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Originally published March 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 19, 2007 at 5:31 PM

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Medio launches cellphone ad network

Medio Systems, which is vying to become the Google of the wireless world, plans to announce today that it has launched an ad network for...

Seattle Times technology reporter

Medio Systems, which is vying to become the Google of the wireless world, plans to announce today that it has launched an ad network for the mobile phone.

The Seattle company has been developing search tools for phones that allow users to find ring tones, graphics and Internet-delivered information.

Today, it is extending its search skills to both the carrier's storefront and the Internet by adding the ability to insert advertising in the form of sponsored links into a user's search results.

Medio is initially launching the network with Amp'd Mobile, a Los Angeles-based mobile phone operator targeted at a younger audience. Medio said it plans to extend the service to more carriers in the next three months. Its current customers include Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA and Telus Mobility.

Mobile search and advertising are two areas receiving a lot of the attention because they promise a new source of revenue for carriers. Telecoms & Media forecasts that cellphone advertising could hit more than $11 billion worldwide in 2011.

Besides Medio, a number of small companies are entering the arena, including JumpTap of Cambridge, Mass.; Admob of San Mateo, Calif.; and Third Screen Media of Boston.

Bellevue-based InfoSpace is also developing mobile search technology, as are online search giants Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

Omar Tawakol, Medio's chief advertising officer, said most of these companies are focusing on providing an ad network for either the carrier's storefront, also called a "deck," or for Web sites made especially for mobile-phone viewing.

He said Medio's network covers both while also reaching multiple carriers at one time.

"In the mobile space, there's so much complexity," he said. "We take care of all the back-end stuff."

For now, carriers are experimenting to determine how they can also make money while not upsetting customers by doing too much advertising too fast.

Last year, Medio bought Seattle-based WebRelevance, a company specializing in matching ads with content on Web pages.

advertising

With that expertise, Medio can use information — including a user's demographics, click-through history, search behavior and location — to determine which ad should be placed on which mobile page.

Medio also supports several types of ads. In one type, a user clicks on an ad to initiate a phone call or download content. The advertiser, in turn, can then ask the user for an e-mail address or phone number to follow up with an additional message.

The advertiser pays only if the user clicks on the ad. To ensure that the user completes the call, Medio has partnered with a company called Ingenio to monitor traffic.

Medio said it shares the advertising revenue with the carrier when the user is searching on the deck. When the user is outside the carrier's storefront and on the Web, Medio shares the revenue with the content publisher.

Tawakol said the mobile advertising space is hot.

"People are really waking up to the fact that they can reach consumers on the go," he said. "Advertisers are saying, 'What's my strategy here,' and interested in buying."

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com

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