UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Providing Online Access Through Advertising

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 September 2013

Last week I attended the openMIC no. 17 event on My Mobile Start-up. The day-long event was held at the Innovation Centre in Bath. It was described as being “all about how to turn those mobile apps, communities and platforms into mobile businesses“. The morning consisted of a series of presentations from providers of the following mobile applications: Hailocab, Yakatak, Samba Mobile, PixelPin and Bardowl .

The presentations were all very interesting, in particular the one form the taxi driver who described the development of Hailocab based on the ideas of three London-based taxi-drivers  which has led to the development of an app for hailing taxis which can be used in 15 cities across Europe, North America and Asia. I was motivated to download the app on  my Android phone in case I need to call a taxi when I’m in London.

The other presentation which was of particular interest to me described Samba Mobile which “allows their users to access mobile data networks through Dongles and Tablet SIM cards for free by viewing targeted video adverts from top brands“. During the presentation Ben Atherton, founder of the company, described the value of advertising but how its main drawback is the failure of conventional advertising to provide adverts which are of direct relevance to the viewer. Ben feels that Samba Mobile service, which enables users to select their areas of interest, will be well-positioned to benefit from such interests in targetted advertising. The company provides free 3G network access for users who watch adverts from subject areas they have chosen.

Samba mobileI decided to invest £5 on a Samba Mobile SIM which I’ve installed in a tablet which I have previously only used online when I’ve had WiFi access. On 8 and 11 September I viewed a few of the video adverts and, as shown, I’ve now earned over 41 Mb of network access.

Coincidentally yesterday I came across a deal advertised on Hot UK Deals for a OVIVO Mobile free monthly allowance increased again up to 150mins/200txts/500MB data for one off payment of £15.00 . The Hot UK Deals Web site describes how:

OVIVO Mobile are a great little firm offering free SIM only contracts in return for a couple of seconds of adverts when you connect to the internet over GPRS. They run over the Vodafone network and they have just increased their monthly free package to 150mins, 200 texts and now 500MB data so it is certainly a viable package for a low to medium user. All you have to do is buy the SIM card for £15 and the rest is free! 

Free data for watching a fee adverts? What’s not to like about this? The Hot UK Deals Web site allows users to vote on offers which are felt to be good value. A negative temperature indicates that the community feel that the deal is poor value, whereas deals which have a rating over 100o are felt to be ‘hot’. This deal has a temperature of 2373o and so is ‘scorching’.

But although this community may value the deal, the people I tend to deal with do not like network services which are supported by advertising. “If You’re Not Paying for It; You’re the Product” is the mantra and those who are prepared to put their money where their mouth is will install ad-blocking tools, pay for services such as app.net (described as a “Developer-friendly Twitter alternative App.net [which] hit 100,000 registered users, 9 months after launch“), use open source alternatives such as identi.ca or Diaspora. Except that people didn’t use these services to any significant extent and they now seem to have faded away.

Are we seeing further signals of the decline of free services which do not have a sustainable business model and a growth in overt forms of advertising to fund services? After all, ITV was launched in 1955 and has a well-established track record which demonstrates that advertising had fund large organisations. Perhaps Samba Mobile is correct in suggesting that personalised ads may become important. What’s that? I’ve just received an alert telling me that Timothy Taylor’s Landlord is this week’s guest beer at my local. That’s my favourite beer – I’m off!

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One Response to “Providing Online Access Through Advertising”

  1. Peter Miller said

    App.net is only a year old so give it time. It now has a free tier so you don’t need to pay if you are happy with the limits in terms of follows and filestore. One big plus for me is that it supports RSS. I think it has a lot of potential in education though it’s true that there aren’t many educators using it regularly at the moment and the ultimate app for education has yet to be written. That said, seeing it simply as a replacement for Twitter may be short-sighted — they’ve delivered a lot of APIs to devs this year and I think that’s likely to continue.

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