With the inclusion of GPS in the new iPhone 3G, Apple is kicking off a wave of excitement about location-based services (LBS) — and the device isn’t even out yet. One aspect that may not be as sexy as tracking your movements in real-time, but could be more useful, is local news. Verve Wireless seems poised to take full advantage of this.
“Mobile is really about local,” Verve Wireless chief executive Art Howe told me. Mind you, this was before all the hoopla started about LBS leading up to Apple’s WWDC event, where the iPhone 3G was unveiled last week. Howe and company president Tom Kenney have been thinking about location as it relates to mobile devices long before that.
For proof, look no further than the beautifully designed and executed iPhone-optimized site Verve Wireless built for the AP Mobile News Network. (The site was the runner-up for the Best iPhone Web Application at WWDC.) While top stories are obviously emphasized, there is a clear emphasis on local news as well. Of course, the “local” news on the current site is pulled in through what soon may be the Dewey Decimal System of mobile location tracking, zip codes.
When the iPhone 3G adds the GPS element, you can be sure Verve Wireless will be utilizing location awareness on not only the AP Mobile News Network, but with other local media companies that use Verve’s platform as well.
It’s also important to note that while the iPhone 3G is garnering a lot of attention at the moment, it is hardly the only location-sensing phone. Verve’s platform and vision of the future applies regardless of the phone. (Though it was clear in talking with both Howe and Kenney that they are particularly excited about the iPhone and the possibilities it has opened up for the mobile web.)
The platform was built over the past two years. The idea was that publishers, mobile carriers and consumers had a hard time communicating with one another. There were simply too many intermediaries in the process. Verve’s goal is to be the one-stop shop for all the tools needed for publishers to reach the consumers — with an emphasis on local publishers reaching local readers.
Verve is not interested in promoting its own brand like you may see on the local versions of Google News and Yahoo News. For Verve it’s simply about getting others content out there. Again, cut out the middle man. The several thousand unique properties that Verve has agreements with seem to back up this idea. 2008 will be all about executing on those agreements to realize Verve’s potential.
Location is also important in the business of advertising. If local merchants are able to serve up ads based on your location, these ads could naturally be more relevant to you. Verve Wireless is betting on this as a key component of its platform.
Verve has deals with media partners including The New York Times Company, Freedom Communications and Media General. It also has agreements with major mobile carriers AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint.
The Encinitas, Calif-based startup raised a $2.5 million angel round last July. It is currently closing in a new round of funding.
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