Yahoo has doubled down on its mobile bet, agreeing to buy mobile analytics and advertising company Flurry.
What does that mean for a company that less than a week ago reported disappointing earnings as it struggled with declining CPMs? A company that’s not yet even breaking out its mobile revenue in its earning statements, while calling it “meaningful?”
“Acquiring a mobile-first company that has really honed its expertise in mobile app marketing and analytics sends two key market messages," said Forrester analyst Jennifer Wise. "One, we’re serious about mobile. Two, we have best-in-class mobile app measurement, targeting, analytics capabilities.”
Flurry stands to be the second-largest acquisition so far in CEO Marissa Mayer’s reign. At an estimated $200 million-$300 million purchase price, it’s just a fraction of what Mayer paid for Tumblr, which came in at more than $1 billion, but far above the dozens of small acquisitions Yahoo has made, such as the mobile apps Blink and Summly.
From the perspective of CEO Marissa Mayer, the acquisition is the latest attempt to fulfill her promise to investors: that a turnaround for Yahoo won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.
On that same earnings call with disappointing desktop display results, Mayer continually highlighted mobile as a bright spot. Yahoo has 450 million monthly active users on mobile, more than double two years ago. The company has a suite of sleek, award-winning apps and it’s seen the amount of time spent on mobile rise, with the majority of time spent within apps, not the mobile web, which is where Flurry’s analytics capabilities live.
Despite these promising inroads in mobile, Yahoo still has a long way to go.
“Given the relatively weak position Yahoo finds itself in to begin with, I don’t think you would you count on one relatively small acquisition to make a difference,” said Brian Wieser, an analyst with Pivotal Research. Wieser does see a bright spot given the popularity of video on mobile devices, which could help Yahoo command higher CPMs.
Flurry gives app developers access to a free analytics platform, which tracks 540,000 apps across more than a billion devices. It’s popular among these mobile publishers for its ability to do things like create funnels for conversion tracking. (More: What Is Flurry?)
What Flurry gets in return is the ability to see what different mix of apps end up on one device, as well as how often they’re used, allowing it to deduce if a user overindexes in gaming, for example. That knowledge of the end users allows the company to create personas such as “casual and social gamers” on which advertisers can bid, making Flurry both an analytics and advertising platform.
That said, Flurry has far more traction with its analytics product than its RTB exchange. About 170,000 developers use Flurry’s analytics, but just 8,000 monetize with Flurry. Expanding the number of outside publishers monetizing with Flurry as well as turning the platform back at Yahoo’s mobile inventory will likely be an area of focus
“This acquisition can be leveraged across Yahoo's owned and operated apps, and provides instant reach beyond their walls,” observed Andy Yang, CEO of Upsight. “If executed successfully, Flurry's technology should complement Yahoo's existing stack and sales teams.”
Like its previous acquisition of Right Media all the way back in 2007, Flurry is involved in selling inventory for non-Yahoo properties, something it will need to navigate precisely.
“What they need to do is be very careful and make sure there’s a Chinese wall that prevents their customers from losing confidence now that Yahoo is taking over,” said Sahil Chopra, CEO of ServeSharp and a former Right Media and Yahoo employee.
The acquisition may also move the needle in terms of perception both internally and beyond. “There was a time we felt that Yahoo was not embracing technology and moving more toward media. Over the past year and a half they have re-engaged in the technology business,” Chopra said.
More importantly, having these mobile capabilities is another step in catch up for Yahoo in terms of wooing advertisers, who have decreased the percentage of their budgets they place on Yahoo properties.
“Yahoo can’t get advertisers to allocate more budget to them," Wieser said. "Having a mobile solution could help, but they’ve got a bigger problem which is that they need to be able to attract and retain big brand advertisers to their brand.”
Flurry’s platform could set Yahoo apart in an “ecosystem with disparate tacking and measurement methods that continue to overwhelm marketers,” Wise said. “Mobile marketers today need to see the ROI for their efforts, so effective analytics and attribution are becoming a key competitive differentiator.”