#SFSNYC: Monetizing Location – Native or Display?

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SW_20130115_NY_5099During a panel at the Street Fight Summit in New York on Tuesday, executives from Pandora, Foursquare, and Verve Wireless explored monetizing location on mobile devices, hitting on key issues like native advertising and rethinking geographic data.

“For us, it’s all about relevance,” Steven Rosenblatt, chief revenue officer at Foursquare, said about his company’s approach to building around location. “Location without context and relevance is really not that powerful.”

Like Twitter and Facebook, Foursquare has invested heavily in native advertising, launching its SMB-focused Promoted Updates product over the summer. Rosenblatt believes that the constraints of mobile — namely, the screen size — offer a chance for the industry to develop alternatives to display.

But scale is always a question with a native approach, and for smaller publishers, display still offers the liquidity and reach that marketers need.

On the display side, it’s not only about relevance, but developing efficiencies as well. During the panel, Verve Wireless CEO Tom MacIsaac said the location ad network is working to expand its reach by moving beyond latitude and longitude data, building products around registration data, IP targeting, and other “dirtier” versions of location information.

Enter Pandora: The mobile radio service does not have access to a user’s real-time location but can access a user’s zip code through its registration data. Pandora’s VP of mobile advertising sales, Brian Colbert, said his company uses the location information and musical tastes provided by users to easily target ads locally.

Colbert said the company has seen a big lift in brand campaigns that leveraged location to target audiences. “If the ads are localized; it’s that much more personal,” Colbert said. “If you’re searching something locally on your phone, you’re more likely to go right away.”

 Photo credit: Shana Wittenwyler