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Twitter Namo Buy Challenges Google and Facebook in Mobile App Ads

Stocks in this article: TWTR GOOG YELP PCLN

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Twitter's (TWTR) purchase of Namo Media may prove to be the bargain of the year.

Terms of the deal haven't been disclosed, but The Wall Street Journal cites an anonymous source saying it was worth less than $100 million, and TechCrunch reports its value is around $50 million.

So for a modest price Twitter gets a place at the biggest new revenue table in the online world, mobile apps, which also happens to be Google's (GOOG) biggest headache.

A recent study from eMarketer, reported in Advertising Age, tells the tale.

As users switch to mobile devices, they stop searching on browsers and start doing it inside apps. The shift is already underway and should continue to cut into desktop ad revenues.

The eMarketer study throws the mobile apps into a category called "other." This basically consists of a host of single-purpose apps such as the Yelp (YELP) restaurant app and Priceline's (PCLN) Kayak app. It's this shift in traffic that explains Facebook's (FB) decision to spend $19 billion to buy WhatsApp. Facebook is following traffic.

Yelp and Kayak are just examples, however. The traffic is going through hundreds of apps. And it's these owners of the small apps who are flocking to agencies such as Namo Media to seek "monetization."

The mobile threat to desktops is growing rapidly. According to eMarketer people already spend more than an hour more each day using digital media than watching TV, and mobile is driving the shift.

Flurry, which runs the AppCircle mobile ad network, estimates users now spend 86% of their mobile time inside apps and that this has been increasing.

Gaming apps are the big winners, but Facebook is now taking 17% of mobile users' time, which is why that stock has been on a roll lately. Still, Facebook is less the consolidator of the mobile app ad space than the leader in an increasingly fragmented field.

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