Taboola, the force behind all those “recommended” – i.e. sponsored stories – at many major websites, is now populating mobile devices, not just PCs. Helping bring those stories to its customers is Raleigh-based StepLeader.

On Thursday, Taboola and StepLeader announced the deployment of the first mobile app – or “application program interface” – that takes Taboola mobile.

The firms want to capitalize on growing advertising spending for mobile sites.

Research firm eMarketer, for example, expects spending on mobile advertisements to hit nearly $9.6 billion in the U.S. this year, up from $4.4 billion in 2012 and from less than $1.6 billion in 2011. The new data was released Thursday.

Mobile ads represent nearly 23 percent of the money spent on digital advertising, or ads people see on their computers, tablets and mobile phones. That’s up from about 12 percent last year and less than 5 percent in 2011.

Facebook, which began showing mobile ads in 2012 and Google, which has by far the biggest share of the digital advertising market, account for much of this growth.

eMarketer expects Facebook to surpass Microsoft and Yahoo when it comes to digital ad revenue this year, behind only Google, The Associated Press reports. 

Fast Results

“In early trials, the API has proven immensely successful in getting fat-fingered mobile users to click on sponsored results,” popular news website TechCrunch reports.

“As part of a partnership with mobile app developer StepLeader, Taboola was built into mobile apps for companies like Fox Television Stations, Capitol Broadcasting Company, ComCorp USA, Cowles California Media, News-Press Gazette, Midwest Television and Titan TV Broadcast Group.”

“The result? More people clicking through to more pieces of content. According to Taboola, its CPMs were over 200 percent higher than typical mobile banners, and click-through rates were 400 percent higher.”

Matthew Davis, who handles media relations and marketing for StepLeader, points out that the app operates on both Apple iOS and Android “anywhere in the world.”

“They provide sponsored stories, which now appear at the end of the stories within our apps,” Davis wrote in a blog. “Even just a week after launch, the results have been fantastic, eclipsing the standard banner CPM [cost per thousand] by as much as 620% and the banner click-through rate by over 800%.

“That’s pretty freaking awesome.”

The End Game

The two firms want mobile users to quickly and easily navigate to “recommendations,” thus producing clicks and revenue..

“Mobile accounts for 12% of consumer time spent with media, but only 3% of U.S. ad spend,” Davis notes in his blog. “Since mobile is the only media distribution channel that is growing, that pressure ratchets up a few notches.”

[Editor’s note: Capitol Broadcasting, the parent company of WRALTechWire, is an investor in StepLeader.]