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Archive for May, 2010

Good Pipe v. Bad Pipe

By Lai Kok Fung, BuzzCity CEO

Telecom carriers and some advertising companies are at it again. Instead of focusing on whether a carrier provides fast reliable high-quality connectivity, they’ve resurrected a false debate, posing the question “is a mobile carrier a ‘dumb’ or ‘smart’ pipe?” In the hope of securing an additional revenue stream, they make Orwellian promises of better user experiences, when in fact all they want to do is hijack a user’s mobile browser and insert ads where they shouldn’t appear.

The real focus shouldn’t be on “dumb v. smart” but rather whether a carrier is a good pipe or bad pipe.

Let me share with you an analogy.

Suppose the government wishes to privatise the postal delivery service and invites companies to place a bid for a three-year contract. How would it determine if the vendor would be a good provider?


Well, I suppose a good postal service is one that

  • charges reasonable postage rates and

  • delivers the post to the intended recipients on time, all the time.

Moving up the value chain, an extremely good service provider can provide differentiated services:

  • guaranteeing delivery within a certain time frame at affordable rates for standard parcels and

  • charging a premium to deliver faster, provide tracking services and notification of receipt for urgent items.

A bad postal service, on the other hand, misplaces your letters or delivers them late.

Now, suppose that the postal service

  • opens your letters and parcels en route

  • inserts leaflets and advertisements based on the content of these materials

  • and, on top of that, boasts that it’s a “smart” postal service because it is providing users with relevant content in addition to the letters that they were tasked with delivering.

As a consumer, how would you feel about this? How about as a government regulator? In many countries, this “value added service” would be illegal, not to mention unethical.

Now, let’s bring the analogy back to the delivery of mobile internet services.

A good pipe

  • provides a reasonable quality of service at a fair price, ie good connection speeds at rates consumers can afford

  • provides premium services (dedicated lines, faster connection speeds) for an additional fee.

Yet, some carriers in the name of being a ‘smart’ pipe act instead like the postal company that tampers with your mail. They intercept communications and interupt a mobile surfer’s online experience by breaking mobile web pages into two or three parts and inserting advertisements.

We call this “browser hijacking” and a number of communication platforms offer this functionality as part of a “holistic” solution to mobile carriers. For example:

  • Bytemobile – a company that provides mobile platforms to more than 100 telecom carriers – promotes a service “to drive advertising revenues from off-portal browsing traffic.” Translation: the service enables carriers to insert ads onto web pages that they do not own. Bytemobile goes on to say that the ads have high click-through rates because “they are tied to browsing context (site category, URL) and past browsing behavior.”

  • In a brochure called “A Win-Win-Win Solution for All Players”, Comverse says “off-portal interstitial” and “off-portal header/footer” should be part of a telecom operator’s advertising inventory.

  • Mobixell announced late last year that it had won a contract with a leading tier-one Asian operator. Mobixell’s ad solution enables operators to insert adverts into a variety of platforms, including off-deck mobile internet sites (again – pages published by someone other than the telecom company). It adds that ads can be location-based to create “immediate commercial opportunities.”

Consumer profiles and location information, used intelligently, enable advertisers to target relevant offers to consumers. Targeted advertising is an acceptable industry practice, as long as it is done in a manner consistent with consumer privacy protections.

However, interrupting a user’s browsing experience, manipulating browser settings and the displays seen by end-users, should not be tolerated. This practice is even more deplorable in the mobile world, where display screens are small.

Take a look. Here’s an image, captured by a user, of a normal mobile website:




And here’s what it looks like after it’s been hijacked by a carrier:



Two years ago, we reported that M1 in Singapore was practicing browser hijacking. Consumers were outraged and M1 quietly stopped doing it after a few months.

Some of the companies that offer this service have spoken to BuzzCity and offered to “white list” our sites, ie we would be placed on a short list of mobile internet sites that would not be affected by an operator’s ad insertions.

That’s not good enough.

Browser hijacking infringes on copyrights, violates user privacy and adds unnecessary data costs to a consumer’s bill.

Some telecom carriers argue that they “own” the pipe and should be able to do as they wish. But the truth is they have purchased a license to run a service. In any country, there are a limited number of licenses issued. The carriers build infrastructure and have a right to a return on their investment. But this return is supposed to come from data costs and voice calls. Telecom carriers must refrain from any practices that infringe on the rights of others and concentrate instead on providing quality transmission services at affordable rates.

Industry players meanwhile must now firmly state that browser hijacking is completely unacceptable.

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Categories: Lai Kok Fung

Commentary : Is Facebook Zero A Hero ?

Here at BuzzCity, we welcome the launch of Facebook Zero, a new lightweight mobile version tailored for international markets. Facebook has also signed deals with over 50 carriers to offer free access to the site, without any data fees.

Facebook Zero will best serve emerging markets best, where the mobile phone is the primary interface with the internet and handset penetration is extensive. 

Facebook’s move shows that the commercial potential of consumers in emerging markets is being taken seriously by established brands.

On the flip side however, we question whether this ‘scaled down’ version will be well-received. Consumers in emerging markets demand value for money, but they are not particularly interested in second rate products. To truly show a commitment to emerging markets, Facebook should design a feature-rich version that takes into account bandwidth and handset limitations. In addition, Facebook could go a step further and use its power to influence carriers to lower data access costs across the board. More realistic charges will create the shift in use that all parties are looking for.

Categories: Uncategorized

THE DJUZZ CATALOGUE

By Romulo “Je” Alipio, Executive Producer, Games

White Label (n):
1. Vinyl record with adhesive white label affixed, generally produced in small quantities during test pressings. NOT to be confused with the Beatles’ “White Album” or Johnny Walker’s Red, Green, Blue or Black Labels.
2. A product or service produced by one company then rebranded by another.
3. The Djuzz Catalogue by BuzzCity.

At BuzzCity, we’re committed to ensuring the widest possible distribution for the applications and games produced by our partners, which is why I’m really pleased to announce the launch of the Djuzz Catalogue . . . our white-label solution that quickly and easily enables any company to become an online provider of mobile games and applications.

Let me walk you through how it works, some of the reasons your company might like to do it and why we’re offering the service.

HOW IT WORKS
Regular readers of this blog know that Djuzz, which launched earlier this year, is a free-to-use mobile entertainment portal offering more than 2500 games and applications. Djuzz functions on most platforms including Android, Blackberry, Java, Symbian and WinMo.

Step 1. Go to http://www.buzzcity.com to register for the Djuzz Catalogue

Step 2. Customise your site. Choose your colours, add logos, even upload your own content if you’d like.

Step 3. Publish it.

Djuzz Catalogue partners have access to the entire library of content. Use our CMS to select the content that you wish to offer and where you want it published. Choose everything or just those games and categories that best match your image or business model. (The default setting is for the entire library to be included and published globally.)

Here are a couple examples of partner sites:

The whole process shouldn’t take you more than an hour. BuzzCity hosts all the content. No integration is needed. We handle the backend management, content aggregation and site management. Of course, we also offer access to real-time comprehensive reports that will help you manage your business and understand your customers better.

WHY DO IT?
1. It’s free.

2. Generate a new revenue stream. All of the games offered on Djuzz are free-to-download for consumers (though there are options to purchase premium content). The revenue on Djuzz comes from the banner ads that appear on the portal. Djuzz Catalogue partners keep 65% of all ad revenue from their site (the same cut received by mobile content publishers.)

3. Marketing. With a limited mobile budget, a great way to spark interest from consumers is to provide free games and applications. Setting up a games portal will complement your ads campaign. The Djuzz Catalogue offers geo-targeting at the country and continental levels. Partners also have complete control over the ads that appear on their site. You can even choose to only serve your own ads (in which case you’re both an advertiser and publisher . . . purchasing ad space with one budget line, but receiving revenue from those ads on another.)

4. Mobile gaming is cool . . . . and now you don’t have to be a content player to join the game. Djuzz has lots of branded content — Iron Man 2, God of War 3 and Bioshock are just a few current examples – and we support about 95% of the phones on the market. Our robust device detection system serves only the right content to each phone. Your clients and partners will love it.

Here’s a look at the partner interface (which is still subject to improvements).  Note the ability to zero down on the desired countries and content:

WHAT’S BUZZCITY’S ANGLE?<
Our business model is ad-driven. Ads are supported by viewers. And viewers want content. In fact, at BuzzCity, we understand that consumers have a huge appetite for mobile content. And we can’t meet it all on our own. Some sites will be customised for sports enthusiasts; others will be action-oriented. Some will target gamers in Europe; others . . . well, you get the idea. We’re committed to ensuring the best distribution possible for Djuzz games.

Pre-launch, the Djuzz Catalogue already has a dozen partners. It’s a diverse lot. WAPsite operators in Australia, Bangladesh and Singapore; content players in the Middle East and South Africa; an Indian telco and an Italian gaming company. In the near future, I expect some major retail brands to sign up as well.

In fact, if there wasn’t a conflict of interest, I’d think of starting my own games portal too!

To learn more about the Djuzz Catalogue, take a look at this Fact Sheet.

Commentary: Mobile Gaming Consumption Trends

There was an interesting article from Mobile Insider posted on the 15 April 2010 analysing comScore data. The data looks at mobile gaming trends between February 2009 and February 2010. BuzzCity’s mobile gaming platform Djuzz also allows us to constantly monitor trends in gaming and handset preference so it was interesting to compare results.

We agree with the comScore data when it comes to feature phones enjoying the lion’s share of mobile gaming and application usage. Our data shows that Nokia and Samsung phones – specifically those that are three to four years old – are particularly popular with mobile gamers.

Both comScore and the Djuzz analytics have found that arcade and puzzle games are most popular and we have also looked at why. Arcade and puzzle games are both easy to pick up, require no gaming commitment and can be played on the move with one thumb, making them easy to enjoy on a mobile device.

The one statement that we do disagree with is “gaming on feature phones is plummeting because the gaming experience is ‘limited and inferior’”. Djuzz has seen a 53% increase in unique monthly visitors (795k to 1.2m) and an 86% increase in downloads (400k to 750k). The mobile gaming experience is casual and intended for ‘bite-sized’ consumption so long-term play and a premium visual / audio experience is not required. This is why arcade and puzzle games are so popular – snacking on stimulating games on the mobile fulfills one need and feasting on PC or console-based games fulfills another.

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