Directory assistance vendor PocketThis has rebranded as PhoneSpots and relaunched a new mobile ad “exchange.” The company has been around since 1999 and pioneered the “send to mobile” feature now in widespread use on local search sites. PocketThis originally offered enhanced results (additional content and links) from directory assistance queries when users opted to receive them as text messages. Its relationships were primarily in Europe.
Now the company has changed its name, greatly expanded its model and is announcing a partnership with AT&T’s YellowPages.com. PhoneSpots will power the delivery of text content when consumers use YellowPages.com’s YP411 SMS service. This deal doesn’t involve ad serving given that YellowPages.com already has its own advertisers.
But beyond this deal, PhoneSpots has built a sophisticated platform that is compatible with a wide range of phones and mobile “modalities.” The company can deliver enhanced content and ads in text messages or to mobile browsers and can support local search ads/content that originate via voice search/directory assistance, text queries or WAP search. In addition, as a mobile ad exchange PhoneSpots will be providing enhanced local search content and geotargeted advertisers to mobile publishers that want to monetize their lookups and content and don’t have direct advertiser relationships.
Mobile local search recapitulates the original “chicken and egg problem” of local search online: the need to build both traffic volumes and local advertiser content at the same time. The concept of an “exchange” can theoretically address those problems by helping publishers, engines and free directory assistance providers that may not have their own sales channel deliver local ads on their services. By the same token an exchange also potentially offers advertisers access to a broader array of traffic and distribution in this early stage of mobile market development.