RIM Looking To Join Mobile Ad Fray

Feeling the heat from Apple and Google, Research In Motion is hoping to jump into the mobile advertising business via acquisition.
The Wall Street Journal reports that RIM is shopping for a mobile advertising network. Why would it be doing that? Competitors Apple and Google have each made mobile ad acquisitions of their own and are already using them to serve ads to the iOS and Android platforms. RIM stands to lose out if it sits out the mobile ad game.

According to the Journal's sources, RIM has been talking to a company in Baltimore called Millennial Media. Millennial runs its own mobile advertising network and also helps broker ad sales to other mobile ad networks.

The two companies have been speaking to one another for months, but word is that talks have stalled. Millennial believes it is worth a sale price between $400 and $500 million, based on the value of acquisitions made by RIM' competitors of other ad networks. RIM apparently doesn't want to pay that much.

Google bought mobile advertising company AdMob in November 2009 for $750 million. In January 2010, Apple purchased mobile advertising company Quattro Wireless, though a sale price wasn't given. RIM has said it believes Google and Apple over-paid for these companies.

Whether they did or not, the burgeoning success of Apple and Google's mobile advertising platforms has been a strong enough indicator to RIM that it can't ignore the mobile advertising business.

Now that RIM's BlackBerry 6 is available via the BlackBerry 9800 Torch, RIM has a much better delivery vehicle for mobile ads. The new BlackBerry 6 browser, in particular, could help RIM remain a competitive player in the smartphone arena.

RIM's global smartphone share has dropped from 19.1% a year ago to 17.8% today. Much of that loss has been to Apple and Google, as users defect to the iPhone and Android-based devices.

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Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer