Blog Post

The Mobile Lowdown 04-20-11: Groupon; News.me; Digital Chocolate/Appitalism

Our look at some of the big stories in mobile today: Check-in service Whrrl to shut down as part of Groupon’s acquisition of Pelago; News.me gears up for launch; Digital Chocolate signs a distribution deal with Appitalism.

Groupon/Pelago/Whrrl: Some have speculated that local deals and check-in services are due to become ever-more convergent, and with products like Facebook Places and Deals, this seems to be the case. But there are also some striking examples that indicate that even if this might be the ultimate direction, it won’t be reached on smooth and straight road.

Local deals giant Groupon, which acquired the mobile application developers Pelago this week for an undisclosed sum, will be closing down Pelago’s mobile check-in service, Whrrl, at the end of this month.

This may not be the final chapter for Whrrl services, though.

The CEO of Pelago, Jeff Holden, who is joining Groupon to head up product development, notes in a blog post: “You would be right to expect that the ideas underpinning Whrrl and many of the inventions contained within may reemerge under the Groupon banner.”

Indeed Groupon has been putting a stronger emphasis on its mobile growth, both in terms of hiring new executives, and with the increasing amount of mobile app makers that use the Groupon APIs to incorporate those deals into their own services.

Holden notes that Whrrl had “hundreds of thousands” of users — not much of dent in terms of customer acquisition. Those users will be able to retrieve their data directly from the Whrrl web site.

Digital Chocolate/Appitalism: The games developer Digital Chocolate is making further inroads into getting its content used by the app-generation: the company has inked a marketing deal with another app portal, Appitalism, to distribute its social games for Android, BlackBerry, Java, and PC platforms.

Titles include Rollercoaster Rush, Crazy Penguin Catapult and Tower Bloxx Deluxe. Appitalism’s app store has localised access in 50 different countries, with corresponding local currencies, and claims already have “ten million” pieces of content available. That includes not just apps but a vast amount of basic mobile content such as ringtones.

The Digital Chocolate and Applitalism deal is part of a bigger picture on app content and discoverability. The explosion of app content is also leading to a steep rise in companies that are trying to aggregate that content in ways that speak to what users actually want to find. The combination of these two trends will mean a lot more cross marketing deals — and at some point a stock-taking to see how many of them are actually working to connect users. It is also a sign of how content is moving further out from basic, native app stores.

News.me: Still no sign of the actual launch of this Bit.ly-owned news aggregation app for the iPad, but AllThingsD found some of the details about pricing ($0.99 per week) and how it will work (using Twitter as a starting point) on a FAQ page on the new News.me web site.

The service has been endorsed by a number of leading publishers, including the New York Times (NYSE: NYT) (which created part of the code behind the service and then sold it to Bit.ly), Associated Press, Forbes and AOL.