Mobile Coupons gaining traction?

Mobile coupons have long been a story lots of people have tried to get their heads around (the oldest blog entry I found dates back to 2003). There is a large number of players working on and with this and there have been the occasional successes: Austrian firm 3United (acquired by VeriSign) sold mobile tickets for a Britney Spears concert in Vienna as early as 2005 and 10% of all tickets sold were sold via mobile (they upsold additional content to 85% of those users!; see here). Scottish company Mobiqa is rolling out a mobile ticketing solution for MLB through tickets.com (see their showcases here). There are countless more applications in the area (apologies for not mentioning everyone...)

Cellfire now reports "about" a million people who have signed up for their service in the US. The WSJ ran an article about this (read it here; note: this might go to behind their subscription wall soon...). Redemption rates are reported to be good: they say they've been seeing them at 15%, which is a whopping 3x that recorded for old-fashioned paper vouchers.

Besides the usual critical mass and all I suppose it comes down to mainly two points then: more information about the line one must not cross in respect of bombarding consumers with advertising and retail brands picking up on the mobile screen as an advertising and indeed customer retention tool in earnest (so far, most of what we are seeing are trials or fashion-driven PR affairs). Given that there are more mobile phones in the world than toothbrushes, this should be a no-brainer! And with customization and segmentation of the customer base increasing by user, a very targeted approach should be possible. This is something Cellfire clearly realizes: they do not share phone numbers... Well done, them.

Twistbox on the money

Twistbox has announced it has raised a healthy $19.5m from ValueAct Capital (rather secretive firm: you require a user name and password even for accessing the "overview" section of their site) and "other strategic investors". It also announced that former Vodafone Global content supremo Graeme Ferguson has joined its board of directors.

Twistbox was the result of the acquisition of German developer Charismatix (authors of e.g. Anno 1701, Taito's Arkanoid, etc) by (predominantly) mobile adult (which they call "late night") content provider Waat Media from LA (who work with the likes of Private and Vivid)After a lot of buzz around them a while ago (and every year again at 3GSM when everyone gets gibberish over their licensees' parties - no, no scantily-clad girls there worth mentioning, ever...), it had gone a bit quiet. The last we heard was a deal they signed with Fashion TV.

Presumably, the new money and director will get them out into the public eye a bit more again. According to the release, they plan to use the funds to launch web-to-mobile storefronts and play-for-prices games. They also want to push into advertising (but then, who doesn't?).

We all suspect there's money in this "late night" content but little has been seen to quantify the opportunity. Juniper said in 2005 it was $1bn. Forbes didn't quantify in 2006. I have seen analysts who put the share of erotic games to 12% of the total mobile gaming sector, ranking them above racing and arcade games (7% and 5% respectively) but that's somewhat unconfirmed. Moreover, video and pics will presumably be even hotter sellers - if and when they get through the varying publishing thresholds in the different countries (from PG13 in the US all the way to "behind-the-curtain" adult content in some European countries. An overview on various attempts to put a number to that market can be found here (courtesy of adult mobile pioneers, Cherrysauce).

As it will in general still be arguably safe to say that sex probably still sells, we might expect Twistbox to go on to further strengths. Just get your parties up a notch, guys... ;-)

Finally, a note to all you dear readers: this post contains links to adult sites. Do NOT click if you are offended by adult content.