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Yahoo pitted against Twitter as mobile advertising opportunities expand

Following years of questions about its role in mobile advertising, Yahoo is now poised to challenge Twitter?s role as the third-largest mobile advertising platform and could even take on Facebook and Google if it plays its cards correctly. 

New data from eMarketer suggests that Yahoo?s turnaround efforts may finally be starting to pay off, with the company forecast to have a 3.18 percent share of the mobile advertising market this year, 3.74 percent next year ? surpassing Twitter for the first time ? and 4.19 percent by 2016. Given that Twitter?s and Yahoo?s offerings and relative strengths are very different, marketers looking to reach a wide swath of mobile users will need to pay closer attention to where they invest beyond Facebook and Google.

?Yahoo has an excellent opportunity to differentiate itself by leveraging its footprint to provide value to advertisers,? said Michael Berelian, director of ecommerce and digital shopper, North America, at Geometry. ?This will be a strong point of differentiation.  

?If it is able to plug into the right channels and markets, it will be poised to compete with the market leader Google and Facebook, which is a close second,? he said. ?This is also a challenge for mobile marketers.?

Evolving landscape
Given that Google and Facebook dominate more than half of the mobile advertising space, any other company?s role is small. 

However, as mobile advertising continues to grow, marketers? budgets are growing and their strategies are more sophisticated in terms of tactics and targeting. As a result, there may be growing opportunities for some of the smaller platforms. 

Yahoo has a long been an important player in digital advertising but has struggled to remain relevant as the mobile space has grown. 

Sports fans are consuming more content on mobile.

Since hiring Marissa Mayer from Google two years ago as the company?s CEO and president, Yahoo has acquired numerous mobile companies but questions have remained about its ability to assimilate these quickly enough to create a meaningful option for marketers. 

The eMarketer numbers would suggest that Yahoo?s efforts are working. 

The right investments
The growing competitiveness of players such as Yahoo could raise some challenges for marketers, who, up until now, have had relatively few choices about where to invest their mobile advertising budgets. 

?The half of the mobile ad opportunities not owned by Google and Facebook is highly fragmented with Yahoo and Twitter leading the field so mobile marketers will need better understand their audiences to make the right call on investments,? said Frank Wolfram, chief technology officer, EMEA, at Geometry. ?Yahoo's new product line-up with cross-device targeting, native formats and app extensions point in the right direction.?

The Yahoo News Digest app.

One of Yahoo?s biggest competitive advantages is its strong focus on digital content. This is particularly important as consumers? content consumption habits increasingly skew towards mobile. 

?Yahoo has made significant investments in its content for finance, sports, and entertainment,? said Mike McGuire, Santa Clara, CA-based vice president of research at Gartner for Marketing Leaders. ?These are content types that are more and more frequently ready-made for mobile consumption. 

?Twitter can be very much event driven, whereas Yahoo as an advantage in that it has content properties that are still pretty popular and tailor-made for mobile consumption,? he said. 

Mass media
Twitter is a much younger company than Yahoo but is also intently focused on building its mobile advertising business. Its relative youth is a plus in that it was a mobile-first company from inception. However, because the platform is still young, it has not had time to build a wide user base yet. 

Twitter has introduced a number of mobile advertising offerings in the past year and is likely to keep up the rapid pace of innovation. 

?I would consider Yahoo to be a mass-media player with a broader reach of audience, and Twitter to be more of a niche player in the media space,? said Melody Adhami, president and chief operating officer of Plastic Mobile of Toronto. 

?The opportunities each company presents is vastly different,? she said. ?Marketers can expect to reach more users through Yahoo, but can expect more engagement from Twitter users.

?I think we can expect to see innovation from Twitter that will likely challenge the top 3 contenders sooner than later.?

The two platforms also differ in terms of their mobile ad offerings. 

Yahoo?s mobile ad products include display, native and search. 

Twitter?s offerings are native. 

?Twitter already had the product but needed to scale its user base while Yahoo has the user base but needed to innovate its product,? Geometry?s Mr. Wolfram said. 

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York