AOL is quickly and quietly moving on a number of fronts in mobile to establish itself as a leader. Not long after the relaunch of rival MSN’s WAP portal, AOL upgraded mobile search and, last week, relaunched its WAP portal with more personalization and generally greater usability. According to this BusinessWeek article, “U.S. traffic to AOL’s mobile Web site is higher than that to Google Mobile’s and double that of MSN Mobile’s, according to Hitwise.”
On the advertising side, AOL owns Third Screen Media, Advertising.com and BT provider Tacoda, which are all being integrated into the recently announced “Platform A.” Accordingly, the company has an installed base of advertisers to plug into mobile distribution when the time comes and the audiences are built. AOL’s mobile EVP Scott Falconer agreed that “07 and 08 are about building traffic and usage,” which can then be monetized.
AOL’s history of reaching out to mass audiences and the association of its brand online with “newbies” could become an asset in mobile search as it moves from an early adopter phenomenon to mainstream in the next couple of years.
Questions of mobile usability and monetization will be among those being debated at SMX Local & Mobile next week in Denver.