The pioneer in the mobile ad networks space was Ad Mob, that really took off after its acquisition in 2009 by Google, Inc.
Over the years, some of the largest mobile ad networks were acquired by other major players in the field, like, for instance Flurry and Bright Roll by Yahoo, Mo Pub by Twitter, Millennial Media, by AOL and Live Rail by Facebook.
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The Mobile advertising industry landscape consists of two major parts – Supply, that is presented by publishers and a SSP (stands for Supply Side Platform) that aggregates mobile inventory of thousands of publishers and Demand, that is presented by a DSP (stands for Demand Side Platform) that allows advertisers to place mobile ads in publishers inventory.
A Mobile Ad Network function is to serve a middle point between these two ends of the value chain, moving inventory across both supply and demand, either directly or via reselling or rebroking of inventory.
It’s the best business model for publishers, because it allows to make money every time an ad was displayed.
If they have a stable predictable traffic, it allows publishers to forecast their revenue.
With CPC (cost-per-click) model an advertiser is charged for each click made on her or his mobile ads.
This model works better for advertisers, because it allows them to pay only for instances when an interest to their product or service is explicit (their ads were clicked) and, as mentioned above, in some cases may work for publishers as well.
For a publisher this model always presents a certain risk of him serving lots of ad impressions for free.
CPI (cost-per-instal) model implies that advertisers are charged only when a click on their ads resulted into an actual mobile app install.
With the number of mobile apps that continues to increase exponentially, mobile app advertising has a potential to replace mobile web ads completely.
Today all highest paying mobile ad networks are laser focused on mobile as the fastest growing digital advertising sector.
It’s a specific case of a more generic CPC business model.