MIVA Seeing PPCall Monetization Growth

One of the most interesting elements of the announced eBay-Yahoo! “alliance” today is the potential for “click to call” and “pay per phone call” (PPCall). These are two distinct things: click to call is a VoIP-based calling infrastructure and PPCall is a billing or ad model. They’re related but one doesn’t always mean the other. However, in the case of portals and search engines “testing click to call” usually means “we’re thinking about PPCall.”

They obviously want to make money from calls; MIVA (though a partnership with Ingenio) appears to be doing so. Earlier this month the company reported that in its UK market the company was seeing bids for calls as high as £35 ($65.53). It didn’t identify the category or categories in which these high bids were appearing, but they’re probably professional services categories (realtors, mortgage brokers, lawyers, etc.).

A couple of people have recently remarked to me that PPCall revenues have failed to materialize. The market is very much still in an early adoption phase. Click to call icons and phone numbers need to be more widely disseminated and the consumer behavior needs to be established before advertisers will show up in droves. (Small business adoption is a complicated “sidebar” to this discussion.)

Tracking phone calls (via 800 numbers or click to call), whether it?s monetized or not, helps marketers ?close the loop? with offline consumer purchase behavior. Marketers are often blind regarding how their online campaigns are actually influencing consumer behavior. If the marketer fulfills offline or the transaction happens offline tracking often isn?t there.

Calls aren?t a panacea for that problem ? what about the consumer who consults an online map to find a store location and doesn?t make a phone call? ? but they help provide greater visibility on the impact of online marketing on offline consumer transactions.

While at The Kelsey Group, I helped develop the original PPCall forecast that one sees quoted. That was a complicated process and heavily qualified by things like how and whether the big ad networks would push PPCall to the marketplace and how quickly. We have still yet to see any real implementation of PPCall on a major portal or engine beyond AOL?s deal with Ingenio. However, Google, Yahoo and MSN are all flirting with and/or actively testing systems out.

MIVA is building/rebuilding an advertiser network in its new incarnation as a full-service (consumer search, monetization, ad distribution), independent partner for publishers. It was first to market with PPCall in the US and Europe and it seems like the company is starting to gain traction with the product. (An interesting sidelight to this is MIVA’s “pay per text” SMS product in the UK.)

Internet time is like ?dog years? (7x human years). And those are the accelerated expectations everyone brings to new initiatives. If there isn?t a ton of revenue in a very compressed time frame it must be a failure, right? PPCall and the local market more generally — PPCall is partly about local though not entirely — will continue to take time to develop.

The PPClick empire wasn?t built in a day. It took about eight or 10 years, depending on how you count it, to really develop massive revenues. Craigslist took a decade to become the classifieds juggernaut it is today. PPCall has really been around for about two and a half years.

Calls are important to the future of online advertising for many reasons. Just give it a little more time.

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