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Mobile Search Discovers a New Path: mobilepeople

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In "Location-Based Services: Discovering Old and New Paths," we looked at a few mobile startups that are blurring the boundaries of mobile local search. In a nutshell, these represent a move from local search as we know it online ("what" and "where") to mobility and automatic discovery of nearby items and events.

One company mentioned, but deserving of a closer look, is Copenhagen, Denmark-based mobilepeople. After seven years of building mobile apps for major local media publishers in Europe and the U.S., it's evolving to what it calls "mobile discovery 2.0."

This leap is consistent with many of the principles outlined last month -- building search products that better utilize the realities of the device, such as portability, location awareness, time of day, and size (i.e., minimal finger tapping).

"Relevancy changes dramatically with mobile," said Nahid Giga, mobilepeople's VP of Business Development. "The mobile device knows so much more about the user and their situation, yet too many publishers fall back to the online approach of asking the consumer 'what' and 'where.'"

Puddle Jumping

Mobilepeople conversely discovers content based on user-defined preferences. These preferences are set when users create customized "puddles" -- personalized search modules that automatically find results when opened.

A puddle created for restaurants could, for example, include places that have takeout and specialize in dim sum, Mexican, or Thai, but not Italian. Puddles can be stored, shared, social networked, and accessed wherever (or whenever) a user happens to be.

"The idea is to get off a plane and discover products and services based on the customized needs of that specific user," Giga said. "We want to get to a point where consumers open the application because of what that personalized puddle will discover for them."

mobilepeople

Vertical Challenge

For publishers, mobilepeople will likewise allow them to customize puddles based on the nature of their content.

Holiday or event puddles, for example, can be active for a specific period of time. This is an area where many local media companies are poking around to find incremental distribution for their content, and to get it in front of the right mobile users.

This also represents a departure from traditional local search in branching out beyond just listings, reviews, and yellow pages. The company is positioning this as a source of mobile distribution for any source of local or vertical content.

"The idea is to pull from multiple vantage points -- yellow pages, newspapers, magazines, TV," Giga said. "These all have content that is related to you within a 15- to 20-mile radius."

This comes with an overall strategy to be more of a one-stop shop for the myriad things that can appeal to users throughout their day. It's a sizeable data challenge, but one that can be tackled with local content sources -- something that mobilepeople has a proven ability to nail down.

Will They Come?

The last, but certainly not least, piece of this puzzle is advertisers. This is tied to users (traffic), and to publishers (content and ad sales channels). Once these are in place, the discovery format can be attractive and accessible to mobile marketers.

Mobile engagement has been shown to have favorable ad performance over online equivalents in its early phases. This next evolution of mobile local should have even better ad performance, based on the granular targeting that these products will allow.

Going past the obvious (but important) location and contextual targeting, additional factors will come to define mobile local advertising (e.g., time of day, seasonality, and the granular business attributes that approximate users' real-life complex preferences).

The products discussed in the last few columns have elements of push and pull that represent this interplay of local search and discovery. Those that win the land rush currently underway will balance these in the most publisher-, advertiser-, and user-friendly ways. All three are vital.


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