Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

What Mobile Ad Problem? Pontiflex Says It Has It Solved.

We’ve been hearing the hype about the coming mobile ad boom for years. Now we’re also hearing about the coming mobile ad problem — what if it turns out that ads on mobile phones aren’t magical, but simply small versions of the Web ads everyone seems to dislike?

No worries, says Zephrin Lasker. His Pontiflex start-up says it has figured out how to make mobile ads work. The secret: Replicating an existing ad format that we’ve seen on the Web for a long time.

Pontiflex specializes in lead-generation ads, where advertisers only pay up when they get a direct customer referral. They’ve been plugging away at it since 2008, but only saw real growth in the last year and a half, when they moved their platform to “in app” ads for iPhone and Android.

So far they’ve convinced 100 million users to sign up to hear more from advertisers, and Lasker says most of that growth has come from mobile.

To be clear: These aren’t “offers,” where you get more Zynga credits in exchange for signing up for Netflix or a credit card — these ads simply ask customers if they want to hear more from Huggies. Or Obama. Or Lenovo. Etc.

This doesn’t seem like rocket science. Because, again, the format existed for a very long time on the Web. But Lasker says his company is the only one concentrating on it for mobile, and that both Google and Apple are unlikely to pursue it themselves.

Why not? I’ll let him explain in this video interview. (Apologies for the cavernous sound — Pontiflex has really nice, airy offices with excellent views, but I should have thought through the acoustical implications.)

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald