Mippin Brings the Web to Mobiles

Mippin (formerly Refresh Mobile), whose browser-based site presents content specially designed for mobile consumption, says it has named a new CEO and reached a milestone of 500,000 users. But I question its ability to survive.

The London-based startup’s service also learns what users like and recommends stories based on their previous interests. I call it a mobile portal analogous to Yahoo, MSN, Netvibes or PageFlakes, but Judy Gibbons, the new CEO, has a different definition. She says it’s a mobile media services company, in that it optimizes PC content for consumption on a mobile device. “We believe there is only one Internet – there is not a separate mobile one,” Gibbons told me via email. “But mobile presents different challenges and opportunities and there is real user value to having all this content in one place in the same consistent format with a great fast user experience.”

Whatever you call it, Mippin needs to gain wide adoption in a crowded area to support its advertising-based revenue model. The market includes efforts by Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, and according to ad network AdMob — which does business with Mippin — the number of mobile portals is steadily rising (see graph). Obviously the mobile world cannot support 500 varying portals. Even in the PC web world, portals have problems.

Despite impressive growth from its October 2007 launch, averaging 110 page views per user and advertising click-through rates of 3 percent and 15 percent for contextual ads, (way better than the .5 percent rates on other mobile sites), I’m not sure Mippin will deliver the audience advertisers need given the amount of competition fighting for consumers’ eyes. It’s a nice service, but unfortunately that doesn’t always win out.