Tuesday, October 20, 2009


...I spend most of my time on Twitter.

Won't you follow me there?


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

iPhone Apps - Free more lucrative than Premium?

I'm not sure whether to believe some of the figures (60% fillrates, 2.6% click through-rates, and eCPMs as high as $4.00), but I thought this report by Adwhirl could be informative to developers trying to decide on free vs. premium.

It is obvious that low fill rates equal low revenues, but I have yet to see a single ad network or optimizer that yields 100%. Oh, well, you be the judge.

Other ad networks specializing on iPhone are Admob, Medialets, PinchMedia, and even Google is planning to do so.
Adwhirl iPhone Advertising Snapshot

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Even the rumor of a Verizon iPhone could be a really good thing

Rumors are circulating that with the upcoming expiration of Apple's exclusivity with AT&T, Apple could very well be in talks with Verizon.

Apple could not possibly go wrong in developing a CDMA version of the iPhone for distribution on Verizon's network. Apple would not only gain access to an additional 80 million subscribers, but also to a significantly more robust 3G network. It is also very likely that Verizon has been looking to deploy the next generation of mobile broadband, Long Term Evolution. This would provide a much improved platform for the iPhone to really demonstrate its potential. In addition Apple would also gain expertise that could be used to access other networks. While only a minority compared to GSM operators, many operators worldwide still have CDMA networks deployed.

I, for one thing, will not be holding my breath, however. Verizon has a history of completely controlling the specifications of any device that touches its network. Branding will also probably be a point of contention during negotiations between the two power houses. Not to mention the app store, which is the ultimate antithesis to Verizon's tightly controlled walled garden. Another factor will be the technology itself. CDMA is a technology that was developed by Qualcomm, to whom Apple would have to pay royalties.

Regardless of the outcome, I am very much looking forward to the pressure that this threat will place on AT&T to improve its service.

Other related links: TechCrunch, Macrumors, Engadget

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why Gmail for mobile is so bad

Because access to your product is just as, if not more important than the product itself.

To get to Gmail on my LG phone I first I discovered via my computer browser (here) that I must go to m.google.com. So far this was alright, except that this is an entirely new concept to Google. Until recently their mobile URL was http://www.google.com/xhtml.

After navigating to m.google.com I select Gmail from the menu and boom! I am supposed to be there, right? Well, no, actually. Instead I get to a page with some confusing messaging:

The 1st message is a link that reads "Visit Now". And if I click on that link I get to the Gmail login page.

So my question is WHY not just take me there in the first place?!

The 2nd message is "The Gmail application does not work on your phone, however you can access Gmail on the go by using the web version." Hmm...

a) Then why show me the "visit now" link?
b) Then how come the "visit now" link does work for me?
c) If the mobile version does not work, then why would the web version work on my phone?
e) Why not just take me to whatever version works in the first place?!

In short I should be able to access Gmail in two simple ways:

1. By going to m.google.com and selecting Gmail. That is all. Redirection works well on mobile browsers too.

2. By navigating directly to m.gmail.com. The Web site should not give out the URL m.google.com/mail like it does now. It is simply too long to type into a small mobile device.

It's all quite simple, isn't it?

Looking to advertise on your mobile site?

Here is the rundown on how different mobile advertising networks can help you monetize your mobile site.

The space is divided into the following categories:

Global ad networks with a broad footprint: with these networks one can get the widest reach possible - i.e. ads will be served for almost every market in the world but CPMs will be suboptimal. Examples are Admob, Admoda, and Mobile Google Ad Sense.

Regional networks with coverage of several countries: these networks are focused around certain geographies. Through this approach they promise access to local advertisers, and therefore to deliver higher CPM and fill-rates. Some examples are: Mkhoj (India, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia) and Quattro Wireless (US, Canada, UK).

Local networks: these providers would undoubtedly deliver the highest CPM's and very decent fill rates. Unfortunately these could have dry spells, especially during this economy, during which they may not have any campaigns whatsoever. If your property has a global footprint and you have business development resources it is definitely worth it to go after these partners. Make sure your site's ad serving platform is able to quickly shift traffic in a moment's notice if fill rates for one network fall below acceptable levels.

Network Optimizers: their value proposition is that they aggregate many of the ad networks described above and for a decent, but higher, share of the CPM they will serve ads from the providers that are likely to deliver the highest CPMs and fill rates possible. Another advantage of using these optimization networks could be a one-time versus multiple integrations. This point should be taken with caution because you do not want put all of your eggs in one basket. Examples are Nexage and AdMarvel.

Other big names mobile advertising networks are (most are limited to a few geographic markets):

Ad Infuse

Ring Ring Media (UK)
BuzzCity (US, part of Africa, part of South East Asia, and India)
Mobile-Worx (Zest Ads) - mostly India
Third Screen Media
Third Screen Media
Milennial Media

Dealing and integrating with one or, ideally, multiple of these companies can be complicated as there are very few or no standards in mobile advertising. If your inventory justifies it having a dedicated resource to manage advertising on your mobile site can really help optimize revenues.

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's not about Location... duh!

If I had a dollar for every time someone mentioned foursquare during a panel or keynote at SXSWi last week I would be super... Ok, maybe I'd have about 60 dollars. Which is a lot considering I only attended about 6 sessions in all (bah... and missed out on the "panel nerd" badge as a result... whaa!).

The point is that Foursquare's debut at SXSWi was simply put, a success. We all loved it and continue to love it!

The irony is that it is about the millionth LBS application to see the light of day. Worse yet, many of the check-ins were likely done over SMS given AT&T's stellar performance during the conference. Worse yet... it is a resurrection of Dodgeball.

The reality is that the majority of Foursquare's new fan base has tried many of its precursors (from the mobile operators' friend finders, to Loopt, to Dodgeball, to Brightkite). This explains how easily we adopted it - Yes, we got it. But the thing is that not only did we start using it right away without the need for a step by step explanation of why and how to use it, but we also could not stop ourselves. This never happened with any of Foursquare's predecesors.

So at last someone seems to have finally gotten it right.

First it's fun -

Foursquare is unique in that it turns the potentially cumbersome task of providing your location into something you actually want to, cannot wait to do. Why? Because it is a game! And as with games you earn points, you compete, you win prizes (badges), you get to PWN your friends by becoming "the mayor" of a bar. Next thing you know you can't stop yourself. Next thing you know you catch yourself having horrible dark thoughts about checking into a place you're not even at!

Second, it's useful -

Much like what Yelp, Rateitall, or Google Maps could do, foursquare gives you location based recommendations. The beauty of these recommendations from a contextual and cost perspectives is that they have been provided by the user community. What is even more beautiful is that from a monetization perspective this could be a very valuable capability. For years companies like Cellfire have been toiling with this concept. But again, what was missing was the fun part.

Back in September I summarized this teen survey which concluded with the very astonishing revelation that (gasp! OMG) generation-m did not care for friend-finder applications. I guess we'll just have to see if they change their mind once they PLAY foursquare.

Friday, March 20, 2009

63MM Mobile Web users in the U.S.

This comscore summary just came out this week. Here's a short recap:

* Number of Mobile Web users in the US is now 63MM (up from 40MM in mid last year)
* Fastest growing segment is still Social Networking (bundled w/ blogging)
* The majority of phones surfing the mobile web are still Feature (low end) phones (70%)

Other January stats:

* 22.3 MM users accessed info via a downloaded application
* 32.4 MM users accessed info via SMS

Is SMS dead?

Two weeks ago Google shut off its free SMS platform to 3rd parties (the one that powered Infinite SMS on the iphone). Days earlier Google had also shut down Dodgeball, the SMS powered location based social app. One might conclude from this that the services were unpopular. Instead, the real problem was just the opposite; and the fact that Google was paying for each tiny message.

Unfortunately, unlike with most technologies, when it comes to SMS the marginal costs do not necessarily shrink with higher usage. This economic problem is caused by the operators (outside of the US) and SMS aggregators (in the US) who can afford to demand applications to pay a price for reaching their subscribers.

With the rise of new open platforms the current SMS model will begin to deteriorate. Platforms such as the iPhone are paving the way for other means to reach users without having to pay a toll to the operator or aggregators. Another important trend is the growing popularity of flat data plans. These are gradually being adopted and marketed by operators to expand their more advanced premium services and content (ah, the irony).

But getting real... there is still a long way to go.

Today SMS is still the optimal way to reach a really wide mobile audience. In the US for example, mobile users with data plans who are able to reach their favorite applications via mobile web are just about 60 million. In contrast, almost all mobile users (over 200 million of them) can be reached via SMS. This gap is even greater in emerging markets, where Mobile Web penetration can be as low as 3%, while SMS is over 90%.

So to answer the question... it's getting closer and closer, but it has a long while to go.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spoofing the iPhone using Firefox

For any of you kids out there wishing to hit a server with Firefox as if using an iPhone here's something that might come in handy.

Install this Firefox add-on:


After you install the add-on:

Go to Tools in your browser
Select User Agent Switcher
Select Options
Select Options again
Select User Agents
Click on the Add button

Enter the following information in the box:

Description: iPhone
User Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU like Mac OS X; en)
App Name: AppleWebKit/420+ (KHTML, like Gecko)
App Version: Version/3.0
Platform: Mobile/1A543 Safari/419.3

Once you store the information you will be able to select iPhone from the User Agent Switcher under tools.

No abusing though...

Monday, March 16, 2009

SxSWi: major FAIL for AT&T

With hundreds of influential members of the tech and first adopter communities congregated at SXSWi, one would have expected the operator to step it up at least just enough to provide the same level of service its subscribers are accustomed to. During the past few days making a call using an iPhone has been pretty much impossible. The odds of getting a data connection on an iPhone have been lower than 30%. Even texting has become a challenge for the frustrated iPhone enthusiasts.

Operators can provide extra capacity to a network in an hour's notice. Forget doing any out of the ordinary network performance optimization or installation of additional hardware. There do exist so called mobile cell sites. These consist of scaled down versions of network centers antennas and all, hosted in fully conditioned trailers that can be easily mobilized and sent to areas where an operator may not necessarily want to add permanent capacity.

But one day away from the end of Interactive and here at the Austin Convention Center it feels as if AT&T couldn't care less about the loyal iPhone lovers. Only time will tell if this will in any way affect the nework or the phone's sales.

In the mean time, if you too are a frustrated iPhone owner you can voice your frustrations at http://pleasefixtheiphone.com.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Going Mobile the Easy Way

You can build your mobile web site, iphone application, and what not... But at the end of the day in order to reach the masses you will still need SMS.

The bad news is that it is a royal pain in the a##. In the US you are looking to pay a monthly fee for your shortcode (~1K), plus an aggregator set up fee (~2K+), and if you want your users not to pay a premium fee to stay connected, you have to pay for the messages yourself (anywhere from 2 - 5 cents per message). You can also expect anywhere from 2 to 3 months before the operators approve your campaing.

There are a few answers to this problem:

One way is to charge your users. Don't expect the majority to sign up for your service, though.

You can also subsidize via text based advertising. The problem is that there aren't enough advertisers who are pumping cash into this form of advertising yet. Companies that you can connect to are 4INFO or Textmarks.

The solution: outsource your integration and DON'T try to build it yourself! A few companies have already have gone through the troubles described above and expose API's that should make it easy for you to integrate. One such company is Unwired Nation. Some of Unwired Nation's customers boast a 3-4 week time period to get up and running. Other successful companies such as 3jam have gone through this trouble at a global scale. They might just be willing to allow your company to integrate into their network and leverage their relationships with aggregators and operators all over the globe.