Archive for June, 2009


By Clifford Chew, Vice President (Engineering)

Developers of mobile applications face two big problems:

1. Unless you move to a planet with a much slower rotation than our own, there’s simply not enough time in the day to develop an application that works on all mobile platforms.

2. Setting up an ice-cream stall outside my daughter’s school is likely to be more profitable than selling applications in a mobile app store.

In this week’s blog entry, I’d like to take a closer look at these two issues and share with you BuzzCity’s approach to tackling them. Let’s start with platforms . . . .
Apple, Blackberry, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Palm . . . since the days of mobile gaming, mobile developers have struggled with different OS versions, screen dimensions and feature sets. Developers who wish to achieve cross-platform presence have to contend with severe device fragmentation and variations even within the same operating system. Symbian, for example, is found on over 200 handset models, but the feature set and display characteristics are different on just about everyone.

Apple has introduced some sanity — at least for the developers of the 50,000 plus applications sold in the Apple App Store – by tightly controlling and unifying its hardware and software. Apple has overtaken Microsoft as the No. 3 smartphone OS vendor, according to a Q1 ’09 Gartner report. But Symbian and Blackberry OS still have a combined market share of 69.2% versus Apple’s 10.8%.

Focus only on iPhones and you’re ignoring 90% of the market.

Yet the preferred business model of many developers appears to be selling their applications in mobile app stores – and Apple’s App Store, in particular.

This is the question that mobile app developers should be asking themselves. Some coders hit it big, rising to the top of the Mobile App sales charts. But these stories, while widely repeated, are unfortunately few and far between.

Developer Rick Strom recently documented his experience selling applications for iPhones. He’s placed some twenty applications in the Apple App Store and two are on the best-selling list: “Zen Jar” (ranked #34 and selling at 99 US cents) and “Spirit Board”(#95, also at 99 cents). Both applications also have free versions that are ranked in the top 100.

“With two apps on the paid charts, one would assume I’m rolling in dough,” writes Strom. “The reality is much more startling.”

The paid versions are downloaded 2.5% as frequently as the free ones. Strom explains that he sells about 30-35 units of the social networking application “Zen Jar” every day. At 99 US cents per sale, he nets about US$20 per day after Apple takes its cut. “Spirit Board” is making just US$4 per day with less than ten daily downloads.

As Strom rightly points out, if he’s making less than US$25 per day with two paid applications ranked in the top 100, how much revenue do you think the other 50,000 applications are generating?

Some developers meanwhile attempt to milk a single application by making small feature changes and then re-releasing it as a new version or even a “new” application. But they still can’t be making much. So given the dismal revenue figures and the challenge of programming for multiple mobile platforms, you can start to sense the degree of developer frustration.

Some developers overcome the diversification problem by developing features that work in a mobile browser without requiring an application download. Of course, now, you need to decide whether to target a WAP, XHTML or full HTML browser.

The majority of our users are using built-in mobile internet browsers on Symbian handsets. About 40% are on the Nokia Series 40 platform; over 30% use the Series 60 platform. A growing number of myGamma users are also upgrading to handsets that support at least XHTML, which offers a better browsing experience. Two of my favorite mobile browsers are the Opera Mini and Apple Safari, both of which are pushing the envelope on the mobile browsing experience.

Oh, and here’s a tip: it looks like most web-based apps written for a Nokia-browser will also work nicely on an Apple iPhone (that’s why it is a called a web-browser.)

While not every developer will get rich quick, BuzzCity has a couple solutions to help coders targeting the mobile internet get a return on their hard work:

1. Use the BuzzCity Merchant platform. Create in-game purchases and use our international mobile Credit Card or SMS and WAP billing networks to collect payments in over 85 countries.

2. Leverage on the BuzzCity Publisher platform to monetise your pageviews by selling advertisements – either on the mobile app’s homepage or inside the game itself. With 8.5 billion paid banners in the first quarter of 2009, we are the industry-leading global mobile ad network.

With the recent launch of the myGamma Developer Platform, we’ve opened up the myGamma backend with a really easy-to-use write-once deploy-anywhere API that we hope will lead to the creation of even more entertainment options for our users. We certainly welcome developers to take it for a test drive.

Our technology makes light work of the previously-described mobile platform and browser issues by auto-configuring each application to work on every handset. We do this without requiring developers to write any additional code. Here’s a picture of some of the mobile makes that myGamma users use every day (though far from an exhaustive list):

The only downside to our approach is that applications are only accessible to myGamma members. But that’s no small thing — myGamma currently has 3.5 million users in 86 countries and we average four million pageviews a day.

At the moment, all applications in myGamma are available free of charge. However developers can tier their applications to charge for premium features. For example, they can require gamers to pay Gamma Dollars to access higher levels of the game. They can also use the BuzzCity Merchant and Publisher platforms to sell virtual items and advertisements, as described above.

I think most mobile coders create new applications simply because they love doing it. But developers also need to make a living and I sincerely hope that the myGamma Developer Platform will make their lives easier and more profitable!

Categories: Clifford Chew


by Michael de Souza, Executive Producer, South Africa

As a native South African – and someone who has spent the last 8 years working in marketing here – I’ve seen a dramatic transformation in how people communicate and access information.  South Africa has one of the world’s highest rates of mobile internet penetration and I believe that the lessons from my homeland can guide marketers worldwide.

The cellphone has become ubiquitous in South Africa. From affluent urban shopping malls to poverty-stricken rural communities where they are often the sole means of communication, you’ll find mobile phones in every nook and cranny of the country. A few statistics: 

  • South Africa has a population of 50 million people
  • But of these 50 million, 10 million are under the age of nine.
  • There are over 30 million active cellphone lines in the country. That’s 75 percent of all South Africans, aged 10 or older.
  • More than 10 million people – one-third of all active cellphone users – connect regularly to the mobile internet.

Seventy percent of South Africans meanwhile do not have access to fixed-line internet connections. Among the remaining thirty percent, for many, the only fixed line connection is at work – in an environment that restricts social networking and personal browsing. As a result, the mobile phone has become a primary means of connecting to the internet for most South Africans.

The first lesson to draw from this – I tell my clients – is that mobile advertising must not be seen as a simple extension of fixed-line PC internet campaigns. Mobile is not only a different medium – you’re reaching a different audience.

The second lesson is that mobile marketing is not a mass-market tool. Don’t be fooled by the numbers. There’s a lot of inaccurate thinking about this in the advertising and marketing industries. I’ve spoken to advertisers, planners and strategists who believe mobile marketing is only useful if you want to reach a large, undifferentiated mass of people, for example to sell broad-based consumer products like Coca-Cola, toothpaste or washing powder.

Mobile does indeed have a staggering reach and SMS, for instance, allows you to send a message to any individual with a cellphone (assuming, of course, you have permission to communicate). But mobile marketing should not be thought of as a single, undifferentiated channel. Instead, the mobile internet enables brands to reach increasingly sophisticated, smaller and more focused segments. You can think of each segment as a medium in its own right – with its own set of users, its own demographics, and its own opportunities for carrying marketing messages. There are more channels than you might think. Just consider the following communities:

  • music and video sharing
  • mobile gaming
  • social networks like myGamma
  • mobile internet channels (sports, entertainment, news, etc.)
  • and the staggering number of South Africans who use Java-based instant messaging applications like MXit .

Each community is composed of economically active, tech-savvy people with different preferences and interests. Just as you might consider a TV or radio channel in your media mix, it’s important to consider each of these mobile mediums on their own merit. When selecting the right mobile channel for your campaign, think about the basics and go back to your marketing objectives. Are you targeting . . .

  • simple brand exposure
  •  user engagement
  • adding users to your database
  •  making a sale?

Now, you’re ready to choose your mobile internet network provider. The Gamma Life blog contains a number of anecdotes detailing the advantages of using BuzzCity. I’d like to leave you with three more:

  •  Take mobile users from your ad directly to your mobi site. (Don’t have a mobi site, no worries, use our landing page .)
  •  Track the results of your campaign quantitatively (clicks, impressions served) and qualitatively (who responds to your ads).
  • Adjust your campaign in real time to optimise performance based on the latest campaign data.

For more detailed information about who is engaging (by age, gender, and location) as well as the devices being used to connect to the mobile internet, check out the country-specific pages of BuzzCity’s newly launched “Campaign Planner” or our survey report “Who Uses the Mobile Internet? And what do they do?” For information on the growth in number of banners served, refer to the latest BuzzCity Mobile Advertising Index .

Photo Credit: Bazil Raubach

Categories: Uncategorized


By Wandrille Pruvot, Regional Director, Europe
IMAGINE for a moment that you are travelling to a new place. You’ve just arrived and you know nothing about it.

You subscribe to a mobile service that’s like a travel guide. It provides information about historical facts, places to see, things to do, good restaurants, maps, safety tips and more – all tailored to meet your personal interests.Even better, take a photo of a nearby building, submit via your phone and the application knows exactly where you are, so it can target the information you desire even better.

This is one of the not-so-far-off scenarios that we considered at a recent workshop in Spain sponsored by the European Union.

Think for a moment about the information you are providing this mobile travel guide company. First, there’s your personal data and preferences. Many of us are already accustomed to sharing this information with service providers, such as the applications and games companies that inhabit Facebook and other social networking sites like myGamma. But in the example above, you’re going a step farther. You’re also sharing your exact location.

How can the mobile service provider use your data? Can they extrapolate information to send you targeted ads? Can they share the information with other companies or people? Should you even care that the information is no longer private?

The internet is loosely regulated; mobile carriers are tightly regulated. In many countries, you can’t get a mobile number – not even a pre-paid card – without providing identification. So what happens at the intersection of mobile and the internet? Should applications be subject to public guidelines or laws?

Let’s take a look at a couple more examples.

IMAGINE that you subscribe to a mobile health and fitness service. When you exercise you place your phone on your arm and it monitors your vital signs – heart beat, sugar level, etc. The device advises you how fast to run, based on your fitness goals and health signature. At the end of your workout, it offers nutritional advice (for example, “You just ran 10km. Time to drink 1 liter of water and eat an orange.”). During the workout, if the device detects a health problem – let’s say that you unexpectedly faint from heat exhaustion – it automatically calls for an ambulance.

In this instance, you are sharing one of the most sensitive types of information – medical data – with the service provider. In many countries, medical information is absolutely confidential. Only you and your doctor know what’s in your file and even your spouse can not access it without permission. But in this case, the mobile application provider might want to sell your information to manufacturers of health or sports goods, so that they can target their products to you. By subscribing to the service, you are giving the company permission to access your data. Should they be allowed to use it for resale or to target ads?

OR IMAGINE that you subscribe to a networking service, one which lets you know which of your friends or colleagues are nearby. Could be great in a crowded bar or possibly for meeting online friends in real life. But what if the service provider notices that you and another friend are always at the same location every Friday at 10pm. Are you members of a club? Or perhaps you’re having an affair? And what about teenagers and children who may not realise what is and is not safe to share (or who to share with)?

Actually, young people, specifically those under 20, appear to care less about privacy than others.

Online privacy? For young people, that’s old-school,” exclaims USA Today technology writer Janet Kornblum. Twenty percent of teenage internet users have exchanged naked pictures of themselves. The figure rises to 33% for young adults aged 20 – 26.

However as we get older, such transparency can come back to bite you. Just look at the examples of young adults who have been fired – or not hired – because of a personal online posting.

Back at the EU workshop in Spain, as we debated the privacy implications of these and other scenarios, a consensus emerged. Simply requiring mobile application users to accept a Terms & Conditions agreement before using a service doesn’t cut it. Some regulation is needed to safeguard individual privacy. In fact, we believe a public body should be created to manage user data.

Take a look, for example, at how credit card information is managed online. When consumers make an online purchase, usually, they are not actually giving the merchant their credit card number. The information is provided to a bank – or service like PayPal – which verifies the card and then informs the merchant that the payment has been processed. The merchant does not actually see your credit card information.

Similarly, personal data needed to run online applications could be managed in this manner. Consumers would enter their particulars on a public portal. Service providers would then access the data required to run applications from this public databank, but they would neither store nor own the information. Nor would they know WHO it belongs to — they would access the information via a user ID number, thus protecting a consumer’s privacy.

Should this third-party information be a government (or inter-governmental) body or should it be a private company? In essence, who do you trust more – Google or the government? A lot of people today would answer the former. But like my colleagues at the Spanish EU forum, I believe my personal data will be most secure with a non-commercial body taking charge.

Post-script. A note about BuzzCity and privacy. BuzzCity does not share personal data with advertisers aside from global reports aggregating information about age, gender and geography.

Categories: Uncategorized