Yet another company has entered the scene promising points and chances to attain higher levels by interacting with advertisements – this time by former Apple exec Lars Albright and his company, SessionM. There are a number of benefits for a consumer in the way of virtual goods, extra play or pride rewards by these types of programs. Developers of games and apps can see a lift in engagement and retention among their users. And, advertisers can look to connect with an audience in a still-developing realm of mobile media. But are these engagements nothing more than a toy, or will it make the difference for users? However it flushes out, somebody’s gotta crack the code on gamification in mobile media – and that might not necessarily be through points alone.
The offering of rewards for viewing ads or engaging with a brand on platforms and apps has seen an uptick in awareness and retention – enough so that there are more and more companies entering the fray. SessionM was able to receive $6.7 Million in funding and was able to test their services with publishers like Viacom and Fox Sports, and advertisers that include Honda and Volvo.
The question is how long will this form of reward keep a user enthused enough to participate. We know that advertising helps to make content available for free and we also know that mobile ad interaction rates continue to drop – though the engagement for those who do interact are quite high. Perhaps the access to more content – or even the same level of content that consumers are used to for free will be enough to entice them to “play the game” and engage more fully with the advertising presented in the mobile space.
Courtesy of mobilestance.com
Last night, I was discussing the challenges in mobile media with some friends and we were wondering when the “Play to Pay” model will make its way into mobile. This is the opposite of Pay-to-Play in the truest sense. Effectively, the Play represents the interaction with advertising and Pay being the reduction of monthly charges for the user’s mobile usage. We joked that an additional feature would be the allowance of subliminal messages during phone calls or while using any apps in exchange for free service. Can you imagine being on a call with a friend and all the sudden having a robotic voice overlay your friend’s voice with something like “I can’t wait to see the movie, PROJECT X, how about you?” Besides completely screwing with your communication (and your mind) this solution could be beyond anything that people would be comfortable with. But, a less obtrusive solution could be just the key Telcos are looking for to get back into the monetization of mobile interaction beyond the existing data charges.
Could Telcos be too busy trying to scrape back pieces of the business Google and Apple cordoned off with their App stores instead of finding engaging ways to make a real positive difference in their customers’ pockets? Devising a model that is similar to the coffee-house wi-fi networks model that provides free access with the simple act of watching a video or reading the advertising copy could be that perfect mix of making more money AND passing some value to their consumers. I imagine the model would be complex, but I’ve got to believe that actual reductions in money spent would be more enticing to consumers than getting another shiny badge or accessing another level of gameplay.
Yesterday, as the Mobile World Congress’ Keynote Speaker, Facebook CTO Bret Taylor laid out the company’s plans to “help” the mobile industry and developers work around the pesky control that Apple and Google now share. While unveiling two key programs that Facebook is looking to lead, he addressed Facebook’s plans to tackle both the in-app purchasing and the setting of HTML5 development standards and guidelines. Looking at both, they could be seen as either a uniting of factions to create a better mobile experience for all, or an end run at increasing the company’s power and market share.
Facebook CTO Bret Taylor speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. (Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)
To be fair, the move does seem like a win for Telcos – who were left out of the app monetization scheme by Apple and Google – and App developers – who have to go through heavy testing phases to ensure their product work across the wide range of systems and hardware. But, it seems that Facebook’s real goal is to enable themselves to make more money in the long-term. And that’s not a bad thing – just a worrisome one.
First off, the changes to in-app purchasing are much-needed and could benefit users as much as the telcos (and Facebook) it will most likely support financially. I question what Facebook’s role is in finding that solution. Don’t they already have a monetization model via Facebook credits? As more of their business moves to mobile and the subsequent ad revenue opportunities are diminished in the mobile experience, it is unclear what they will be able to garner from this immediate development. It does look like they will be able to offer the Telcos a piece of the revenue pie by reaching the umpteen million Facebook users, but their ultimate upside for Facebook will be that they are now playing in the same 30% playground that Apple and Google control.
The other part of Taylor’s address was related to general Mobile Web standards. There is an obvious need to come to some general standards and Facebook has the weight behind it to lead other publishers and developers in that quest. If they are putting together a consortium, hopefully it will be more effective than the ones we’ve seen in the entertainment industry (that come together to then decide they are going to do things their own way.) If they are building technology – specifically the Ringmark product they announced for testing purposes – as an infiltration tool (think back to those AOL CDs that came in the mail to get users to join) things could possibly get messy. Developers will be keen on tapping into Facebook’s Open Graph, but will it help those same developers with other testing that might have nothing to do with Facebook? If it is too narrow, it could end up being counter-productive.
It is far too soon to tell which way this will go, but my initial reaction was one of concern. That concern is based on the confusion about whether the company is facilitating the consortium or leading it. They are certainly in the position to facilitate the connection of many companies to reach a higher (and competitive) good. My concern is that it seems that they are actually looking to extend their fingers beyond their core to generate an even further stake in the digital realm. The positioning as an alternative to Apple and Google is a noble business decision, but will it spread them too thin? Also, if they are leading the charge and bringing on partners to do a bunch of dirty work that might show those companies an up-side in the short-term for Facebook’s further domination in the long-term, that could be a cause for concern.
Of course, there is not anything “evil” in either case – it just seems like it could end up being dubious. Or, perhaps I’m too fixated on an “Evil Empire” narrative of some sort.
Posted in Ruminations
Tagged Apple, Apps, Bret Taylor, Business, Developers, Development, Facebook, Google, HTML5, Market Share, Mobile Monetization, Mobile Web, Mobile World Congress, Ringmark, Standards, Strategy, Technology, Telcos, Testing