mGiving and iAds: Minting Money on a Mobile

The popular NPR program This American Life has been experimenting with soliciting donations via mobile, with good results. Says Program Manager Seth Lind:

Our theory was that the ease of giving that way would be really attractive to people, coupled with the fact that a lot of people are listening to the show, or the podcast, on a device they can text with. Our traditional way of asking for donations on a podcast was sending people to a website – if you’re out jogging, you’re not really going to do that. But if you’re out jogging listening to the show on your iPhone or another smartphone that plays media, maybe you would stop and take the 30 seconds or less to send a text. We thought that it could lower the bar for people and make it a lot easier to donate.

And from a MobileActive review of their success:

This American LifeThe campaign, which is still live although not being actively promoted, has so far raised $142,225 from 28,445 individual donations. To contribute, users text the word "LIFE" to a short code (a five-digit number), and a $5 charge is added on to their monthly mobile phone bill...

Lind added that he thought the campaign to be successful because it doubled the number of individual people donating (20,000 people donated in the June 2009; in the December 2009 campaign, more than 40,000 people had donated either online or via mobile). However, because the donations via mobile were a flat $5, the total raised in the December campaign was roughly equal to the total raised in the previous campaign even with more people donating... To incease the total, mobile donations will be set at $10 when the next fund drive begins in June 2010.

As someone who often enjoys an episode of This American Life while out for a jog or a ride on my bike, I'll keep an ear out in June to do my part-- via SMS!

iAdApple is looking at a different way of making money via mobile, with their entry into the mobile advertising space. Apple's bet is that Google's hegemony in the search ad business is fated to be short-lived, as people spend more and more of their online time inside Apps, rather than browsing the internet (a good bet, to my mind). Later this year, when Apple releases the latest version of the iPhone/iTouch/iPad operating system, developers will have the capability to include advertisments in their Apps, and Apple will be taking a cool 40% off the top of advertising revenues.  This could be a model for more free, ad-supported Apps-- and a recipe for Apple to take in revenues in the hundreds of millions off their iAds.