AT&T gets into the mobile ad business

Carrier first to use phones' location abilities to deliver targeted ads, coupons

Trying to get a piece of the potentially huge mobile ad market, wireless carrier AT&T on Monday announced a location-based mobile messaging service that would deliver special offers from advertisers to subscribers' phones. (Also see: Do advertisers, developers need a new paradigm for mobile advertising?) Called "ShopAlerts by AT&T," the mobile service "will provide consumers with valuable offers, rewards, and coupons based on their specific geographic location," AT&T said in a statement. ShopAlerts initially will be offered to AT&T subscribers in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. Among the first companies to sign up for the mobile messaging service are HP, Kmart and JetBlue. Rather than have ads and special offers delivered randomly to cell phones in a general geographic area, ShopAlerts sends messages to subscribers who wander inside an AT&T "geo-fence," which the wireless carrier defines as "a virtual-perimeter around a retail location, event, or any geographic area – in order to deliver appropriate location-specific messages." AT&T won't bombard just any subscriber who wanders into a geo-fence; you have to sign up to get ShopAlerts. The company also says it will limit messages for each subscriber to a maximum of four per week, so your phone won't cause a scene at the mall.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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