Skype Looks to Pad Revenue with Display Ads

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As Skype prepares for its IPO, the company is developing out its revenue streams by layering in display ads today. The update isn’t a surprising one, but everything web-related is so heavily draped in ads that it hadn’t fully dawned on me how much Skype’s been missing out on an opportunity, especially since its VoIP and chat services were already littered with add-ons that cost $9.99 here, and another $4.99 there.

Throwing advertisements into the mix surely taps Skype’s millions of free-wheeling but readily active users–about 177 million of them. But Skype’s competition is getting steep, with a rising number of inclusive chat tools integrating with our social networks, professional services and mobile devices.

The inclusion of display advertising is the latest in a string of updates Skype has pushed forward these last few months, moving the company in the direction of an ad network.

In an Ad Age interview, Skype Chief Marketing Officer Doug Bewsher notes the benefits to brands, saying, “We think this is an interesting opportunity for advertisers. This is a premium placement to engage with our users.” Having already initiated a few points of interaction across Facebook, Android, iPhone and Windows Business, Skype’s new advertising scheme is a mere extension of its expansive outreach methodology.

To that end, Skype’s even teamed up with Meebo, which will represent Skype’s U.S. ad sales. The exclusive partnership will feature a high-impact display ad within the “Home” tab in Skype for Windows (version 5.1 and up).

Advertisers will get to select from a series of packages, some of which will amplify ad displays to the mobile front. “People are spending an enormous amount of time connecting and communicating across the Meebo and Skype platforms,” said Carter Brokaw, chief revenue officer at Meebo. “For advertisers looking for high engagement and time spent with heavy communicators on the web, the Meebo and Skype combination is a one-two punch.”

Between Skype’s ongoing expansion plan, goals for a public offering and existing applications in mobile and social arenas, Skype has a pretty clear opportunity to better establish its social presence. Meebo seems to be a well-planned partner, with its years of chat-driven advertising methods acting as social web experiments all their own. Meebo’s own evolution has garnered a great deal of insight when it comes to social advertising, and its recent acquisition of Mindset Media demonstrates the company’s efforts towards building its psychographic advertising capabilities. It’s a concept that can be applied to Skype’s efforts, as social mechanisms are inherent in this type of display ad structure.

The visual aspect of Skype’s services, which have increased around video chat activity, also lends itself to growing display ad efforts.  Last year’s acquisition of Qik proves Skype’s interest in the video chat sector, with users reportedly making 207 billion minutes of voice and video calls last year. Video calls accounted for nearly half of all Skype-to-Skype minutes in Q4 of 2010, marking a huge turning point for the company that was once considered an over-investment by former owner eBay.