iPhone app developers who choose to go the free route typically try to make money by placing ads in their apps. But now there are so many mobile ad networks competing to serve those ads that iPhone app analytics startup Mobclix is creating a mobile ad network exchange. App developers sign up with their ad inventory and ad networks bid for the spots based on age, gender, location, and other factors. The ads being served change automatically, based on which ad network is bidding the highest to reach the users of that particular app.
Mobclix wants to provide one dashboard for app developers to track and monetize their apps. It also lets advertisers buy across a variety of apps based on demographic, geo-targeting, and behavioral characteristics. The idea is to aggregate both apps and advertising to reach scale.
One ad network that is missing, however, is AdMob. As perhaps the largest mobile ad network, AdMob’s absence is noticeable. But AdMob does not support the mediation layers required for Mobclix to talk to its servers. (If you are the biggest mobile ad network, it is not in your interest to make it easy for developers to switch). AdMob also offers its own quasi-exchange where app developers can swap ad inventory for traffic with each other.
In the end, app developers will go to wherever they can get the highest price for their ads, while advertisers will gravitate to the ad networks or exchanges with the most inventory. At this point maybe only an exchange that ropes together multiple ad networks can compete with AdMob.
Update: Despite the flame war going on in comments, I have confirmed that indeed Mobclix has signed up 20 ad networks to be part of its exchange. These include Google AdSense for iPhone (in beta), Yahoo Mobile Publishers, Jumptap, Quattro, Millennial Media, VideoEgg, Adconian, and Mojiva. Mobclix already had relationships with these ad networks as part of its existing ad yield optimization service. Moreover about half of the 3,500 iPhone app publishers who use Mobclix have already opted into the ad exchange program, making a collective ad inventory of 4 billion impressions a month available for bidding. Now it is up to the ad networks to start bidding for that inventory. At least one of Mobclix’s competitors has been floating the idea of its own ad exchange. Perhaps it did not like being upstaged.