In-Brief: Consider this (the last in this week’s trilogy of iPhone posts) a place-setter for the news we’re likely to see later this month from Taptu, a provider of socially-assisted search I have had high on my radar since it broke on the scene just over three years ago. Look for a new service focused squarely on enabling mobile search across touch devices, and a short private beta before it launches in the Apple App Store next month.
Taptu’s approach, which takes universal search to the next level, crawling and indexing the social networking sites and destinations such as MySpace, YouTube, and Wikipedia, to expose an eclectic mix of results and content we might not have found otherwise, has been at the core of Taptu’s differentiation. But it’s the company’s latest release white paper (Touch Search: A New Vision For Mobile Search, which you can download by clicking the button in the sidebar) that signals an exciting shift in the mobile search paradigm.
The advance of touch devices changes how we browse the mobile Web and, naturally, it impacts what we expect from mobile search. What’s more, the touch Web represents a fast-growing subset of the Web, consisting of websites and Web pages that are optimized for access by touch devices like the iPhone.
However, as I point out in this earlier post, Taptu does more than acknowledge this trend; it has responded with a roadmap to encourage the innovation that content providers and brands agencies will require to deliver an optimized search and advertising experience for touch devices. I met up with Andreas Bernstrom, Taptu COO, a few weeks back to see Taptu’s prototype search service in action. Now I have the green light to post (I respect Andreas’ request not to give too much away here), so here’s a brief summary of my private demo and the details I can share.
USER EXPERIENCE: Search is dead simple and there is even the option to see and click on popular searches, cutting click distance and turning search into a recreational activity. See hot searches and share results. That’s a feature that no doubt builds on the learnings gained from 1-Tap, a feature of Taptu’s mobile search service that – true to its name- lets users share their mobile search results (including cool mobile content) in one click. To save users from typing in their friends’ details, 1-Tap can also tap into other services such as Web-based email and Twitter.
PRESENTATION: No dull lists of links or tedious trail of thumbnails. Results are displayed in a card format optimized for presentation on a touch device. I watched as Andreas not only breezed through the card results (depicting images and information in an easy-to-browse format); he could actually flip the cards over to see more details (say, the discography of a particular band or the tour dates of a group). And if you like what you see, then share it (!) – Twitter it, post it to your personal site or just send it via email to your friends.
ADVERTISING: Advertising is indeed content, and judging from the emphasis on “cool” (and engagement), I would bet this is the business mantra at Taptu. Search ads (as we know them) still work, but the best ads are not only relevant to the keyword query; they enhance the experience. Andreas called them “engagement ads” and gave me glimpse of how this new advertising form dovetails with our content/search experience.
It’s early days, but this idea is one whose time has come. No more advertising messages and banners that annoy rather than excite. Imagine exploring advertising, using your finger to peel through its layers like an onion and immerse yourself in advertising that doesn’t seem at all like advertising. Now that’s a way to grab (and keep) my attention. “You can go into the ad and play with it.” Video, pop-ups, and a mix of content-rich cool stuff. Taptu showed it off to me, but it won’t be commercial for at least another six months. The strategy is about building an audience first and then introducing engagement ads, so watch this space!
(Here I am immediately reminded of a presentation from Tomi Ahonen, mobile luminary and author, in which he recounted why he believed Asian operators have their head around mobile – much more so than operators elsewhere. In it he quoted BJ Yang, CEO of AirCross, the number one South Korean mobile advertising company and the mobile advertising arm of mobile operator SK Telecom, who said mobile must be regarded as a “very close personal playground.” If that’s the attitude we need to make mobile (and mobile advertising) work, then Taptu’s approach might get us there, delivering fun (to consumers) and money (to the business ecosystem).
The demo Andreas showed me was a car ad that allowed me to move through the car and experience driving. I could sign up for test drives, see which dealers where had which models, check out related information, news, and reviews, and share the works with my friends.
Andreas and I mulled over what this could mean to viral marketing. Would the ability to share make seeding viral videos a new form of advertising. (It sure worked for Quicksilver, maker of surfing clothing whose “dynamite” video spread like wildfire with kids asking when they would ever be able see it on TV (!) People clamoring for advertising – now that’s a change…)
Would all this interactivity lead to a new monetization model? Say, pay-per-view instead of pay-per-click….
SURPRISES: From Taptu – I’ve come to expect it. This mobile search experience is full of them. I’m encouraged to explore my search results and all the content related to what I asked for in the first place. On each card, alongside the results, I have a wheel symbol that allows me to discover connections between content (some I couldn’t even imagine). I tried it out on music results, finding bands that were like my first pick and tracing their roots and the roots of each member in the band. An element of serendipity to keep content fresh and our minds active? Sorted.
So the mobile search and advertising experience are in synch for the Touch Web. But how big is the market and the opportunity?
Taptu offers this trio of industry predictions. (The methodology is explained in detail in the white paper.)
1) Total global mobile search volume will grow rapidly from 63 million searches per day at the end of 2008 to 620 million in 2012 – almost 10 fold growth in just four years.
2) The volume of searches from touch phones will grow even faster, to overtake the volume of searches from normal phones by the end of this year.
3) By 2012, over 60 percent of all mobile searches will come from touch phones alone, representing less than 10 percent of the installed base of phones and just 20 percent of annual shipments.
My thanks again to Steve Ives, Taptu CEO, and Bob Last, Taptu Head of Business Development, for providing me the opportunity to contribute to the white paper.
Disclaimer: Taptu has collaborated with MSG on white paper projects.