Mobile as marketing medium

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Just a few years ago, the question, “When was the last time you read a book?” didn't require clarification. Nowadays, it does. “Do you mean in print?”

I read books on my iPhone and on my Amazon Kindle. And, if the persistent rumors are true, by the middle of next year I'll be able to read them on an Apple Tablet, too.

Not counting library downloads, sales of e-books ballooned 177% year-to-date through August, according to the Association of American Publishers; experts predict 10 million e-readers will have been sold by the end of 2010.

Admittedly, e-books are still just a tiny part of book publishing—1.5% of a $6.8 billion industry. But look at it this way: Thanks to the iPod (Apple, again) and smartphones like the iPhone (Apple, again), folks are comfortable walking around with content devices in their pockets. The iPhone also significantly sweetened this scenario by adding easy-to-use content storehouses (iTunes, App Store).

And don't discount the powerful evangelism of Apple and its CEO. In his essay “Steve Jobs' legacy is missing clue to Apple Tablet,”'s John C. Abell put it this way: “We think there's one thing that makes an Apple Tablet inevitable: Jobs is considering his legacy, and he wants it to include saving the media, pulling it back from the brink at its darkest moment.”

(Apple nemesis Microsoft has a tablet play, too. Or rather, a booklet play. The Microsoft Courier, with dual, hinged, multitouch screens, is said to be in the “late prototype” stage, according to

Apart from the hardware the mobile advertising industry is seeing interesting activity. Earlier this month, Google announced plans to acquire AdMob, a mobile display ad network, in an all-stock deal valued at $750 million. AdMob brings a network of display ad inventory on 15,000 mobile Web sites and applications for the iPhone and Android, Google's own smartphone OS.

“It's a sign that mobile is no longer emerging media, because they bought scale, they bought the leader in the space,” said Patrick Moorhead, director of emerging media at Razorfish, Chicago, in a statement.

Including mobile banner ads, SMS, text links, search and maps, ads in applications and games, ads in videos and TV shown on a mobile phone, Gartner projects that the worldwide revenue for mobile advertising will be $13.5 billion in 2013, up from around $500 million in 2008. Using a tighter focus— display, search and messaging-based advertising—eMarketer predicts that U.S. mobile advertising spending will grow from $320 million last year, to $416 million this year to more than $1.5 billion by 2013.

Mobile experimentation will be but one part of an overdue economic recovery next year. Optimism about a 2010 recovery is evident in the findings of our annual “2010 Outlook: Marketing Priorities and Plans” survey. This year, nearly 40% of the 376 b-to-b marketers reached in our online survey said they plan to increase budgets next year; 60% said they plan to launch new ad campaigns. Some 57.7% of marketers cut their budgets this year, according to the survey.

One thing's certain: Next year, our Outlook survey will include a question about mobile advertising.

Publishing note: Later this month, watch for our last issue of 2009, BtoB's Marketers Resource Guide.

Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business. He can be reached at

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