Polar gets $6 million investment in MediaEverywhere

Polar Mobile Group Inc. yesterday announced a $6 million cash infusion from investors into MediaEverywhere, a new product the company says will “transform the media industry.”

Aimed at helping media companies distribute content and monetize it based on user analytics, Polar says the investment by Toronto’s Georgian Partners and the Ontario Venture Capital Fund comes on top of more than $3 million from private investors. The new platform will build on previous Polar Mobile technology and shift the focus towards the desktop, says Polar Mobile CEO Kunal Gupta.

“It’s the next version of our SMART platform,” he says. “The SMART platform today is very much focused on smart phones and tablets. For MediaEverywhere, it will go onto more screens, the desktop being the main one, and then other screens beyond that. That’s the big addition.”

Another key element in MediaEverywhere is its ability to pave the way towards traffic monetization, Gupta adds. “Using data and analytics we’ll start to understand user behaviour, we’ll start to understand a user’s likes, interests and wants, and then use that intelligence to give them a seamless and personalized experience, and then use that intelligence to help the media companies better monetize that traffic.”

This “seamless and personalized experience” across devices, he says, is something lacking in today’s market. He uses the example of a newspaper to illustrate what it could look like. “I’m reading through the Globe and Mail, and I’ll start reading the Globe on my iPhone and then continue reading it on my iPad, and then finish reading it on my desktop.”

While HTML 5 is a big factor in powering this kind of cross-platform support, Gupta says development efforts at Polar take a broader perspective. “We have dealt [with] and will continue to use native languages from a development standpoint, and native features, where it makes sense. And then where we can use HTML 5 to bring consistency cross-screen, cross-platform, we’ll do that as well.”

Randy Hearn, a senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., says Web application developers would be wise not to focus all their efforts on HTML 5 just yet.

“There are a lot of people who are trying to kind of jump on the bandwagon right now, so it’s probably more hype driving a lot of stuff: ‘Hey, we do HTML 5, so we’re at the top of the pile.’ But I certainly, from a development point of view, wouldn’t put all my eggs in that basket, if only from the standpoint that there are far too many devices and browsers still out there in use that aren’t going to support it. And that’s the biggest problem.”

Hearn says the elegance of one solution that can be applied across many platforms certainly has its appeal. But he say companies should make business decisions with current market conditions foremost in mind.

“On the mobile side of things, a lot of people say they’re using HTML 5 so they can program once and not have to worry right across the board with all the different devices. That in itself is kind of a flawed statement. I mean, that’s the intent. But it’s not reality today.”

From a marketing perspective, HTML 5 can be dicey because many people are still using Internet Explorer browsers that don’t support it, he says. Plus, the potential for over-enthusiastic IT managers to push their development teams towards it prematurely could lead to problems.

“It’s a touch slog for anybody, any business anyway, wanting to go that route. Not to mention, again from a management and development point of view I certainly wouldn’t say to my development team, ‘Oh, you have to write everything in HTML5 now.’ That’s really tying their hands.”

Hearn says HTML 5 has become an industry buzzword whose very mention resonates with companies, whether or not they fully understand the technology. Many have the uncomfortable sense they’re being left out of something.

“It’s like the cloud, right? I mean, everybody’s going to the cloud. Really? If you listen to all of the hype you’d think that everybody was already there. Businesses that want to stay on top of the wave, they’re going to jump on that to be a part of what everybody else is talking about.”

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