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The Search for a Mobile Advertising Model

I’ve never been totally clear on exactly how mobile advertising was supposed to work. I’d like to blame that on the fact that there hasn’t been one tried-and-true advertising model they’re sticking with. There are banners on providers’ portal sites, I get one PPC result when I use Google on my phone, but advertising, at least on my cell phone, is pretty sparse.

One mobile advertising model that actually sounds appealing is to offer subscribers incentives, such as free minutes, for viewing ads. Virgin Mobile has been testing this model with its ‘Sugar Mama‘ program, as the Seattle Times reports today: “In its first seven months, the Sugar Mama campaign awarded 3 million minutes to about 250,000 of the registered customers.”

Citysearch Acquires InsiderPages

citysearch/insider pagesOnce dominated by Citysearch, competition has increased in the local sector—Insider Pages, Judy’s Book, Outside.in, etc. Sometimes, if you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em: Citysearch has acquired Insider Pages, a local review site.

Insider Pages has been reported to be struggling lately, but the reports have not included the actual price. Insider Pages had garnered $9 – $10 million in venture capital; TechCrunch reports the acquisition was around $13 million. Although there were multiple bidders, Insider Pages selected Citysearch because it’s complimentary, according to VP of Marketing Anne Raimondi.

VentureBeat reports:

Insider Pages has about 600,000 user reviews, and they’ll be integrated into the Citysearch’s offering, she said. It has 2.5 million monthly unique readers, she said, based on Comscore and internal tracking numbers.

Carl Icahn Invests in Mobile Content Provider Motricity

Motricity, a mobile content and services company based in Durham, N.C.,  has announced a $50 million round of equity funding from serial investor Carl Icahn.

Being a company local to me, I’m glad to see them growing and getting some working capital. but I’m sure they’re well aware that Icahn is not always an investor that likes the status quo.

MerchantCircle Brings MySpace Platform to Local Businesses

My hat’s off to MerchantCircle. I’ve just read a Business Week article that explains how the company is serving local businesses with a network that borrows a few ideas from MySpace. It sounds like they’ve hit on a winner!

Using data obtained from public records and a proprietary Web crawler developed by cofounder Yamamoto, the eight-employee MerchantCircle builds the listings, then relies on merchants finding listings through word-of-mouth and search engines. MerchantCircle optimizes each entry in the directory, so that it gets good placement when it is picked up by major search engines such as Google. “We make it easy for people to link to your site, make it easy for merchants to create new content, and tag it in a way the Web loves. Google wants people to be able to find stuff that they’re interested in. For a small-business man to do that himself would be impossible, but we’re applying that [technology] across lots and lots of merchants’ pages,” says Yamamoto.

How (& Why) to Break into Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing is so popular that it’s gone mainstream—or at least gotten mainstream media coverage. Today’s Boston Globe features an article on mobile marketing (via MarketingVOX). I think it gets at the heart of the issue, accurately explaining why it’s such an attractive and controversial potential advertising platform, in these quotations:

“We’re calling the phone ‘the brand in your hand’ — you’re never more than a foot away from it, 24 hours a day,” said Fareena Sultan, associate professor of marketing at Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration. The challenge, Sultan said, will be to produce an advertisement for the phone “that excites the person holding it.”

Mobile Search Battle Heating Up

Business Week looks at the battle to dominate the mobile search space and its estimated $11.4 billion ad spend by 2011.

While Google has the lead, Yahoo is making a strong challenge and there are a many white-label providers out there.

Regardless of who is leading at the moment, the mobile search field is wide open. What’s more, though brand matters to mobile users, it seems that service matters even more. “To think that you have a straight line from Internet success over to mobile is missing what is happening in the marketplace,” says M:Metric senior analyst Mark Donovan. “This market is up for grabs.”

Newspapers Outperforming TV in Video Ads

It’s true: newspapers are outperforming TV in video ads. In 2006, newspapers’ websites sold $81 million in local online streaming video advertisements. Local TV broadcasters’ websites sold only $32 million. Even taken with the other $48 million spent on online video advertising, it’s not much compared to the advertising industry total of $280 billion. But look out: online video is poised to become a more and more significant portion of online ad spending.

This year, $371 million will be spent on local online video advertising—comprising about 5% of the total of $7.7 billion online ad spending according to Borrell Associates Inc’s new study, “The New Frontier: Local Online Video Advertising.” This is more than double last year’s online video spend total of $161 million.