Posts Tagged ‘Mobile Advertising’

Thinking About Location-Aware Apps?

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Then please, check out this white paper I co-authored recently with Janet Jaiswal, Director of Enterprise at TRUSTe.  TRUSTe is one of the few organizations that offers a privacy certification for mobile apps and services.  Over the last few months, I’ve been working with TRUSTe on their mobile privacy certification program. In this white paper, Janet and I zero in on geo-location – exploring the market dynamics, privacy concerns and some best practices around location-aware apps and services, and the hot new area of “geo-marketing.”


Geo-Location: 4 Tales for April 16th

April 16, 2010 Leave a comment

The social media industry is undergoing a revolution of sorts, with innovative technologies that are giving new meaning to the term “location, location, location.”  In fact, some of the coolest features being announced by social media platforms are rooted in geo-location technologies.   These technologies are, for the most part, a new take on an old idea – GPS or the Global Positioning System – referring to the services provided by a series of US satellites that orbit the Earth. After forces from the former Soviet Union shot down a Korean Airliner jet in 1983, President Reagan signed an executive order making the technology available for commercial use.  Now, nearly 20 years later, companies are taking geo-location technologies to the next stage in their evolution and making them accessible to most anyone with a GPS enabled phone or device.

Just this past week, there were 4 different news stories about how geo-location is re-shaping social media.  In honor of Global Social Media Day (yes, that is today), I thought I would share them with you.

1. The first story is all about Foursquare. The 13-month old website that no one had really heard of before SXSW ’10, now has 799,000 users (including me, I just signed up). The company recently announced an innovative partnership with Bravo TV and continues to expand its family of partners.  This post is particularly appropriate as today, April 16th, is also Foursquare Day (fourth month, 16 is foursquared, clever?).  In San Francisco this evening, you can attend a Foursquare Swarm Party and earn a badge if you “check in” at least four times.  The incentives?  Discounts and free drinks – especially if you are a Mayor.  Foursquare’s unique proposition is that it brings advertising opportunities directly to the point of need. And it’s keeping up with its users too – to assure its advertising partners that its users are where they say they are.  Recognizing that some enterprising Foursquare patrons were checking in without actually being at the locale, the company recently rolled out “cheater code” to deter less energetic Foursquare users who seek mayorships from the comfort of their couch.

2. The second story comes from last year’s Foursquare (or is Foursquare this year’s Twitter?).  No longer the “scrappy startup,” Twitter is evolving into the communication platform of choice for those who choose to express themselves in 140 words (or thereabouts).  Today, it has over 100 million users who generate over 55 million posts a day (and a gargantuan amount of real-time data).  Making that data more relevant to a user will be key to Twitter’s continued success in an increasingly crowded space of competitors.  This week, at the company’s first developer conference (aptly titled “Chirp”), Twitter introduced its “points of interest” feature, which allows users will be able to reveal and search for exact locations.  The feature allows you to see all of the tweets or posts made from that location – a sort of real-time yelp on steroids.  Another tool called annotations allows users to reveal metadata, such as their location, in published tweets.  The meta data of course, does not count towards the 140 word limit.

3. Our third story is yet to be told.  It involves Facebook, the most popular site in the US (according to TechCrunch and Hitwise), and its plans to introduce geo-location services to over 400 million Facebook users worldwide.  The details will be unveiled at F8, the company’s sold-out developer conference to be held next week in San Francisco.  A sneak peak at the agenda suggests that the big announcement could be during the morning’s keynote, or perhaps during one of the breakout sessions for new tools (where the description currently reads “everything you need to know about our new tools. We’ll share more about this session at f8.”).  Of course, the impact of this announcement will reverberate strongly throughout the geo-location ecosystem, and it remains to be seen whether Foursquare and even Twitter will be able to keep up with the mighty Facebook once this feature launches.

4. Our last story is about the FTC and its never-ending race to keep up with the surging rush of new technologies, particularly those that focus on geo-location services.  The issue is already on the FTC’s agenda – in the form of a merger and a proposed rulemaking.  In their letter to the FTC, outlining concerns with the acquisition of AdMob by Google, Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Digital Democracy point out the privacy concerns of combining location data with a user’s data profile.  The FTC’s opinion on this particular transaction will most certainly signal its views on the importance of geo-location data in competitive and privacy analysis.  And, recognizing the increasing adoption of GPS-enabled smartvphones, particularly among users aged 13 and under, the Commission has invited comment on its Children Online Privacy Protection Rule 5 years earlier than Congress had originally prescribed in 2005.  In its announcement, the agency specifically identified the ability to collect “mobile geo-location data” in connection with behavioral advertising, as one of the technological changes that warrant re-examination of the Rule.

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Google Wants to Buy Yelp – Are Regulators in Sync?

December 18, 2009 1 comment

Rumours that Google wants to acquire Yelp (for $1.5 billion) hit the blogosphere and newswaves earlier today. While local advertisers may be part of the attraction (Google’s Place Pages for maps, etc.), I think the bigger story here is how Google continues to fortify its social search assets.  A smart move as social networking – with its mines of user profile data – continues to grow in relevance for online advertisers.  Commentators, most notably Wired, have mused that Google’s real competitor is Facebook (it’s social, not relevant search that’s key).  If you take that view, this acquisition makes total sense. Yelp – with 9 million uniques and $30 million in revenue for 2009  -is growing at a rate of 80%, while that same number for Citysearch, its nearest competitor, is around zero.  Yelp is an important acquisition for Google, as it builds its social search platform to compete with Facebook and others for online ad dollars.

The interesting question here is how regulators will view the Google-Yelp transaction. Will they view it in isolation, or will they analyze how this deal fits in with the seven other Google acquisitions currently pending with regulatory authorities? The ramifications are huge – particularly for the small, but growing mobile advertising market. Especially, since one of those 6 other transactions is Google’s bid to acquire AdMob, one of the largest providers of mobile advertising (see my post; Scott Cleland’s blog on antitrust concerns with this deal are also worth a read). Yelp is already on your app phone of choice – including phones featuring Google’s Android – and the synergies are almost poetic.  Plus, there are the persistent rumors that Nexus One (the Google phone), will be released next year.

All of this suggests that regulatory agencies need to be working very closely on merger reviews of technology deals in the coming months.  Coordination on these merger reviews needs to happen both between the agencies – here the DOJ, FCC and FTC – and with state Attorneys General that choose to review these transactions.  Coordination is key to the outcome of a process that will impact continued innovation and competition in the communications and technology industries.  Perhaps too, we will gain some insight into how the tech friendly Obama Administration really views merger policy in dynamic markets.

Cool, but Creepy

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

A footnote to my last post on the FTC roundtables: check out Kara Swisher’s interview today with Google’s Vic Gundotra and Amit Singhal.  Based on their description of Google’s new visual search product named Google Goggles – coming soon to an Android headset near you – we may already be seeing a product that will test the FTC’s ability to balance consumer privacy concerns against technical innovation.

I can think of numerous ways visual search can revolutionize business, travel and the daily errand.  For instance, right now, I’d love to find out the provenance of this supposedly antique table that we picked up at the Alameda Antiques Faire last weekend.  For visual search to work effectively,  i.e. for it to catalogue enough results to get me a relevant, real-time match, the product must incorporate persistent GPS and location tracking technology.  And yet, these are the types of features that give some of us a creepy pause in this era of unregulated online privacy.  Do I really want my phone to know that much about me?

Will Admob Acquisition Clarify the Role of Privacy in Web (or Wireless) Competition?

November 10, 2009 1 comment

A couple days ago, I mused about how Google might monetize newly integrated features such as voice-activated GPS in the latest version of Android, its mobile operating system.  Almost in answer to my question, Google announced today that it will acquire AdMob for $750 million in stock. AdMob is a three-year old mobile advertising start-up that is a leader in the growing mobile advertising sector.  Already, AdMob provides advertising for mobile phones such as the iPhone and smartphones running Google’s Android.

Google believes that the acquisition will clear regulatory hurdles — but that remains to be seen.  The company faces a very different regulatory environment now then it did in March 2008 when it acquired Doubleclick.  At that time, Commissioner (and now FTC Chair) Jon Leibowitz acknowledged the concerns expressed by privacy advocates but supported the transaction on the grounds that online privacy needed to be addressed on an industry-wide basis (and not through a single merger decision).

Since then – and in large part to Leibowitz’s own initiatives as FTC Chair – a perfect storm has been brewing over how privacy should be regulated online.  The FTC will examine online privacy through its upcoming roundtables entitled “Exploring Privacy” and it’s likely that the mobile web will be part of the discussion.   For instance, the FTC’s April 2009 web commerce report notes concerns with spam and children’s online privacy on certain devices (such as those which have internet browsers and GPS technology).  And that’s just the FTC.  We’re not even delving into FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s interest in promoting wireless competition – a topic that has been well-covered in recent weeks.

Will regulators take this opportunity to better define what role privacy should play in web competition?  It’s an unanswered, yet important question – particularly for an industry whose growth is fueled by data and financed by advertising based on that data.  With the acceleration and developments in mobile advertising, the question is especially ripe for discussion. Let’s see who takes the bait and dares to provide an answer.