Friday, October 8, 2010

It's the data, not the brand, that counts.



YellowPages.ca are no longer hording their data. They are now allowing the advertising they carry in their database to be displayed in other applications.
They have recognized an important point in digital delivery of advertising: you don't need to rely on a particular Yellow Pages brand. With the analytics that digital media affords, you can show how many eyeballs parsed the customers’ advert. It does not have to be on a web site or in a mobile application that is branded as Yellow Pages. Eyes on ads are what the advertiser really cares about. It's what Yellow Pages have been doing for decades. In the past, brand recognition was the way of showing usage of a telephone directory. Now customers demand metrics. Impressions are the digital equivalent of distribution and much more accurate.
A move in this direction also affords opportunities for mobile developers. Looking at the iPad, iPhone and Android Mobile Yellow Pages offerings, there seems little to differentiate them based on the icon and description in the store. In the same way as most users are blind to whose telephone book they pick up and use, most people with a smart phone really do not care who is providing the data to their phone - so long as it is accurate and useful.
If brand loyalty to a Yellow Pages company does not inspire downloading of an application, what will?
People often make decisions based on emotion. The stronger the feeling, the more likely they are to act. So mobile developers have an opportunity to partner with Yellow Pages and give people a good reason to download their application. At the same time, they can do what Yellow Pages has always done, serve their local communities.
How? By partnering with good causes that need fundraising and let them market the end product as a way of raising those funds.
For example, a cancer charity may raise funds by having a downloadable local search application in the iTunes store that costs the end user a donation of $ 4.99, a portion of which goes to the charity. With a sliding scale of contribution based on volume, the more the charity promotes the mobile application (maybe a flyer in the next mailing or an email blast) the greater the charitable part can increase - once development costs are offset. It’s an easy way for people to contribute to a good cause if they have a smart phone, making this an especially attractive impulse purchase.
The mobile developer shares part of the revenue with the good cause promoting it. The only real difference between a children’s charity application and a cancer charity or even a “vote Joe Blog for Mayor” application is cosmetic. The required development time and effort, beyond the initial development, is minimal. Effectively, they “skin” the mobile application for each “good cause” that signs up.
From a Yellow Pages perspective, it's a win-win situation. If they develop in-house, they get part of the revenue sharing for the download of the application - with all revenue collection handled by the download service like ITunes. If someone else does the development, they still get eyeballs on their data and the analytics to show their customers.
They also have the opportunity to sell premium (top of results) opportunities. In this case, using the Yellow Pages model, the charity acts like a Certified Marketing Representative (CMR) and sells enhanced placement when the data is delivered to that particular application. All the mobile application has to do is tell the API which application it is, and the order of data returned will reflect corporate sponsorship of that “good cause.” The charity gets commission on the sale, and the Yellow Pages processes the order in a manner similar to any other order from a CMR-type reseller.
'Pay for performance' is also a possibility, since gathering the metrics is key to demonstrating the value of having your advertising included in that Yellow Pages data. Premium positions are sold on a performance basis with the advertiser paying per impression or click through to additional profile data. The revenue generated pays “commission” to the “good cause.”
Of course, the long-term success of a concept like this requires that the energy needed for a mobile infrastructure remains available for the foreseeable future. Given the decade-long timescale I expect the impact of Peak Oil to take, the opportunities for mobile will be there for awhile, certainly long enough for the market to mature.
Here’s an interview with St├ęphane Marceau of YellowPages.ca which prompted me to get around to posting this now rather than at some future time.

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