As the ecosystem around iPhone apps continues to explode, the opportunity for advertising and monetization grows simultaneously. There are been an abundance of mobile and specifically iPhone centric ad-networks that have emerged, like AdMob (which was acquired by Google a few weeks ago), Greystripe, InMobi and others, to help developers make money from advertising on aps. And ad exchange startups such as AdWhirl (acquired by AdMob a few months ago) and MobClix help developers optimize ad placement by dynamically choosing so serve ads from ad network that bidding the highest to reach the users of that particular app. A new kid, .app/ads, has stepped onto ad platform block today, hoping to provide the most open, and appealing ad platform for iPhone developers to optimize their app ads.
While .app/ads serves a variety of purposes for developers, one of the startup’s primary functions is as a completely open iPhone app ad exchange. Like the other players, .app/ads provides a uber-simple dashboard for app developers to create mutiple ad slots within their apps, list their apps, and implement advertising through a variety of ad-networks/exchanges. But what makes .app/ads different is that its fully open to developers can run any ad network or any ad exchange whenever they want. And developers can pick and choose to integrate the ad code they need from the companies they want vs. a pre-selected loaded SDK. And there’s no limit to the number of SDKs developers can add. It’s like ordering from an a la carte menu.
Apple recently rolled out the ability to implement in-app purchases for free apps, which was a boon to developers. .app/ads will power in-app purchases for developers for free, allowing developers to run in-app purchase ads easily. Once a product is setup, developers can create an add with text and images, and simple add the advertisement to the rotation. The site will automatically rotate in the in-app purchase add with other ads.
.app/ads also lets developers tweak the content of ad slots. For example, developers can import Twitter feeds to fill an ad slot. When an app user clicks on a particular link in the Tweet in the feed, he or she is taken to the source of the link within the app. So if the link was from TechCrunch, the user could browse TechCrunch from within the developer’s app. .app/ads also will allow developers to import RSS feeds into the slot as well as promote other apps, contests, updates and more. While this content will be mixed in the rotation with ads, the basic idea is to give developers the option of engaging with their users in other ways besides advertising. And the platform lets developers set the frequency of appearance of certain ads or content.
Another compelling feature of .app/ads is a developer to developer marketplace where developers can barter with each other for ad space, set pricing terms and eventually sell ad space directly to each other. Currently this is the only feature where .app/ads. is monetizing; the platform is taking 10 percent of each transaction on the marketplace.
As of now, .app/ads caters solely for iPhone developers and apps. The startup’s founder Evan Rifkin told me that the open platform has been optimized for the developer, and aims to level the playing field for developers to have a fully transparent app ad management platform. Openness on ad exchanges has been an issue in the past, when AdMob announced its decision earlier this year to cut off ad network aggregators like AdWhirl and Tapjoy, claiming it had been hearing of complaints of technical glitches related to ads served by such “ad net mediators.” The company later announced a delay in this decision in August.
Of course, the ad network and marketplace arena is crowded. But the newly launched startup has experience on its side. Rifkin is a seasoned entrepreneur, who sold startup Flux (formerly Tagworld) to Viacom last fall. He also helped start Adconion and co-founded Traffic Marketplace (sold to Uproar/Vivendi Universal).