Supersonic sees big growth for ‘rewarded video ads’ in mobile games (interview)

Gil Shoham, CEO of Supersonic
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Supersonic specializes in in-app monetization and user acquisition for mobile apps and games. And the company has seen skyrocketing growth for its Rewarded Video ads in 2015.

Gil Shoham, chief executive of Tel Aviv, Israel-based Supersonic, said in an interview with GamesBeat that more and more brands are sponsoring video ads that reward gamers with valuable gear in their favorite apps. And these ads are particularly effective. Click-through rates for the Rewarded Videos are around 20 percent ot 35 percent, according to Supersonic. Finding such alternative monetization to direct in-app purchases is increasingly important in the highly competitive mobile game business, where there are a million other rivals competing for $30 billion in worldwide mobile game revenues.

The video ads — which are provided by a number of big mobile ad networks on Supersonic’s platform — are a good way to keep users engaged, and a great way for developers to drive revenue, said Shoham. They work because the ads are targeted toward the interests of the gamer or app user. The video ads also spur more conversation between non-paying and paying users.

The company is making the announcement about the popularity of the opt-in Rewarded Videos at the Game Developers Conference this week in San Francisco. The growth has enabled Supersonic to triple its revenues every year, and grow to more than 200 employees.

Supersonic’s Rewarded Video platform is being used by publishers such as Electronic Arts, Kongregate, Gre, Pocket Gems, Pretty Simple, Social Point, and DeNA. At GDC, Supersonic’s booth will feature indie game developers showcasing their games. It will rotate and developers will show off the games for an hour or two at a time.

I caught up with Shoham at our VentureBeat Mobile Summit event last week in Sausalito, Calif. We talked about Rewarded Video as well as the overall state of the mobile game industry. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

Rewarded Video from Supersonic gives rewards to users who view video ads.

Above: Rewarded Video from Supersonic gives rewards to users who view video ads.

Image Credit: Supersonic

GamesBeat: Please give us a recap about Supersonic.

Gil Shoham: Supersonic is a monetization and marketing platform for mobile app developers. Our main focus is on the gaming space. Most of our clients are in gaming, perhaps 65 or 70 percent. They’re publishers and advertisers or game developers. On the publisher side, around 70 percent are in gaming, and the rest are mainly social networking, messaging, and dating. We help publishers monetize by running ads and helping them support their apps on the monetization side. The advertisers are advertising on the platform.

We have a supply-side platform that works with large publishers like EA, one of our biggest clients. It’s software that helps them manage the different integrations of monetization in their apps. Instead of plugging in multiple ad networks, each one with its own SDK and integration, we try to make it very simple by creating one layer, where you plug in all the different demand sources and ad networks. It eases integration and creates yield optimization. It’ll decide how to auction to each network based on performance. It’s a bidding war for each user and each impression. It’s a bit like Rubicon Project in the desktop world, or even DoubleClick, for the mobile app economy, with a very specific focus on gaming.

The biggest ad format for us is video – some video interstitials, which can be a pop-up with a video, but mainly reward-based video. The users can earn credits in an EA app, like Tetris or Bejeweled Blitz, to progress in the game if they watch a video ad. These videos can be brands – a trailer for a film, anything – but mainly it’s app trailers, a video for another game. You get a reward if you watch the video and then you can install the app, although that’s not rewarded. You can explore other apps.

GamesBeat: Are companies like AdColony or Vungle going to be your partners or your rivals?

Shoham: They’re partners. Well, it’s a mix. Part of our business is that we have our own ad network as well, which is baked into the platform. It’s built for publishers that start with one integration, to add monetization from day one. Then they’ll add AdColony or Vungle. All these guys are supported by our platform. Just for transparency, there’s a level playing field for everyone. It’s two platforms in one – the ad network and the supply-side platform.

Gil Shoham, CEO of Supersonic

Above: Gil Shoham, CEO of Supersonic

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

GamesBeat: A year or two years ago, how big a part of your business was that?

Shoham: We started on Facebook, on desktop. Our first partners were gaming app developers on Facebook. Zynga was a client back then. They still are today. Same with EA. At some point that business plateaued. We also had a direct partnership with Facebook to do one of their exclusive monetization partners.

Two and a half years ago we migrated and totally transitioned from desktop to mobile. Our mobile business is just under three years old. We’re growing very quickly. We’re tripling our revenue every year. Today we’re nearly 200 employees. We’re backed by Greylock Partners in Israel, and also by SAIF Partners, which is a VC in Beijing. The company is profitable and growing fast.

Our main focus is on video. We’re trying to become the largest in-app video supply-side platform, competing with DoubleClick and other players.

GamesBeat: Where do you feel the opportunities are right now?

Shoham: Hugely in gaming. More and more game developers understand that utilizing video as a way to monetize is users is a safe route to take as far as the user experience. The experience is opt-in. The user isn’t forced to watch a video. The completion rates are very high. There’s no churn, no negative impact, because of the positive rewarding experience. We’re seeing a lot of publishers work with us, like these companies I mentioned, that are rolling out new apps or advertising new apps. Just from existing partners in gaming we’re growing very fast.

New segments are mainly social networking and text messaging apps. They’re implementing credit systems or freemium models, which leans toward this type of advertising as well.

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Google launches a dashboard to update developers on the status of Cloud Platform services

Google Cloud Platform Status Dashboard in action.
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Google today formally announced the existence of a status dashboard for several of its cloud infrastructure services in the Google Cloud Platform.

The dashboard first showed up online last year in “experimental” mode, but now that designation has been dropped. Google does still consider it to be in beta, though.

If you’d like to updates on issues pop up in an RSS reader, you can do that now,

Google product manager Amir Hermelin wrote in a blog post today announcing the dashboard.

Google has been more and more vocal in the past several months about its intent to compete hard in the cloud infrastructure market, of which Amazon Web Services is the leader. Microsoft also holds a prominent in that business with its Azure cloud infrastructure. Through price cuts, feature releases, and data center expansions these companies are constantly trying to outdo one another. A solid dashboard showing the health of a slew of Google cloud services — not just the App Engine — is a crucial feature for engineers building or running applications on top of them. Indeed Microsoft and Amazon have cloud service status pages of their own.

Check out Google’s dashboard for yourself here.

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13 TechCrunch Stories You Don’t Want To Miss This Week

TC-weekly-roundup This week’s news featured more than just runaway llamas and a Twitter debate over an optical illusion dress. The FCC passed new net neutrality regulations, photos and videos of two new smartphones leaked online, and the new Pebble smart watch flew past its Kickstarter goal. These are our best stories of the week (2/21-2/27). Read More

Google ditches concrete for flexible structures in new HQ proposal

Google new HQ

Google just released a proposal for its new Mountain View headquarters and it’s looks like the future.

The plans feature flexible structures with translucent canopies that can expand and change depending on the needs of Google’s teams. The company also says the new layout will include bike paths and plenty of opportunities for local restaurants and shops.

Google was expected to reveal its plans for its new headquarters in Mountain View this week, according to the New York Times. Here’s a video of what the company has in store:

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Google reverses porn ban on Blogger after backlash

Just three days after announcing it was banning sexually explicit material on Blogger, Google said today it had changed its mind after an outcry from many long-time users of the blogging platform.

“This week, we announced a change to Blogger’s porn policy,” wrote Jessica Pelegio, social product support manager at Google, in a post in a product forum. We’ve had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities. So rather than implement this change, we’ve decided to step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn.”

That existing policy requires blog owners with explicit content to mark them as “adult.” That triggers an “adult content” warning page.

When Google quietly announced the porn ban earlier this week, it caught most users off guard.

Under that policy change, which had been set to take effect on March 23, Google said it would make private any blog with explicit content. Porn was going to be expressly forbidden on any new blogs created after that date.

The company did not say at the time why it had decided to make the change, more than a decade after it had acquired Blogger.

But the move quickly came under fire, with some calling it an attack on free speech and others labeling it an example of Google’s prudishness.

Such moves are bound to be controversial. Almost two years ago, Tumblr was heavily criticized after removing blogs with explicit content from its search functions. Following a similar backlash, Tumblr also reversed course. 

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Google Play is making more money than Apple’s App Store — in Germany

Google Play finally surpasses iOS in spending in a major world market.

Google has made amazing gains in one of the largest mobile gaming markets in the world.

The Google Play app market grew by 150 percent in Germany from 2013 through the end of 2014 according to a free report from intelligence firm App Annie. And for the first time ever, Google Play revenue in Germany surpassed iOS spending. This is very different compared to the rest of the world where, despite Android’s market-share dominance, iOS still makes up the bulk of mobile spending. With smartphone and tablet games generating $25 billion in revenue last year, developers and publishers are looking for the best platform to get the most of that money. While iOS is still the clear leader in terms of revenue, Google is proving that Android still has the potential to compete.

“Although the iOS App Store showed continued revenue growth [in Germany] throughout 2014, revenue in Google Play exploded,” reads the App Annie report. “Revenue in 2014 from iOS in Germany was 1.3-times 2013 revenue, while 2014 app revenue from Google Play was 2.5-times its 2013 level.”

Germany is the second-largest mobile gaming market in Europe and the sixth largest worldwide. And while Google Play has taken a lead in this territory, it is still far behind in terms of spending in the other major markets — especially in Europe.

While this is a big win for Android, it isn’t the first time Google Play has outperformed iOS in one of the world’s 10 biggest mobile-gaming markets. The Android operating system regularly generates more money in South Korea than iOS — but that isn’t surprising considering how popular the Samsung Android phones are in that region.

Google Play also goes back and forth with iOS in Japan, and it has the outright lead in Taiwan. Both of those are also top-10 in terms of mobile-game spending.

“The resulting app market distribution is significantly different from that in major European markets such as the United Kingdom, where the iOS App Store remains the dominant player in app monetization.”

UK Germany App Annie

So, what’s responsible for Google Play’s impressive revenue growth in Germany? App Annie points to how Android continues to gobble up device market share.

“The distribution between operating systems leaves little doubt that Android devices are a popular choice in Germany,” reads the report. “Mobile devices running the Android operating system have led the installed base in Germany for some time, and this lead has widened as Android device adoption outstripped iOS growth in each of the last three years. Its substantial lead in installed base for smartphones and tablets also indicates that Google Play has a significantly larger user base than the iOS App Store in Germany.”

Google Play also gets twice as many app downloads compared to iOS. So really, this is the story of the average iOS user still spending more than the average Android user, but — in Germany at least — the sheer number of Google Play customers has finally enabled it to squeak out more revenue. But only just barely.

average spend

While Google Play made more money than iOS in January in Germany, it was only about 10 percent more. Compare that to the U.K., where iOS made 130 percent more the revenue of Android.

Of course, making games on mobile is not an either-or proposition.

“Apple has always been better at ensuring the App Store is a valuable destination,” VB Insight analyst Stewart Rogers said. “These latest figures are the first sign that Android’s market share domination may overhaul Apple’s profit share majority globally, but it will still take time for that to happen. Regardless, our own studies on mobile market acquisition show that the developers who win are those that support both iOS and Android.”

App Annie shared all of these details and more in its report, which you can download for free from its website.

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Google Starts Testing Mobile App Ads In The Google Play Store

google-play-ad Google announced this morning the launch of a pilot program which will allow mobile application developers the ability to advertise their apps directly within the Google Play store. These ads, which will initially be made available to advertisers already running search ads on Google.com, will also only be shown against Google Play search results. That is, they won’t just randomly appear… Read More

Google Plus for mobile gets a redesign and a speed boost

google plus minus

Google says it has added some new design elements and speed to its Google Plus social network running on mobile devices.

“Starting today on mobile web, you’ll see a beautiful new stream design, improved sharing flow and a much faster experience,” Google’s writes on its (surprise) Google Plus page.

Google Plus’s new face does look pretty on my new Motorola E phone, incorporating some of the vibe of Material Design, a design aesthetic used in Google’s Android OS. Indeed Google executives have said that the Material Design themes would start to migrate across Google properties.

Posts seem to load up faster, too.

The improvements, Google says, will work on both phones and tablets.

Google originally launched Google Plus in June 2011 ago in answer to the growing success of Facebook. But it may have been too late, as many consumers preferred to stick with Facebook and have been reluctant to use multiple social networks.


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Google launches Android for Work app and Google Play for Work app store

The Android for Work app.

Google today is introducing four pieces of technology — including an Android for Work app, a Google Play for Work business-oriented app store, new apps that support common productivity tools — that should enable people to use their Android devices to do work.

Google is also coming out with Work Profiles for Android devices that will enable people to find work-oriented apps in a segregated spot just above apps for personal use in the standard Android user interface.

Google first announced Android for Work at the company’s Google I/O conference in June. Today’s news amounts to “effectively the GA [general availability] of what we announced at I/O,” Rajen Sheth, head of product management for Android and Chrome for Work, told reporters at a press event at Google’s San Francisco office. But Google isn’t stopping here.

“We expect that what this is going to do is start to bring many more companies toward Android — not just make Android a player in the space, but actually change and redefine the concept of mobility at work,” Sheth said.

Google, of course, is looping in a bunch of hardware providers in this initiative — like HTC, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony. After all, Google does work with a large team of hardware vendors, unlike, say Apple — even as it, too, is keen to get more iOS devices inside enterprises, if Apple’s partnership with IBM is any indicator. Meanwhile the news today also shows Google’s challenge to Microsoft, which has enterprise credibility but a lower position than Google or Apple when it comes to mobile devices.

Meanwhile, the move, following Google’s acquisition last year of bring-your-own-device startup Divide, is a fascinating when from the perspective of the mobile device management market, where there have been a few prominent acquisitions. Google isn’t competing, per se, but rather partnering — with IBM’s Maas360, VMware’s AirWatch, Citrix, MobileIron, SAP, and Blackberry, among others.

“What it’s done is broadened the range of devices that they can manage,” Sheth said. “It’s a very good but narrow set of devices [that they could] manage before. This broadens it to every Android device.”

Googler Rajen Sheth talks about Android for Work at a press event at Google's San Francisco office on Feb. 25.

Above: Googler Rajen Sheth talks about Android for Work at a press event at Google’s San Francisco office on Feb. 25.

Image Credit: Jordan Novet/VentureBeat

And while Google has no problem building applications, the company is bringing in software partners, including Adobe, Box, Salesforce.com, and SAP — to ensure a vibrant ecosystem. And Android for Work inherently acknowledges that many workers already use non-Google applications for email, calendars, and task management — the system supports Microsoft Exchange. So if you use Google’s new Work Tasks app, for instance, you can see tasks stored inside of other applications. The same goes for the new Work Contacts, Work Calendar, and Work Mail apps.

Oh, and you admins can even bulk-purchase apps for their employees, Sheth said.

There’s been a lot of demand for these sorts of Android tools, he said. Dozens of companies are now using them, he said, including Guardian Life, Pearson, and Woolworths Unlimited.

“Now we’re opening up the floodgates,” Sheth said.


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You can now store 50,000 songs on Google Play Music

Google Play revenue

Google Play Music is expanding its free music storing service.

Starting today, Google Play Music users can now store as many as 50,000 songs for free. Previously, Google only allowed free storage of 20,000 songs on its cloud service.

The bump in storage capacity seems like a move to lure in more people to the platform in favor of competitor music services like Spotify and iTunes. Google also has an interest in convincing people to sign-up for its paid plan. The company offers a subscription service for unlimited music uploads and downloads for $9.99.

Google Play music works across Android, iPhone, and iPad and allows users to upload music from iTunes.

 


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