Get Paid to See Advertising

There’s a theory, that’s gaining credence right now, that we’re in a bubble.

The evidence cited is that lots of companies are being funded with ideas that are either a little crazy or being launched into already saturated markets. An example might be companies still launching into the mobile ad network business. Now I might be bias (working for AdMob), but I really believe that anyone who is really going to succeed in this business already has a product in the game. It’s going to be hard enough for a big company with lots of financial and people resources to succeed, let alone a startup with a few million dollars of investor’s cash.

Another clue might be that companies are launching ideas for mobile that have already been tried and certified complete failures a number of times previously online and on mobile too. Or maybe they know something that I don’t….

Consider Pumbby, a Belgian startup that pays people to look at ads on their mobile. You sign up, they send you an sms with an embedded link, you click on it, go to a mobile web page and Tintin is votre Oncle – that earns you the princely sum of 44 Euro cents (about US 65 cents). They say that they’ll send up to 10 per day, meaning subscribers to the Pumbby service can earn up to Euro 15 ($22) a month. Actually, my maths says that they should earn Euro 132, but that’s what they say on their site.

The good part of the idea is that it’s very quick and easy to register and frankly, the consumer doesn’t have to do much to start earning. They’re not being asked to change their behaviour significantly. They just to have to click on links that they’re sent in a Pavlovian fashion.

However, I’m very sceptical I’m afraid, for a number of reasons and it’s nothing to do with the atrocious English on the site. This model has failed so many times before – online certainly, but I can think of at least one failure in mobile with the same idea in the long defunct The Mobile Channel, which then morphed into the subsequently successful Valued Opinions.

The reasons I don’t believe that this will work are many and include; the sort of people who are interested in being paid a small monthly sum to look at ads, just aren’t very attractive to advertisers – being by definition not very well off; they aren’t profiling the audience very well in the registration process; paying people to see ads is acting against what advertisers want nowadays, namely to engage their audience; the amount of money available to pay people just isn’t enough to attract a large enough audience; there’s no guarantee that anyone will actually see an ad – just click on a link; if people aren’t on a fixed price mobile data plan, they’ll have to pay to click the link and we know that these consumers are price sensitive; until they have lots of advertisers on board, the amount of money anyone can earn is tiny; if they ever do get enough advertisers on board, getting 10 of these a day is going to be too intrusive. I could go on, but you get the picture.

I really try not to be negative about startups, but sometimes, I just can’t help it. At the very least, I’d expect them to learn lessons from recent history. As always though, I hope they prove me wrong and go on to achieve greatness. But they’ll have to change their business model.

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