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AOL acquires cell phone ad firm

Time Warner company announces acquisition of Third Screen Media, considered a pioneer in the realm of mobile-device ad serving.

AOL on Tuesday said it has acquired mobile-advertising company Third Screen Media for an undisclosed sum. The firm, considered a pioneer in the nascent mobile-ad space, will remain headquartered in Boston and become part of the Internet ad subsidiary that the Time Warner unit acquired for $435 million in 2004.

Third Screen Media, which claims to run the nation's largest mobile-advertising network, is part of what is viewed as a growing trend toward offering ads on cell phones and other mobile devices--though many carriers have been moving cautiously on that front so far out of fear of annoying their customers. According to research firm eMarketer, the U.S. mobile-advertising industry is expected to balloon from $421 million in 2006 to $4.7 billion--and to $11.3 billion worldwide--by 2011. Earlier this month, Microsoft said it had agreed to buy European cell phone ad company ScreenTonic.