We have been seeing impressive numbers from mobile growth all year, but the wave that hit social network, games and meeting site myYearbook last year is off the chart. Before it launched iPhone and Android apps, about 2% of its traffic was from mobile sources. As the apps rolled out in mid-year, the percentage went to 6% by July, 16% by October and now stands at a hefty 33% of all traffic to the site coming from mobile. “Just since January,” says CEO Geoff Cook, “the number of mobile ad impressions served by the site has exploded from 380 million to 600 million projected for March.”
Unlike Facebook, myYearbook is about meeting new people. It uses tools like video chat during online games and geo-located chats among people in your vicinity to facilitate the meet-up dynamic. “The concept behind this is not just to buy games but to have some integrations,” says Cook. “On the Web, we view myYearbook as the best place to meet new people and so, in order to do that on mobile, it requires a mobile social layer. Games will be one of the ways to establish person-to-person connections. The FlockEngine [recently acquired] eventually will allow the gamers to play across smartphone platforms.”
MyYearbook has seven apps in all, and is adding 25,000 new installs a day, with the Android platform chalking up 30% to 40% more installs than the iPhone at this point. That’s why the company just bought four games already on the platform, Toss It, Tic Tac Toe, Minesweeper and Line of 4. It also acquired the SpringDroid, a Q&A app for users to ask and answer one another’s queries.
According to the recent Mobile Insider report, Cook is gearing up for the tipping point – the time when more traffic will be coming to myYearbook from mobile than from Web browsers, and that is likely to happen by year’s end. “We are investing in that new reality,” he says – the “reality” of different usage patterns and a different style of monetization. “Mobile is much higher frequency in smaller bursts,” he says. The average myYearbook.com Web visitor is returning 14-15 times month but spending 20 minutes each session. On mobile, users are hitting the site 115 times a month (!!!) – but only for about 90 seconds a shot.
Cook admits that mobile monetization still has a way to go before it can catch up. CPMs on mobile inventory remain lower, and his company can only serve one ad per page (albeit with much greater frequency). Nevertheless, myYearbook may have a compelling and unique competitive advantage: virtual currency. The Lunch Money coinage is purchased or earned via sponsor promotions and used to play games or make wagers, enhance communications, etc.
By next month, myYearbook will deploy Lunch Money into the mobile system to allow users to add new Android apps with the virtual currency. Ultimately, it wants to fold this economy into the game play so users can make wagers with it. For advertisers, promotions are often successfully tied to Lunch Money. Users will watch a video spot or engage with an advertiser in exchange for the currency.
As digital media critic and writer Steve Smith concludes, myYearbook’s recent acquisitions and development efforts “demonstrate just how quickly a publisher’s audience can get way ahead of any reasonable expectations in going mobile and challenge providers to think differently about their content and their ad strategies … before a competitor does.”