Application development firm Pinger is hoping to provide users with mobile communications products funded solely through mobile advertising. The firm will offer users text messages and voice minutes completely free of charge on mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPod Touch, made possible by increasing advertiser interest in the channel.
Pinger launched a text-messaging application for the iPhone in 2009 called Textfree, which offered users unlimited text messages and a dedicated number for a one-off charge of $5.99. With the mobile advertising market gathering pace however, the firm recently decided to make the app completely free, dropping the $5.99 charge in favor of a totally ad-funded model. "As we began optimizing our ad selling it became clear we'd make more money through advertising," Joe Sipher, the firm's co-founder and chief product officer explained, adding that the application is currently generating over 1.1 billion ad impressions a month.
The company uses its own technology to optimize ads from a range of networks, including AdMob, Millennial Media, Jumptap, and Apple's iAd network, but is in the process of building out its own direct sales team. "We now have the scale to make a direct relationship appealing," Sipher said, claiming ads for Pinger’s other products running on its applications have resulted in a positive response rate.
Sipher added that campaigns for movies, video games, and local advertisers have seen the best results to date, owing to both the app's target audience of 12-24 year olds and the nature of the application itself. Thanks to the app's registration process the company also can target ads based on demographic and location data, potentially enabling advertisers to segment that audience further.
Building on its success with Textfree, the company is now preparing to launch a voice product to accompany it, again funded entirely by advertiser content. Users will be offered voice minutes in return for accepting advertising, and through other means such as partaking in free product trials from marketers.
Pinger CEO Greg Woock suggested that increased interest in mobile advertising, and the entrance of major online players in the space such as Google and Apple, made its move from paid-for applications to self-sustaining ad-funded ones possible.
He also cited Apple's iAd network - of which Pinger's applications are a part - as a promising prospect for the industry, but voiced concerns with its fill rates so far. "We're seeing a lot of quality, but not a lot of quantity at this point," he said, adding, "The fill rate is currently pretty low, but we're hoping that'll improve. If they can fill at the rates they're claiming then we're going to make a bunch of money."
For that very same reason, Woock also stressed the importance of having a player like Google in the market, to essentially plug the gaps of direct sales efforts and premium networks such as iAd. "Someone like Google has millions of daily advertisers. You need someone with that scale to fill inventory," he said.
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Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011.
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