myYearbook/MeetMe Leverage Mobile Virtual Currency As 'Payment Platform In Your Pocket'

A year after cutting a deal to acquire the meetup network myYearbook, Quepasa will roll out a rebranding of the merged companies as MeetMe. The project will start in July at myYearbook.com.

Citing comScore metrics, the combined companies say they are among the 40 most-trafficked sites online. myYearbook in particular saw a 40% rise in active users and a doubling of registrations. Visits are up 75% and page views up 100% in the fourth quarter compared to the same period in 2010.

In very short order, myYearbook became a mobile-driven company. Within just the last year or so, audiences have migrated quickly to smartphone access to the site. “Fifty-eight percent of users log in on mobile,” says COO, Quepasa, Geoff Cook, who is part of the Cook family team that has nurtured this alternative social network into prominence since the mid-2000s. “We are seeing astonishing growth on mobile year-over-year,” he tells me.

Registration for the site via mobile is up 371% in Q4 2011, and now is responsible for 26% of all new registrations. In 2010, myYearbooks was only seeing 2% of traffic coming from devices. It hit 50% at the turn of 2012, and in just the last few months escalated even further to 58%.

myYearbook/MeetMe has moved to a genuine “mobile first” publishing paradigm, where features and ideas are being born on the device that may never migrate back to the Web experience at all. A “Locals” appeared first on the Android app and more recently on iOS. Cook says that a survey of users showed that 54% had met someone face to face via myYearbook.

Many were using a location-based feed of user postings based on recent activity, but there were also many who were just browsing profiles on the Web. They flipped this activity into a GPS-fueled proximity filter that helped locate myYearbook members in the area. The new feature increased profile browsing on Android apps by 30%, he says.

myYearbook has had the same challenge as any mobile social network in taking staggering amounts of traffic and resulting inventory and making something from it for marketers. The company told All Things D recently that it was making only about 1% of its revenue from mobile. Cook says the site is approaching 2 billion mobile page views a month, and they have mixed up a number of different ad units and interstitials to monetize all of this.

But as has been the case all along with the myYearbook project, the real money appears to be virtual -– as in virtual currency that allows users to gift things to one another and buy more prominent places for themselves in the user search engines. Yes, at myYearbook -- as in high school -- popularity is king and everyone is a brand unto himself or herself. You can buy credits that can be applied to spotlighting yourself.

Cook says that they recently injected virtual currency buying into the Android app in Feb. and the iOS app in March. “We had low expectations going into Android and all that was written about how it under-monetizes,” he says. “But we found it was blowing away the Web on a daily active user basis.” Rather than a friction-filled revenue laggard, Cook sees Android really kicking in. “I think Google is just getting better about frictionless payments that it implemented in its most recent billing solution,” he says. The iOS version of the virtual currency model is just kicking in, but about on par with the Android version, he adds.

But for all sorts of publishers who are trying to leverage incremental payment solutions or in-app upselling, Cook’s early experiences with m-commerce are encouraging. With integrated payment systems, mobile devices become payment devices that are used more effortlessly than their counterparts on the Web, which usually require either credit card entry or at the very least some involved kick-over and sign-in to a PayPal. “It is like a four to five times difference in terms of DAU value of a mobile user when it comes to buying currency,” he says.  

I have to wonder what the possibilities might be for a range of cross-platform content providers once they realize that their users could pay them for just about anything more easily and quickly from their phone than from the Web. With user session frequency levels so much higher on mobile than on the Web for most publishers, these media brands now have so many more opportunities to put offers and incremental paid content in front of users.

I can’t count the number of strange “micro-payment” schemes aimed at publishers I covered back in the late 90s and early 2000s. People didn’t much like buying many digital subscriptions, so publishers dreamed of selling content by the piece online with a simple click. Now, as media themselves are migrating across screens, mobile presents a golden opportunity to plug a cash register into the content distribution system.

That movie review, buyer’s guide, nutrition advice or some other combination of content or service that no one dreamed of paying for at their desktop may suddenly become worth a buck if it becomes available at the right place, time and circumstance. And that pay-walled archived article or one-day pass to a database on the Web might be that much more tempting to access if a tap on the site’s corresponding smartphone app will get me in effortlessly.

M-Payments could help all media re-imagine what content and business models become possible in a new surround-screen environment.       

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