From the January 2010 issue of Entrepreneur

As newspapers decline and TV audiences erode, more advertisers are turning to mobile phones as a marketing medium. According to Nielsen, there are now 63 million mobile web users in the U.S. alone, and media investment management firm Group M forecasts that global mobile advertising will climb 19 percent, to $3.3 billion, in 2010.

While big companies continue to dominate advertising on the mobile channel, more small businesses are now seizing the opportunity. Shooger, a startup based in Coral Gables, Fla., hopes to help them do it.

Shooger, which connects local businesses with customers in real time via the mobile web, text messaging or iPhone application, contends that its platform can help businesses of any size and budget exploit the mobile platform. "We can help anybody looking to sell goods or services who wants to bring some kind of value to the consumer," says Shooger co-founder and chief marketing officer Matt Myers.

Shooger's service is free to consumers, who opt in to receive discounts and special offers. Advertisers are given a user account to create and track promotions online as well as a personalized SMS short code to share with their customers. There's no setup fee for advertisers, but they pay Shooger 50 cents per month for each customer who responds to an offer. Advertisers can establish monthly caps to make sure they don't exceed their intended spending limits.

"Consumers are in control--they have to raise their hands to ask for deals," Myers says. "Businesses don't have to think differently from the way they do today. If they have a coupon they already send out, they can incorporate it into Shooger and provide customers even more choices."

Paran Johar, chief marketing officer of mobile advertising solutions provider Jumptap, says mobile advertising is particularly well matched to small-business verticals such as financing and debt-consolida- tion firms, and quick-service restaurants.

"The mobile advertising space is very similar to the PC side of things. Big brands are jumping in first, followed by the long tail," Johar says. "But it's happening at an accelerated rate in mobile. Most small and medium-size businesses have embraced PCs, and the mobile Internet is an extension of a medium they understand. As smartphones and iPhones continue to become available to the masses, mobile web access becomes like cable or Wi-Fi--everyone has it. Small businesses understand that opportunity."