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Mobile Search Advertising: A Unique Approach Pays Off

mcn_bookman_150×220.gifOne company that we’ve always liked to follow is Mobile Content Networks (MCN), who have a completely different approach to search from all the others.

In this interview, we speak with Marc Bookman, CEO of MCN, about their “Federated” approach to search, innovations in search advertising, and the differences he sees in markets around the world.

What are the current search problems you are trying to address with the “federated search” approach?

We’re trying to solve three problems:

  • click fatigue on the part of end users,
  • low ROI for content provider’s marketing spend, and
  • operator challenges with managing the transition from on-portal “walled’ approaches to more open “mall” approaches to content discovery.

We are doing this with a real-time, federated, vertical search management platform that delivers actionable results, in 2-3 clicks.

We’ve added to this a unique PPC vertical paid search program, allwords(sm) that gives content providers the most direct access to end users and which generates a new revenue stream for operators and portals.

Note: for more background on how MCN federated search works, see this MobiAD post.

What are the benefits of allwords compared to the standard adwords-type approach?

With allwords(sm) content providers buy all of the keywords in a category (music, games, books, videos, shopping, etc) with a single purchase. This dramatically simplifies budgeting and management and enables them to focus on packaging, promotion, optimizing their metadata to return higher value results—all the things that they do well.

This is a fairly new advertising product, what has the response been so far?

It’s been very good. In Japan, we are offering allwords programs to content providers across NTT DoCoMo, Yahoo! Mobile Japan, and several other major mobile portals. We are generating higher clickthrus, conversions, and ROI for the content providers.

Which industries or product categories have you seen are the most active users of mobile search advertising? Clearly mobile content is one—what else?

The key categories that we have seen include:

  • Music (45% CTR in Japan now),
  • Games (15-20% CTR in Japan now), and
  • Comics/eBook (65% CTR in Japan now).

We have 100% renewal rate in all categories, and anecdotally our conversion rate (CVR) seems to be about double any other mobile marketing tool.

Mobile Commerce is currently exploding in Japan. Given that PC based buying behavior is already well established in the US and Europe, we expect that mobile commerce will become huge in these markets in the next 2-3 years – and vertical paid search will be a key component.

MCN has systems running in several countries – what do you see are the big differences in the Japanese market for search advertising compared to the US and European markets?

mcn_quote1.gifIn Japan off-portal mobile sites are big and advertisers are flocking to reach their users: the top 30 sites generate nearly 45 billion page views a month. The Japan mobile advertising ecosystem is mature—they have over 8 years experience—and agencies are shifting their spend to search advertising because its got proven ROI.

The US and Europe are trending in this direction. Operator portals will reap the benefits first, followed by growing off portal players.

Federated search seems well suited to mobile content. What about the “long tail” of search?

MCN views the long-tail problem as multi-dimensional – Federated search will be integral in solving a large part of the mobile search puzzle including delivering excellent results for “long tail” searches, but there will always be a need for horizontal indexes of content.

What is your long term view of mobile search—should it all go the federated approach or will there be some sort of hybrid with “standard” search?

We believe that most if not all mobile search players will be utilizing some kind of federated approach in the future. MCN concluded back in 2003 that real-time Federation is best suited to the unique requirements of the mobile ecosystem, especially for content discovery and commerce.

To date, the quality of “standard search” is questionable enough to ask whether it’ll be around in the future. Adaptation to the mobile use case is necessary. The holy grail for everyone is about producing the first results page that has rankings most useful for mobile consumers.

You’ve made deals with a number of mobile operators and portals—what are the key reasons they’ve chosen MCN?

Yes, we’re pleased with the uptake – we have more than 20 deployments passing 200,000,000 users and expect to more than double that by year end. There tend to be 3 key reasons why MCN and Federated search is appealing:

  • we can launch faster,
  • we can scale new categories and content providers faster, and
  • with allwords(sm) we can offer an entirely new revenue stream that benefits content providers and operators alike.

There are many companies in Mobile Search, some of which are very big. And all of them are getting into Mobile Advertising. How do you think the market will shape up—a lot of failures, buyouts, fragmentation??

The branded internet portal players will get their share, to be sure. And we do expect a shakeout in the future given that there are several players in various parts of the globe with poor differentiation and unsustainable cost structures.

At the end of the day mobile networks are owned by mobile operators and mobile destinations are owned by mobile brands…..and serving their interests will pay dividends for all in the ecosystem.

How will you keep MCN alive and thriving in this market—what are your keys to success?

mcn_bookman_small.gifMCN is completely focused on delivering a great mobile search experience for end-users, brands and content providers. We clearly understand our role in the value chain, we control our technology, and we have great partners and investors. So we think MCN is well positioned, technically and globally, to capture significant market share.

15.07.2008    Tags: ,
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