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Advertisers See Potential In Gossipy, Anonymous Apps

Apr 1 2014, 6:26pm CDT | by , in News

Advertisers See Potential In Gossipy, Anonymous Apps
 
 

It’s hardly a secret anymore. Anonymous social apps like Secret and Whisper are among the hottest diversions to come out of Silicon Valley, showcasing streams of short confessions from your contacts list or the near vicinity. Users comment or “love” posts anonymously, and often keep scrolling to find that golden nugget, a startling insight into what people really think but won’t say on Twitter. The apps’ sudden popularity is a clear shift in the public mood toward “humblebragging” and posturing on social media.

Naturally, there’s been skepticism from Silicon Valley investors like Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital, of the staying power of Secret and Whisper, and whether they can make money through advertising. Part of the problem: mobile advertisers may not want to associate with much of the depressing, gossipy posts people upload to these apps.

Plus, wouldn’t all this anonymity make it harder to target users with ads?  It turns out the answer is “No,” according to the head of one the the worlds’ biggest ad networks.

“There’s clearly an advertising opportunity,” says Naveen Tewari, head of the InMobi mobile ad network, which reaches 759 million active smartphone users around the world.

For better or worse, mobile advertisers typically want to get as close as they can to identifying an app’s various users in order to show each of them the most relevant ads. Yet Tewari says mining the content of Secret’s anonymous postings, coupled with their GPS data, could end up being more useful than knowing a poster’s age. “With a combination of these things you can do pretty insightful advertising.”

Tewari says — in an obligatory nod to privacy advocates — that certain levels of identity could be hidden from other users, but left exposed to advertisers. “They’ll always tread a fine line between anonymity and the level of data they would want to see.”

Others in the world of marketing are also keen. “We’re actively targeting Secret and Whisper as potential platform partners,” said Evan Wray, who’s in the growing business of selling branded digital stickers to messaging apps.

Whisper co-founder Michael Heyward confirmed he is planning to invite advertisers onto his service, while Secret co-founder David Byttow says it is “way too early” to talk about business models.

Both Heward and Byttow have refused to reveal their active user numbers, a key metric for advertisers. But a source from the world of mobile research who did not wish to be named for this article, says that Secret has seen less than 1 million downloads since its launch in late January 2014, while two-year-old Whisper’s download numbers are in the single-digit millions. Secret’s Byttow and a spokesperson for Whisper would not comment on these figures or give clarification.

Competitors contend that while apps like Secret, Whisper, Confide and YikYak have seen a surge in eye-popping content, they are more like games than social networks and destined to become fads, unlikely to reach the kind of numbers that other messaging apps like WhatsApp, with more than 480 million active users, have reached. “You get all your total addressable market in a short period of time, but then it smashes into the ceiling,” says one rival entrepreneur in the messaging space. “That’s what happened with Zynga.”

Christopher “moot” Poole, a pioneer of anonymous social networking and founder of the anonymous image board 4chan, says Silicon Valley is still trying to “get” anonymity, and its promise of helping strangers mingle under shared interests.

 

“The industry spent ten years rushing to capitalize on real identity and friendship-based networks,” he says. “Now they’re rushing to understand the opposite.”

Even with eager advertisers, they can probably expect some bumps along the way.

Source: Forbes

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