Location-based services have had a huge year. However, like most emerging technologies, it's difficult to cleave the worthy from the buzz-worthy. iMedia Connection sat down with Greg Sterling, a senior analyst with Opus Research's Internet2Go, to discuss the potential of LBS, as well as his upcoming presentation at ad:tech San Francisco.
iMedia Connection: How did your experience as an attorney prepare you for your current position?
Greg Sterling: There are many legal issues that surround online advertising and the internet. That background has given me some insight and the ability to analyze and think about some of these issues in ways that I wouldn't be able to absent the experience as a lawyer.
iMedia: Location-based services had a huge year. What are some of the services you think are most likely to survive in the long run? Which ones do you expect to die out?
Sterling: I don't want to call out winners and losers by name (assuming that I was able to). There are simply too many companies in the "LoMoSo" or LBS space to discuss in a short Q&A like this. However I will say that household names such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp have built-in advantages over startups. Occasionally there are breakout successes, like Foursquare or Instagram. But many -- maybe even most -- of the start-ups that tech insiders celebrate fail to break through to the mainstream.
Want to meet up with the companies that are leading location-based services into the future? Check out the exhibit hall at ad:tech San Francisco, April 11-13. Learn more
Location-based photo-sharing mobile app Color is an interesting example of a product that was hailed by many because of its founder and big pre-launch investment round, although it was also roundly criticized by some. Ironically, given the $41 million in venture capital funding, the app may effectively be DOA because of the botched PR and launch.
The world of digital is very fickle; brands are "perishable" online in ways they're not in the real world. Whereas many offline brands have been around for decades and even longer, online brands are very lucky to survive a decade.
This year's leader could be next year's also-ran. Look at Digg and MySpace as two relatively recent examples of companies that were on top of their respective market segments and are now all but done. At one point AOL was as dominant a company as Google is today, and as Facebook is becoming.
iMedia: Internet2Go studies the internet's impact on offline consumer behavior. What was the most surprising internet-induced change in behavior that you've seen?
Sterling: Internet2Go specifically focuses on mobile activity, but in my work and research I focus broadly at how the internet affects consumer behavior overall. I would say the biggest changes in behavior we're now seeing are with smartphones and their constant use. It's an instant cliché to talk about the "post PC" world but it's becoming true. But perhaps the biggest "surprise" in the past six months is the degree to which people use their smartphones in the home. Different consumer surveys show that between 40 percent and over 50 percent of smartphone usage is "at home." That's pretty counter-intuitive.