list of top 10 US mobile websites. And Google has the lead in mobile search. 

Yahoo! has a more developed mobile advertising business than Google (at this point). And it has carrier relationships around the globe that give it access to north of 800 million users hypothetically.

The company needs to keep paying attention to mobile as a highly strategic initiative at the level of CEO. So it's good that Bartz is involved, assuming the accuracy of the report.

Yellow Pages and Local Mobile Search

US yellow pages publisher RH Donnelley just launched its "DexKnows" set of mobile sites/apps. That now completes the quartet of major US publishers with mobile sites and applications: Yellowpages.com, Idearc (with a new iPhone app coming) and Yellowbook. In particular AT&T's YPMobile application has been quite popular and successful as an iPhone app. 

In Europe, MobilePeople has been building mobile apps and sites for YP publishers for several years. Now, in the US, mobile is no longer a novelty or "nice to have." It's a critical part of an overall traffic and brand strategy. As print usage in major metro markets continues to decline and the consumer market fragments even further, mobile is another piece of the traffic puzzle.

However the challenge for these publishers is to really do mobile in a way that makes it an asset rather than simply a bunch of listings distributed on a mobile handset. There are plenty of mobile apps and sites that provide local listings data. Arguably the mobile market is more competitive in this way than online.

One way in which the DexKnows iPhone app does something different on its iPhone app is by employing an Urbanspoon-like spinner/slot machine feature under a category called "Feelin' like." It provides restaurant listings by "genre" and location. That same tool also works with travel related services (e.g., lodging) and attractions (e.g., museums).

YP Mobile has included events (from Zvents), which stretches beyond the online product.  

For most YP publishers, mobile will be a "defensive" strategy to avoid losing users as they shift to mobile, rather than a way to gain new users. Yet unimaginative apps or sites will fail to serve even this function. Mobile is similar to online in many respects. But there are also important differences and publishers should be sensitive to those differences accordingly. For example the categories of usage in mobile are going to be different (at least in the near term) from those in the print directory or online. The "feelin' like" functionality on the Dex iPhone app recognizes this. 

Dex also offers 1-800-Call-Dex, which is a free-DA service.

The question remains in my mind: Are YP publishers "culturally" up to the task of creating compelling mobile applications and experiences (which might include verticals or specialized apps) vs. simply reproducing their directories on the handset. 

AdMob Feb. Metrics: Smartphone Mobile Internet Share Continues to Grow

Smartphones are a disproportionate driver of mobile Internet usage, especially the iPhone but other smartphones as well. AdMob's mobile metrics report for February shows that smartphones dominate mobile Internet traffic (and apps usage) in the US. These data are drawn from AdMob's network of sites and apps for which it serves ads and not identical to the "mobile Internet." It should be seen as a directional indicator of trands and user behavior. 

One of the headlines from the release put out by AdMob is "HTC Dream (G1) and BlackBerry Storm are the #1 Devices on T-Mobile and Verizon Just Three Months After Launch." That points to a larger Android share in the future as more devices hit the market.

Here are the top-level bullets from this month's report:

  • Smartphones generated 33% of worldwide traffic in February 2009, up from 26% six months ago.
  • The Top 5 US smartphones - Apple iPhone, BlackBerry Curve, BlackBery Pearl, Palm Centro, and HTC Dream (G1) - generated 77% of traffic in February.
  • The Symbian OS is still number one with 43% share and six of the top 10 handsets. Windows Mobile and Palm each lost half their worldwide share over last six months.
  • The iPhone generates 33% of all smartphone traffic worldwide and 50% in the US. Although RIM lost share in the US due to the rapid growth of the iPhone, the overall number of requests from RIM devices increased 48% in the last six months. 
  • Android has captured 5% of the US smartphone market just three months after launch and is now the #1 device on T-Mobile.

Here are a few of the tables from the report:

Picture 41

Picture 40

Picture 43

Picture 42

Again, these data are not necessarily representative of the mobile market as a whole. But they're probably a reliable indicator of trends. The data that show the loss in mobile Internet share by Nokia/Symbian as well as Windows Mobile are striking. Palm has lost share too but that's consistent with its slow disappearance from the marketplace (although the Centro has impressive Internet usage in the US market). Palm and its investors are hoping the Pre will revive the company's fortunes. 

Outwardly Microsoft betrays little or no concern about the competition for Windows Mobile, but these data -- assuming they are representative of larger trends -- have to be of concern.

Right now, it's important to point out, handset  unit sales and mobile Internet share aren't equivalent; the iPhone has a mobile Internet share that is disproportionate to its overall penetration. But the mobile Internet will become a larger factor in consumer smartphone buying in the immediate future. 

iPhone Developer Shares Fee vs. Free (+ Ads) Case Study

TechCruch offers an interesting guest post from the developer of the iPhone game app Galaxay Impact. It's a case study comparing response to the app when it was free vs. how it was received when the company charged $.99 for the download. The company also used AdMob to promote and monetize the app as well.

[T]he free downloads vs for-fee downloads is about 400:1. That means for 220,000 downloads, our revenue amounted to $550. It’s obvious that there was no way we could make money out of this with a $.99 list price.

Another lesson learned: before the price change (from free to $.99), average downloads per day was above 10,000 but after price changed back to free, the average rebounced to about 1,000 per day, which continued for a long time. If we had not experimented with charging for the app, the total number of downloads would have been much higher.

Next, we decided to try advertising and updated Galaxy Impact with ads from AdMob along with other new features. There was a huge spike of update downloads with a 30,647 peak of November 22, two days after the update release.

Regarding ad revenue the company said that it's highest daily ad revenue was $16.37 and averages "about $2.50 per day." The company also said that updates didn't really expand the audience even though they increased traffic when they were released. 

The published takeaways were the following: 

  • Free apps have a dramatically larger response
  • Ad supported apps can make more money over the long term than charging for the download
  • The overall ad revenues don't constitute a sustainable business

Caveats:

Many more such case studies need to be evaluated before any firm rules (or conclusions) such as these can be established definitively. For example, Pinch Media came to different conclusions from taking a look at the performance of a range of iPhone apps, suggesting making a paid app first and, if it succeeds, converting it into an ad-supported app. 

Ads and paid downloads are not incompatible; it's not necessarily "either-or" but can be "and."