The firm has Toshiba and Sony among initial advertisers, MetroFi among initial operators: JiWire, with which I have a long-standing relationship, has extended its advertising sales from its own highly trafficked Web site--which features a worldwide hotspot directory and articles on using Wi-Fi and cell technology--to hotspot operators. JiWire has announced that nine operators will be part of the first rollout of their advertising service, although they only list MetroFi.
MetroFi is one of the three significant national metro-scale wireless infrastructure builders, the other two being MobilePro and EarthLink, judging by contracts signed or in process. Only MetroFi maintains that they can run networks profitably by offering free, advertising-supported accounts. EarthLink and MobilePro have specifically dismissed that possibility.
I tried to find other active hotspot-oriented advertising networks and came up empty. While there are firms that offer the technology to make hotspot advertising work--such as PerfTech, which counts ad serving technology (but not sales) among a variety of services they offer, and the equally diversified Front Porch--other companies handle the ad sales. And there are vertical-industry targeted ad networks that handle, for instance, car dealerships that have hotspots.
But JiWire's entry might provide validation for some of the model, not because JiWire is the be-all, end-all, but rather because JiWire has a relationship of some kind of virtually every hotspot operator in the world, and has three years' experience in selling advertisers and ad agencies on targeted ads on Wi-Fi topics. We'll see how it plays out.
I'm particularly interested in getting JiWire's rate card, so that we could know what rates they're charging--which could help prove or disprove MetroFi's long-term plan, too.
[Disclosure: I hold shares and options in JiWire, and have an ongoing editorial relationship with them. I have no obligation to write about the firm, nor to write positively about them.]