Vindigo Planning Paid Subscription Move

By Ryan Naraine

In a move that speaks volumes about the state of the wireless advertising industry, PDA-based city guide application Vindigo gave strong hints it plans to start charging an annual subscription fee for its service.

Vindigo, which takes a cut from advertising sold by third-party content providers, said the premium service would be jazzed up to include personalized features and other add-ons like book-marking and sorting.

Vindigo CEO Jason Devitt told atNewYork the paid subscription route was “just one of many” plans the company was considering. “It’s really premature to conclude that this is a decision we’ve already made. But, I can tell you we’re actively considering the introduction of a subscription service,” Devitt said.

While Vindigo makes the money from licensing the technology to businesses with mobile workforces, advertising revenue accounts for the bulk of its business model and the premium jump is most certainly a sign that the ad market recession has badly hurt the New York-based firm.

Vindigo users on the Microsoft PocketPC platform are already paying a $29.95 per year fee to use the service and Devitt said he was encouraged by the success in snagging paid subscribers.

The first sign the was mulling a pay-per-use model first surfaced when users of its free service were asked to complete a survey which strongly hinted that a Vindigo 2.0 version would be pay-per-use.

It said the existing free Vindigo service would be discontinued and replaced by a stripped-down ‘Vindigo Lite’ service, providing movie listings and the names and addresses of top restaurants.

To access the location-based service, users must pay an annual fee (not yet determined), the company said. “Just like the current service, Vindigo 2.0 will allow you to choose any location in the city, to find everything playing in the area, and to sort the results by name or ranking, as well as distance from you.”

It said the upgrade would also provide walking directions to a desired destination and allow subscribers to bookmark and sort favorite pages.

The company said the Vindigo 2.0 rollout would include listings and descriptions for every live music event, even solo shows in neighborhood bars. It would also add exhibition listings at museums and art galleries and provide help locating ATMs, gas stations and parking lots.

Vindigo said the all-encompassing city guide application would provide details maps for every city it services and ratings for restaurants and summaries of movie reviews.

Devitt said one million PDA-toting hipsters have either downloaded or beamed the Vindigo application.

He declined comment on a potential date for the product upgrade. “From time to time, we conduct consumer surveys to test various concepts. This is a test to find out whether people are prepared to pay.”

He said the company would maintain advertising as a big part of its revenue stream, pointing to deals with some of the biggest corporate advertisers.

“I’m extremely pleased with out ad sales last year. We did over seven figures from advertisers like American Express, Absolut Vodka, Mercedes, Lexus, Toyota and Diet Coke. So, for us, wireless advertising has been a great success there. The renewal rates (of our advertisers) has also very high,” Devitt added.

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