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March 27, 2007

Get Ready for the Mobile Wars

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The stage has been set for a 2007 mobile battle. Are you ready for it? Google, Yahoo, and the other mobile service provides are. In fact, the heavyweight title fight is starting to heat up.

In this corner (points left), outfitted in the purple and yellow trunks, we have Yahoo. Yahoo has been getting quite a bit of praise lately for their full-scale launch into the mobile arena. Last week they opened up an impressive oneSearch to mobile publishers, making the platform available on 85 percent of mobile-Web accessible devices.

Today, they announced a new suite of services aimed at publishers. The four-tiered network is called the Yahoo Mobile Publishers Services site and houses the Mobile Ad Network, the Mobile Content Engine, Mobile Site Submit, and the Mobile Media Directory. Color me impressed.

Here’s a look at their arsenal:

  • Mobile Ad Network gives mobile publishers the chance to serve syndicated ads on Yahoo’s mobile content and services. Publishers can choose from display ads, sponsored links, videos, sports or in-game or in-application placement. Advertisements are scheduled to go live in the second quarter of 2007.
  • Mobile Site Submit provides an easy way for publishers to ensure their site is being indexed in the mobile engines and available through Yahoo oneSearch. I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.
  • Mobile Media Directory is actually pretty cool. With it, publishers can create things like games, videos or ringtones and make them available to users through oneSearch. It feeds into that whole user-generated content thing.
  • The Mobile Content Engine helps all publishers, even those without a mobile Web presence, to make their content available on mobile devices. The Content Engine will integrate a publisher’s listings or news articles into Yahoo oneSearch, which will allow users to find them when searching for things like news headlines or business listings.

In the other corner (points right), in the red and blue shorts and donning a spiffy yellow headband, we have Google. Google’s looking a little angry this afternoon, bitter about having to play "catch up" to Yahoo’s advances and stomach punches. Watching Google shuffle around the ring looking all weak, it almost makes me want to find Terry Semel and give him a hug. Okay, almost. I’m just so happy for Yahoo. They’re finally doing something well!

But back to Google – they’re looking to knock Yahoo out with an upgraded version of Google mobile search which offers mobile searchers more-detailed search results and the ability to personalize their mobile home page with stock information, movie listings, news snippets and gadgets. It’s basically Google IG on the smaller screen. Google’s hoping that by using improved algorithms and factoring in a user’s location, their new mobile engine will offer a more relevant mobile searching experience and bring Yahoo Mobile to its knees.

Waiting to get into the fight is underdog Medio. Medio has become a major mobile player in the States and is running a pay per click network that’s worth paying attention to. Medio’s Mobile Now Ad Network runs similar to the Collarity service which has been mentioned quite a bit recently. It targets ads based on a consumer’s past searching habits, making the ads more relevant to a searcher’s needs and offering advertisers a higher, more focused click-through rate.

Who will win the mobile search title belt? Who knows? Right now, based on services alone, I like Medio. The great thing about mobile is that the fight is so young that it’s really anybody’s game. There’s even room for a third-party to get in and offer something Google and Yahoo haven’t been able to do yet.

In the Google/Yahoo mobile title fight, however, Yahoo looks like the stronger competitor, offering more services to help publishers monetize content in the mobile network.

Google does seem to have a slight advantage of Yahoo over present, though.
Bigmouthmedia reports that the first M:Metrics MetreDirect survey of US and UK users found that Google is currently the most popular mobile search application in both the United States and the UK. After Google, US mobile searchers are most apt to use Yahoo, MSN, Live and Go.com, while UK users prefer operator portals like O2, Orange and Three.

Danny Sullivan’s recent AdvertisingAge article noted that after years of waiting around for something to happen, mobile search is finally worth keeping an eye on this year. I totally agree.

The biggest piece of evidence I can offer you that mobile search is gaining steam is that our own Susan "I Don’t Believe In Technology" Esparza recently purchased a Blackberry Pearl and has turned into a text-messaging, mobile-Web-browsing, Google-Alert-reading fool. If Susan is capable of using the mobile Web, then my mother isn’t far behind.

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