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September 26, 2007

Blyk’s Ad-Supported Mobile Service Experiment

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Earlier this week we mentioned Pudding, a company that was going to scary lengths to provide an ad-support phone service to its users. We discussed how free phone calls were good, but how monitoring our phone calls was bad, a little slimey, and kinda sort of made us not trust you. Today, we bring you a company that appears to have been able to mix phone free service with targeted advertising and isn’t at all creepy! Pudding people, get your pencils out.

UK-based Blyk is looking to pair advertisers with the lucrative 16-24 demographic by offering them free mobile service as long as they agree to view targeted advertising in return. Basically, once users sign up, they’re issued a SIM card to place in their phone. That card gives them 43 free voice minutes, as well as 217 free text messages. In exchange, members agree to view up to 6 picture or text messages a day. There’s no pressure to acknowledge or respond to the ad, they just have to tolerate them. Oh yeah, and if you go over your minutes or allotted text messages, it’s on you. Members will be charged 20 cents per additional text messages, 30 cents per minutes and $2.00 per megabyte for their mobile data use. Ouch, that’ll add up.

There are obviously some kinks in the new Blyk system. I mean, most young people will go through 43 voice minutes and 217 text messages in 5 hours, but still, I like where this could go. I know I’m an old fart at 25 (thanks, Blyk people), but I would totally sign up to view targeted advertising if it meant I didn’t have to pay for at least part of my phone bill.

I am curious to see how it’s all going to work, though.

One thing mentioned in the Unstrung article was that members would be asked to fill out a questionnaire in order to create a personal profile and pair them with relevant advertising. That’s great and will probably reduce the amount of noise users receive, but will there be any kind of targeting on top of that? For example, if users are surfing the Web and visiting skateboarding Web sites on their phone, will their ads change to reflect that? Or is everything being based off that that initial interview? It seems to me that the personal profiles will need to updated as user interests change. We have to keep in mind that in some cases we’re talking about high schoolers. Their interests change daily, sometimes hourly.

I’m also curious as to whether the texts members received from advertisers will count as part of their allotted 217 free texts. If so, 6 text messages a day multiplied by 30 days in a month, means members are actually only getting a whopping 37 text messages to use at their own volition. My little brother is 20 years old and would finish that before breakfast. That may be a huge source of frustration for members.

I’ll be really interested to see how this little test run goes because if it works in Europe, a place where text messaging runs rampant, there’s hope that it could work here, as well.

I want to see if users will actually engage with the ads or if sending 6 ads a day will cause users to simply ignore them. I want to see if members are going to be willing to pay the additional charges when they go over (which they will) or if they’ll get so frustrated that they change plans (or swap out SIM cards). I want to see what kinds of ads users will be viewing, which advertisers will step up to the plate, and what the clickthroughs are going to be like.

We’ve been hearing so much about how the year for mobile is coming. Maybe this will be it. I’m waiting for the results.

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One response to “Blyk’s Ad-Supported Mobile Service Experiment”

  1. Cadarn writes:

    Hi

    Good blog, you might want to go surfing on their web page http://www.blyk.co.uk

    youre on the right track from what ive read from a million+ blogs out there.

    couple of notes:
    -The free amount of texts arent charged when responding to anything Blyk sends out.
    -In fact updating your profile is “expected” so that the noise can eventually be decreased to hopefully 0. And ofcopurse theres targeting, thats the whole point i suppose in making it tolerable, no? ;)

    greetz



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