Q&A: Ojas Rege on Yahoo! Mobile

yahoomobile_logo_r.gifMobile Crunch chatted with Ojas Rege, Yahoo’s vice president of global mobile products to talk about mobile content, advertising and the significance of the iPhone (for which Yahoo provides Yahoo Mail, a push email service, OneSearch and financial and weather applications).

Mobile Crunch: What impact, if any, will the iPhone have on the mobile market?

Rege: We’re thrilled. We’re convinced that it’s going to have an impact. When it comes down to it, it will drive consumer demand for wonderful, easy to use, cool services. It expands the art of the possible in the minds of consumers.

It makes all players in the industry say to themselves, “Hey, it’s absolutely possible to create compelling and intuitive applications.”

Mobile Crunch: Will its impact be lessened because of its high price point, i.e. would it have had a bigger impact at a lower SRP?

Rege: iPhone is a high end device right now. Over time, price points can change. We’ve seen this across the board in other technologies. It’s fair to say the price points will evolve. At Yahoo, we want to see these types of platforms going to as many people as possible.

Mobile Crunch: How will the iPhone affect mobile advertising? How will the iPhone’s unique Web browsing method affect the ads or types of ads Yahoo sells on its space?

Rege: There are three components to this.

1. Anything that drives people to mobile data services is good. That creates more critical mass to be able to sell advertising into.

2. At Yahoo, we don’t build the same experience for all phones. We optimize our services on different phone platforms. Anything that lets us do more stuff also opens the door for more advertisers.

3. The single most important thing is: You’ve gotta have the ability to make advertising relevant to the user. Simple ads with high relevance are highly effective.

Mobile Crunch: That’s a natural seque to Yahoo SmartAds.

Rege: The high level concept of SmartAds is: Use the stuff you know about the user to customize the ad. We’re using personalization to target ads more readily. Everything we’re doing in SmartAds for the PC platform is applicable to mobile–we’re not limited by media type.

In all our services, we’re moving towards personalization–that is, making sure we can provide services tailored for the user and the platform. Make sure the services actually matter to them.

Mobile Crunch: Can we look down the road and ask what kind of trends will we see in advertising or mobile two years or even a year from now? Or is technology moving too fast to make predictions like that?

Rege: New technology like the iPhone opens up the door to a lot of people to say, “Wow, I can do a lot of cool stuff on my phone; it’s more than just voice and text.” We’re going to see a transition as users realize this lifeline they have—the phone—is also relevant for a lot of the things they want to do in the world. As I mentioned before, it expands the art of the possible in the minds of consumers. That brings a lot of folks in and creates a lot more demand for advertising. This whole notion of increasing demand by expanding what users can do with the technology drives how we look to deliver our services.

Mobile Crunch: How is measuring mobile advertising metrics different from standard Internet ad reporting and measurement?

Rege: When you’re an advertiser creating a mobile campaign, do you want it a brand extension of what you’re doing on the PC? People are experimenting. This is very early market. The standard metrics: impressions, conversion—these are applicable to mobile. The core metrics will be the same but the expanded metrics will be different. Mobile is ripe for experimentation.

Mobile Crunch: Do you expect the user metrics to change as mobile technologies become accessible to more people?

Rege: As mobile usage becomes more mass market, the nature of things people do will change. Our mobile offerings are global. Each country is in a different stage of evolution. In the United States, we have so many different ways of connecting: high broadband penetration, high PC penetration. A lot of countries in Southeast Asia don’t have those options. In many areas, people don’t have another option to do them. We have to have a product that doesn’t rely on a user having access to a PC. We have to provide service in a mobile-first context.

Mobile Crunch: Are we moving towards a standardization in the way mobile gadgets view the web? Or is the speed of technology moving companies in different directions?

Rege: There might be some day when we have true standardization, but I’m not sure how old I will be. We’re not going to hold our breath. We believe the world will continue to be fragmented on the OS and browser side.

Mobile Crunch: What does Yahoo see as the biggest challenge in the mobile marketplace?
Rege: Helping users figure out what’s possible. Sometimes this industry gets too caught up in technology. The key is finding simple, compelling applications.

If I had one wish about driving usage to the mobile platform, it would be to come up with great ways for users to understand what they can do on the phone and provide services to them in a way that is not complicated.