Thursday, December 27, 2007

Social Networking : Learnings & Opportunities

That's the title of a talk I gave at Web Innovation 2007 on December 19,'07 at Bangalore. Some key themes from the talk :

1. Don't think the story is over with (the likes of) Facebook and Orkut. Facebook will not end up ruling the social networking world, nor will any one site.There is potential yet in this technology.Many specialized networks with varying applications will emerge.

2. Each one of us can profitably be a member of 7 different specialized social networks.

3. The key value addition that online social networks bring to the Internet landscape is the creation of trust capital. While connecting people around the world is now easy because of the Internet, the problem that had hitherto not been solved was getting people - who are online but who haver not seen or met each other - to actually trust one another enough. Trust is the #1 issue in scaling up on the Net i.e. getting people who are online to actually use and embrace the Net.

Innovation by the likes of Friendster and Facebook have together shown the way. Friendster showed how to use connect and add people who were separated by more than one degree of separation. Facebook has shown how to well use sophisticated & personalized privacy controls to create virtual walled gardens. Social networks are now a tool to accumulate trust online.

Here is the ppt of my talk. Read on !

Here (and here) is some news coverage of the event and my talk.

And here is my blog post on the proceedings at Web Innovation 2007. There were several other interesting talks, here is the complete agenda / list of speakers

If you have difficulty accessing the ppt of my talk, let me know and I will zip you a copy.

And, Happy New Year to you all!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Internet market surveys - more on social media & video

The online video & social media juggernauts keep moving on in the U.S. As I said in a previous post, these are the new online killer apps :

1. On Video :

Harris Interactive surveyed 2455 U.S. adults and found that over the last one year :

  • 65% had watched a video on You Tube - as compared to 42% in previous year.
  • Further, 42% said they visit You Tube frequently, as against 33% who said so in the previous year.
  • You Tube was also the most favoured video site , with the stated reason being that users found it to contain almost all videos.
  • However, as against 65% who used You Tube, as many as 43% had also watched videos on TV network website, 35% on news sites and 30% on search engines.

    And online viewers say they are more interested in full-length TV shows & movies and less in the amateur videos or video news that currently dominates video. Good omen here for the first movers .

    Her Royal Highness The Queen is now officially on You Tube. A watershed event of sorts. I still remember the interest the online coverage of Princess Diana's demise & funeral had aroused; it was a landmark in Net usage at that time (ten years ago), people the world over found it convenient to convey their condolences online.

2. On social media :
Pew Internet has come out with a report on teens & social media. Three salient findings :

  • There is an increase in content creation (64% of all teens between 12-17 as against 57% in 2004).
  • Girls continue to dominate most aspects such as blog creation and posting a photo or video online.
  • 28% of all teens are "super-communicators" and these are more likely to be older girls.

Not much buzz about video and social media in India yet. Yes, social networking much talked about but even this has yet to get the widespread usage. Orkut was only 5 million (and Facebook will be much less) when I last checked the site's stats.This in a market of 32 million active users a month.

There is indeed an opportunity to create an online video and an online social media market in India. More on this later.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Internet draws youth away from TV

That's the title of an article that appeared in The Hindustan Times dated Nov 17.They have quoted MediaScope, an annual media survey that is done in 11 West European countries for the European Interactive Advertising Association by market research agency Synovate.

Key trends from the survey :

1. Almost 6 out of 10 (169 million ) West Europeans now regularly access the Internet.
2. 8 out of 10 Internet users now use a broadband connection.
3. A user spends on an average about 12 hours a week online.
4. Among young people (16-24 year olds):
- For the first time, they are more likely to go online for most days of the week than turn on the television. 82% use Internet at least 5 days a week while only 77% use TV for the same period.
- Average use of Internet per week is 14.7 hours, or 10% than the average use of TV of 13.4 hours per week.
5. Internet consumption is fast increasing among all demographics, the +55 age group and women in particular.
6. 42% of all Internet users now use social networking, making it the third most important application after search (87%) and email (81%). Very interesting.
7. The number of people watching TV, film or video clips is only 30% of all users but has grown 150% since 2006. Another killer application here.
TV Advertising will move to video & rich media ads online big time, considering the 80% + broadband penetration.
8. Over a quarter (27%) of Internet users post on rating & review sites, a growth of 42% over previous year 2006. A similar number viz. 26% post on forums. Social media is big.
9. The most commonly visited sites (% of all Internet users who visit at least once a month) were:
News 65%, Local information (52%), Travel (51%) and Banking & Finance (50%).

The contrast with India is of course stark, one source for India data is the annual I-Cube study by IMRB. Here is the executive summary of their 2006 report.

More on trends of Internet usage in India and other countries in subsequent posts.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Indian Internet market : Hindu rate of growth Part I

I have just returned invigorated from the Bangalore summit Web Innovation 2007. Will soon update with notes of some sessions that I attended. Will also provide the presentation I made there on social networking.

Meanwhile, herein are my much delayed views on why India's Internet market has been growing slow and what can be done about the same.

The answer is in three parts :

I. Why is the Internet important
II. Why is the Internet user base not growing fast enough in India
III. What can be done to make the Internet base grow (this is the flip side of the question in II above)

This post is about item no. 1.

Why is the Internet important ?
(Don't laugh, there are several shades to this answer. The answer also has some bearing on questions II & III above).

1. Large numbers online (globally currently 1.25 billion are online via PCs alone).

2. Network effects : a potentially viral medium. You can make your idea or product travel through above large number of people faster than is possible through any other medium. Yes, you have to be smart about it.

3. Low cost of going online. And any one can be a publisher. Thus all in all a democratic medium. Gives every one of us access to information, various tools as well as a Voice.

4. Global Encyclopaedia, with well-regarded Big Brother (you know who, first two letters of name start with Go :-) manning the gates to this.

5. Easy Internet access across devices (beginning with mobile phones ) and in remote locations (probably via wireless technology) will boost usage,leading to a virtuous cycle of benefits.

6. Technologies getting popular currently e.g. VOIP, video, RIA etc. will provide many-fold benefits and growth in usage.
The best is yet to come e.g. Vincent Cerf believes that only 99% of the Internet applications have yet to be invented. A universal language translator, online, any one ?

7. New paradigms e.g. Web 2.0, 3.0, Semantic Web and the like makes the Internet grow through its own self-renewal.

8. Hypothesis : The more underpriveleged the Internet user, the greater benefit does the Internet possibly provide to him / her. This does needs an explanation :-)

When I worked at, we did much to understand Indian Internet users, including focus groups with consumers. And the sense I got then was that there is an even greater hunger among, say, young SEC B girls in small towns of U.P. to log on to the Internet than there is among upmarket metro users.

Education,jobs,travel,marriage, the Internet provides it all. The Internet is thus seen by underpriveleged as their passport to break out of immediate constraints of locality, gender and the like and partake of mainstream opportunities.

So the Internet is a tool to address social inequality concerns. And today income inequality in India is a more worrying issue than it is in any other large country. I was at a TIE Summit last week wherein C.K. Prahalad touched on this. He presented data on changes to India's Gini cooefficient ( a tool to measure disparity in incomes) over the years vias-a-vis comparable data for China and U.S. Income disparity is increasing faster here while at the same time our absolute i.e. average income levels are also much lower.

From the above, I would argue that in the long-term in India we have even "more" to gain from the use of the Internet than do China or the U.S.

9. Great impact possible in societal issues. The Net's impact will be even greater in non-business / non-profit concerns affecting us all. The new social media has a role here.More on this big statement in a subsequent post.

I was looking at a reason # 10 to create my own Ten Commandments, couldn't find one, and now will leave you, the esteemed reader of Marketer's Kaleidoscope to take a go :-)

Coming up : Parts II & III regarding "India's Internet market : Hindu rate of growth".

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A truly open cellular phone network ?

An interesting Op-Ed piece by Tim O'Reilly in the New York Times, that I first picked up in the editorial page in Deccan Herald newspaper (here and here respectively).

Some cataclysmic possibilities lie ahead in the cellular world.

Unlike Internet which is based on and which owes it's success to open standards (such as HTTP & HTML), the cellular world is one of carrier-centric closed networks.

Google threw a small stone in this tranquil pond a few weeks ago by announcing a few weeks ago the Open Handset Alliance.

Verizon (in the U.S.) is the first cellular carrier to announce that it will go "open" (towards year end). Which mean that it will allow any application and any device to connect with it. It will enable this by publishing technical standards which developers can then use to design products to interface with the Verizon Wireless network.

Tim O' Reilly (yeah the same guy behind the books and Silicon Valley conferences by the same name and the one who wrote the most quoted piece on Web 2.0) says it looks like Verizon is only opening up just a bit. To him really opening up is sharing up databases of calls made and the like.

In case the carriers don't move fast enough, Google & Co. could get there first. Then, history is witness as to what happen when networks open.

The other interesting move here is the one Nokia is making to go Internet with a vengeance (more on this later).