Here are some quick hits on recent news from Facebook and Yahoo, as well as a post mortem on the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show.
Google vs. Facebook, Yahoo: Diverging approaches to growing the mobile advertising business
I recently wrote about Google’s latest earnings announcement – you can read it here – and mentioned both the good news about stabilizing CPMs and the not-so-good news that Google doesn’t seem concerned about the other problem afflicting mobile advertising: the difficulty engaging users. This week brought indications about how other heavyweights in this space are tackling the engagement issue. Facebook and Yahoo are looking at all-new ad formats, which suggests that they recognize that mobile doesn’t deliver just a smaller version of the Internet. Mobile devices are used in fundamentally different ways, ways that require unique approaches to building ad solutions. I believe long term economic health in mobile advertising will require more careful inventory management to keep supply from overwhelming demand (i.e. Google’s approach) and rethinking the inventory to make it more engaging (i.e. Facebook and Yahoo’s approach). Along the way, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Yahoo rebound. Company fortunes have a way of reversing in the face of upheaval like the kind happening as users transition to mobile.
Consumer Electronics Show 2013 post mortem
I recently asked a couple of colleagues for their feedback on CES 2013. The show, which takes place every January in Las Vegas, is often the preferred venue for announcing new products, partnerships and services. I was in Vegas myself, but as is often the case, my time was dominated by meetings, so I never actually stepped foot on the show floor. Still, the event produced some noteworthy developments, and you’ll see that reflected in these smart observations.
Alex Finkel, who works in partnerships for a company called Roximity, noted that even as the consumer electronics industry veers to larger and thinner hardware, he and his cohorts craved more human contact and more innovation in content creation, not just content consumption. “I came wanting interaction with innovative and interesting technology and people, and while there were moments, it felt like OLED screens, 3D, Ultra HD or 4K were the buzzwords that dominated the airspace,” he told me. “The ultimate irony is that the actual innovative technology and products at the show that I did uncover was all via Twitter.”
Both of us came away impressed with the automotive companies. In this post, I wrote about how Ford’s early efforts to recruit developers could signal the start of a reordering of supremacy in that category. Before you brush that idea off, take a look at how quickly and dominantly Android and iPhone devices captured market share. Alex senses the potential for disruption, too. “[Vehicle manufacturers] showcased not only innovations in technology,” he said, “but also in safety and design, and while it’s not in the immediate future, they seem to have a grasp on what the next generation values about transportation. Frankly it’s not driving. Many people I know don’t have cars and view that as a badge of honor.”
Julie Vaughn Ruef, director of mobile business development at AOL, also noted the tendency toward screen expansion, and not just in televisions. She flagged the emergence of the “phablet,” a cross between a smartphone and a tablet, with screens ranging in size from 5 to 7 inches. She predicts that smart, portable devices will show increasing personalization and awareness of their users’ surroundings. “When you power-up your mobile device upon arrival at an international airport,” she said, “imagine being greeted with a pop-up screen replete with information detailing local services and attractions that are tailored to your interests. That’s certainly more pleasing than the current pop-up screens alerting users that incremental charges apply for roaming, without any additional value delivered.”
I met Alex and Julie for the first time at an after-hours event hosted by AOL, and both made an impression on me because even after spending an entire day in meetings, they had enough left in their tanks to offer meaningful, distinctive takeaways on the show and the industry at large. Thanks to both of them for sharing their impressions.
Did you go to CES? Have an opinion on what Google, Facebook, and Yahoo are doing to improve mobile economics? Let me know what you think.