Money, Ads, and Maps: Is Mapvertising the Key to Monetizing Mashups?

As the various offerings by mapping API providers continue to mature, new opportunities have emerged for would-be advertisers and map mashup developers to tap into the ability to include advertising directly on a map. In addition to providing a wealth of information and spatial context, mapping APIs have the potential to serve as an additional venue for advertising.

Regardless of whether you support or oppose the use of ads on maps, it is valuable to understand some of the recent ways in which ads are likely to work their way onto an online map.

Last week, Chris Pendleton, Microsoft's Virtual Earth Tech Evangelist, outlined how advertisers can include 'highlighted' ads as part of query results on Virtual Earth.

In essence, highlighted ads are records contained within standard search results that include special formatting, branded icons, and graphics to make them stand out. What's so special about that: consider that a small change, even the use of a special icon, can significantly set an icon apart from the others.

Similar to highlighted ads on Virtual Earth, Google allows AdSense advertisers to include geo-enabled sponsored listings as part of search results on Google Maps. The listings also get a special icon (though it is still a generic, non-branded icon).

Google has reached out to its developer base by adding advertising functionality to its Maps API. As we have written before, Google Maps developers can include (and subsequently monetize) AdSense ads on any Google Maps mashup by using the GAdsManager class. This approach is actually more developer-focused, putting into play monetization for map mashup developers (and Google).

Described as a 'mapvertising' system, Lat49 (our Lat49 API profile) offers advertisers and publishers with a way to include ads (small banners and/or text) on any one of the major mapping APIs. Ads are geo-targeted (i.e., based on local/regional context) and Lat49 offers a variety of ad styles. MapQuest began to include Lat49 ads on a trial basis earlier this year.

According to our API dashboard, mapping APIs continue to dominate, with Google Maps, Virtual Earth, and Yahoo Maps collectively representing 54% of the mashups we have profiled. It will be interesting to see if these map mashups (as well as the mapping API providers) continue to expand the use of on-the-map advertisements, and how consumers will React if and once mapvertising becomes a mainstream practice.

Use the Map Mashup and API Dashboard to keep track of all our mapping related news, APIs, mashups, and code.

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