Google is moving into the mobile ad market with AdSense for mobile apps. Over the past few months, Google has been testing both text and graphical ads with ten mobile app developers, including Shazam and Urbanspoon. Today it is opening the private beta to more developers who meet certain criteria.
These are contextual ads for iPhone and Android apps. They can be targeted by “applications, locations, categories, or keywords,” according to Google’s Mobile AdSense information page. To qualify for the public beta, the apps must be free and generate at least 100,000 pageviews per day. The program is only for iPhone or Android apps. Developers must be ready to go live with the ads in four weeks and participate for three months.
Developers with 100,000 pageviews a day is still a limited set of the top free apps, but Google is serious about competing in this market. Mobile ad startups such as AdMob and Greystripe are now officially in Google’s direct line of fire.
Google is keeping things small right now to test out different ways to target ads inside apps, but it can pull out the big guns any time it wants. It already has more advertisers than any startup ad network and thus has a clear advantage when it comes to filling up mobile ad inventory. Although it is separate now, when marketers can check mobile apps as part of their overall AdSense campaigns, there should be a lot more bidding for those mobile ad spots within iPhone and Android apps, and those mobile ad rates should go up as a consequence.
Mobile app developers are going to sign up whichever ad network can give them the highest CPMs, and will swap out the ones which can’t keep up. Already, we are seeing some jostling for position among the mobile ad network startups. AdMob just kicked out AdWhirl from showing ads within its platform. I wonder if AdMob will allow Mobile AdSense ads on its network.
Update: AdMob responds that it will work with any mobile app developer on a non-exclusive basis and that developers which have established a direct relationship with AdMob can work with competing ad networks.