Tesco Mobile to pay users to view ads
TESCO Mobile have launched a service offering certain customers £3 off their monthly bill for agreeing to view adverts, offers and content.
Users must view at least one advert, offer or piece of content every day for at least 21 days a month to qualify for the discount.
The scheme comes as another mobile provider, Three, prepare to run a 24-hour ad blocking trial across their entire network - and despite research suggesting that even were we to be paid for it, we simply don't want to see any more ads.
Xtras will be available to all pay monthly and SIM-only Tesco Mobile customers who have the right kind of handset - which at the moment is limited to smartphones running Android 4.0 or above.
Tesco say Xtras will eventually become available to customers with Windows phones - but iPhone users will miss out because the technology isn't compatible.
Users are meant to be shown an advert, offer, or some kind of content every few times they unlock their phone - although it shouldn't intrude when we're answering the phone or making an emergency call.
However, early feedback suggest that some users are being hit by content every time they unlock their handsets, or aren't seeing the content until some seconds later - at which point it 's far more intrusive than intended.
Tesco also admit that they're working on a fix to stop it interfering with the alarm clock function on some devices.
Given these issues, and the fact that customers stand to benefit by an average of less than 10p per day, some of those who've already downloaded the app are questioning how worthwhile it is.
Resistance is futile
The company behind the Xtras app, Unlockd, started out in Australia and have successfully run similar schemes both there and in the US.
That's despite an increasing resistance to adverts online and on our mobiles: research from KPMG suggests that 29% of us have used an ad-blocker on either our computer or mobile device in the past month, and 43% of us intend to in the next six months.
More worryingly for the likes of Unlockd, KPMG found that when given the option of being paid to view 50% more adverts while online, 65% of us said we wouldn't agree.
Further research from Ipsos Mori goes some way to explaining why, even when we don't use ad-blockers, so many of us remain hostile to seeing any more adverts than we have to.
Almost seven out of 10 people (69%) simply find them annoying; 57% of us say they get in the way of what we're trying to do, with full screen pop-ups and ads placed in the centre of the page particularly frustrating to many users.
More than half of those who said they used an ad-blocker - 56% - said they did so because the ads they were shown simply weren't relevant to them.
This last reason is one of the factors behind Three's decision to look into introducing network-wide ad-filtering.
Both they and KPMG have suggested that when ads improve - becoming, as KPMG's David Elms says, "more sophisticated, less intrusive and even more targeted" - ad-blocking will become less of an issue.
Unlockd are clearly making an effort to provide this kind of sophisticated advertising - but the apps they provide, like Xtras, also rely on a combination of other factors to attract and retain users.
Obviously we can expect its users to be among the 35% of us who aren't averse to being paid to see yet more adverts - but then the content also needs to find the balance between being attractive enough that we'll engage with it, and not getting in our way.
Early niggles aside, the app is designed to fit into the device unlocking process - so if we're not interested in what we're shown, the unlocking process should by lengthened by just one tap.
If we do like what we see - which may also include news stories from The Sun or The Times - we can choose whether to save it to look at later or click through there and then to see more.
It'd be interesting to know how often users do engage with the content, as while Tesco Mobile give Xtras users another 200MB of data per month to view those initial offers, clicking through will use extra data.
Depending on how often users engage with the content they're shown, and how data-heavy the pages are that they click through to, users may end up going over that allowance and effectively paying to view extra content via the dent it makes in their monthly bundle.
At least Tesco say that when Xtras users are abroad - whether they're in one of the countries covered by Tesco Mobile's free summer roaming promise or not - the app will only work if they have a wi-fi connection.
Our other data
As Xtras is essentially a mobile advertising platform, it's not only the potential impact on our mobile data that we should keep an eye on, but our personal data too.
The details of Tesco's partnership with Unlockd mean that not even the supermarket giant can gain access to any of the data in our Xtras profile - which we can delete at any time if we wish.
Ignoring that for the moment, those who try Xtras and decide it's not for them have two choices. If they just want a break, they can simply delete the app.
If they want out for good, however, they'll need to clear all the information on the app before deleting it - or contact Unlockd to ask for their account to be deactivated and deleted.
In the end it's up to Tesco Mobile's users whether they can live with being paid to have adverts flash up on their screens when they go to use their phones - but at least they should be able to opt out with minimal fuss.
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