Friday, December 19, 2008

Ad-funded mobile email? It works!

Messaging in mobile is the killer application. I have no doubts about it. The phone is a communication device, you either talk or send a message. The rest of the time (less than 5%, in my opinion) you do something else, like browsing. But browsing is an emergency activity. Messaging is core in mobile.

Now, the next question has always been: if the browser is the killer app on the desktop and Google made tons of money on browsing, adding advertising, what can you do in mobile? Well, you put advertising in messaging, of course... and the Google of mobile will come from messaging and not browsing.

Easier said than done. Ads in messaging might be perceived as spam, could be intrusive because of the lack of real estate on the device screen, risk to raise tons of questions on privacy.

All true.

However, what if you have a micro banner on top of the mobile messaging client, that is not intrusive, and could actually bring you useful ads (the one that you want to see)?

You could do a lot of research and ask people. They will probably tell you "no, thanks". Or you could give them an actual working client with ads and ask them "ok, now what do you think?".

We did the latter. We put ads on a subset of mobile email clients in myFUNAMBOL, we let it run for a while, then we asked the users about their usage and perception (also having objective data on our service, totally anonymous).

It is all reported in the free research report entitled, "Market Potential for Ad-funded Mobile Email", summarized below.

The report summarizes the findings of a survey that was conducted with users of the ad-funded myFUNAMBOL mobile email service. The survey was performed to gauge user acceptance of mobile ads and to learn about a broad range of issues relating to an ad-funded mobile email solution. The report found that there is good potential for an ad-funded service. Users indicated that they are willing to accept ads as long as the ads are non-intrusive and relevant, user privacy is maintained, and ads subsidize the service cost. The report also discusses the financial prospects for an ad-funded solution. It found that users generated $10 each per month and were willing to pay about $6 per month for the service.

The free report is available immediately and can be downloaded, with free registration, at
The result is that people are:
  1. ok with ads that are not intrusive
  2. even willing to still pay for the service, just at a lower price
And... that if you launch it you could make $10 per user per month... Which is a lot of money, knowing that 2B people will use email on their devices by 2015 (my not-objective estimate).

Too good to be true? Maybe, since our user base in myFUNAMBOL is skewed towards techies. They get more emails than others. But they tend to be more annoyed by ads. So I feel it evens out.

Let me write it again: the Google of mobile will come from messaging. Now I have a tangible proof of it. You just have to do it smart.