Banners coming soon to a Verizon mobile near you

Starting next year, Verizon Wireless will be allowing placement of banner ads on its news, weather, sports and other information sites viewed on its mobiles, according the New York Times.

With space for sale in nearly all forms of digital entertainment, Verizon looks to capitalize on advertisers looking for the next frontier. Verizon acknowledges that selling ad space can be an additional source of revenue for the company, but is approaching the idea of ads with much caution.

“We know we can make significant dollars in mobile Web advertising in 2007,” said John Harrobin, vice president of marketing and digital media for Verizon Wireless. “That said, we likely will not — we want to take it carefully and methodically, and enable the right experience.” More generally, he added, “Mobile advertising is going to take off in 2007.”

Verizon is not the first U.S. carrier to allow advertisements on its handsets. Sprint was the first to launch advertising on its content starting October. As per numbers from Ovum Research, advertisers in 2005 spent $45 million on mobile ads, but that number is expected to more than double this year. Advertising spending will reach a projected $1.3 billion by 2010.

Verizon could be looking to the Internet for an example of which types of advertising are well accepted by users. Harrobin said that during consumer trials, users seemed to accept a single banner ad. “What we don’t want to do is repeat the mistakes of the Internet — spam, interstitials, pop-ups,” Mr. Harrobin said.

Advancements of handsets with higher-resolution displays and faster network technologies, such as EVDO and 3G, will enable richer Web browsing capabilities. Advertisers are likely noticing that new handsets are capable of delivering their message better than ever.

While users may soon have to live with ads taking up real estate on their small mobile screens, perhaps advertisers may usher in a model for ads-supported, subsidized services in exchange for free calls and data.

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