An Instant Mobile Answer to All Your Questions

Media Morph: 4Info

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Every week Ad Age Digital's Media Morph looks at how emerging technology is changing the way consumers get their information and media companies and advertisers present their messages. This week: 4Info.

What it is: An instant mobile answer to all your questions. Most of the nation's 230 million cellphone users can text a question and get a response. Unlike a PC search, where the response comes in the form of other links, when you text 4Info for weather, sports scores or trivia facts, the answer turns up in 10 to 15 seconds.
With 4Info, users can get nearly instantaneous information about weather, sports and trivia through their mobile phones.
With 4Info, users can get nearly instantaneous information about weather, sports and trivia through their mobile phones.

Who is using it: For consumers, texting continues to grow, particularly among youth. Some 99 billion text messages were sent last year, expected to hit 142 billion by 2010. Other 4Info services include a self-service marketplace that allows marketers and publishers to send text messages. The service has 2 million unique visitors and 700 publishers.

Who's backing it: Gannett, with a less-than-15% ownership stake, is a strategic investor; its USA Today newspaper is a media partner, plugging the service on its pages.

Marketing tactics: Chevrolet, Denny's restaurants and First Republic Bank have tried campaigns, while MobiTV and other mobile firms are taking ads to sell mobile applications. Evite is using 4Info to send e-mails to partygoers.

ROI: First Republic targeted by location for a low-ATM-fee promotion and reported an 18% response rate. MobiTV used 4Info click to call and had a 15% response rate. Revenue from ads is split 50-50.

The market: Heavy hitters of web search are going after the mobile market, but wireless carriers also have their hands in the pot. Unlike PC search, which roams freely around the web, mobile search can be controlled by the carriers. Verizon Wireless, for example, allows search through Medio Systems only to Verizon content.

Zaw Thet, CEO of 4Info, said his company has a leg up on Google. Publishers may use Google's AdWords, he said, but "in no way do they want to be even more beholden to Google."
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