Cutting through push spam

Summary:It's happened to everybody; the phone vibrates or emits a sound notification, you feel instantly popular and in demand, and proudly whip out your phone to see who has contacted you, only to realise that it was just another annoying update from an unused app.

It's happened to everybody; the phone vibrates or emits a sound notification, you feel instantly popular and in demand, and proudly whip out your phone to see who has contacted you, only to realise that it was just another annoying update from an unused app.

Like email in its early days, push notifications on your mobile phone are evolving from being a valuable source of information to saturating your phone with annoying '"push spam".

However, push notifications obviously aren't going away, so there will be significant opportunities for start-ups to try and solve the problem of ensuring that only the most relevant notifications reach the user.

One company has come at it from the perspective of the app publishers and developed an application to measure the effectiveness of push notifications.

OtherLevels is based on the same idea that underpins email subscription, to help measure open and discard rates.

The founders are Alan Jones and Brendan O'Kane, who have both previously started and exited companies, and are also mentors in the Startmate accelerator program.

They cited a recent Apple announcement that over 100 billion notifications were pushed from all its apps, and it had sent more than 100 million notifications for the release of iOS 5. The OtherLevels team added that over a billion notifications are sent every month by Urban Airship, which manages the service on behalf of app publishers.

The pair believe that a part of this rapidly growing volume is spam, which is probably a fair assumption for anyone that has ever waded through notifications to find a relevant message or email.

Their aim is to capitalise on this "push spam" by measuring the engagement of push notifications to help publishers, including open and discard rates. Once this has been established, they suggest a range of techniques for the publisher to improve hit rates by, for example, writing more engaging headlines.

"The difference between push spam and a useful push, is that a useful push is targeted, knows what your interests are, who you are friends with, the time of day it is," Jones said.

"We're trying to turn push spam into something that's useful."

The six-man start-up is based in Brisbane and generates revenue to work on a campaign that is based on a specific notification.

Their aim is to grab a slice of the marketing budget of all app publishers, and have a goal to sign up 500 customers in a year's time and increase their open rates by 10 per cent.

SWOT

Strength

It's got a strong founder team. It takes an existing solution in email subscription and applying it in the mobile sphere.

Weaknesses

The value proposition is a bit confusing because there are a couple of elements: measurement and higher engagement. Also, it would be a difficult sell into the large app publishers, who in all likelihood manage this themselves (eg, ninemsn, Facebook, Twitter).

Opportunities

There appears to be a need to manage push notifications and there's no clear market leader yet.

Threats

It will be difficult to compete with other digital marketing companies, who could develop their own technology and provide this to other developers.

Conclusion

It's a good idea and there is a need, but I would see a greater opportunity in helping consumers manage their own notifications. I also believe that this market will become quickly saturated, making it difficult to compete.

Verdict: BUST

Topics: Apple, Apps, Mobility, Start-Ups

About

Mahesh Sharma earned his pen licence in his homeland, where he covered the technology industry for ZDNet, SMH, Sky Business News, and The Australian--first as an FTE, and later as a freelancer. The latter fueled his passion for startups and empowered a unique perspective on entrepreneurs' passion to solve problems using technology. Armed... Full Bio

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