November 26, 2008


By Hisham Isa, Vice President (Marketing)

South Africa is a unique market, yet one that offers good lessons to mobile enthusiasts and advertising/marketing executives worldwide.

Less than fifteen years after the fall of apartheid, economic disparity in this country of nearly 50 million is acute.
First World and Third World economies live side by side. Yet while some workers from the townships and rural areas earn a living inside the wealthy enclaves, the rich and poor in South Africa are generally more separated and live more apart than in any other country I've visited.

November 07, 2008


By Lai Kok Fung, BuzzCity CEO

I have a confession to make. It won't come as much of a surprise, though, to my friends, family and colleagues:

I'm a Geek.

October 26, 2008


By Wandrille Pruvot, Regional Director, Europe

Every year – for at least five years now – advertising and new media executives have declared “THIS is the Year of the Mobile Internet!” and while the statement has been true in much of the world (you need only look at BuzzCity's remarkable success in places like Asia and Africa), it has not been the case so far in Europe.

Will 2009 finally be THE year?

We're seeing strong growth in the European mobile market. But unless we see some fundamental changes on the part of the telecom operators, I'm afraid Europeans will still have to wait before they can truly enjoy and benefit from the mobile revolution.

The first problem is too many telecom operators still make it difficult for consumers to explore the mobile internet. Instead of playing their role as a pipe, European telcos still try to keep eyeballs on their own portals.

In Germany, for example, almost no one goes off-portal. It's just too expensive. A story making the rounds in the European mobile industry is that a German guy gives his dad a new phone as a birthday present. He's showing him how to use all the functions. This is the directory, this is for sending messages, this is how you take a photo, etc. Then he comes to a button for the mobile internet and his voice sharpens a bit: “Dad, never ever touch this button,” he warns. “We can't afford it!”

Just to give you a basis for comparison, in Indonesia, the cost of mobile surfing is practically free. When prices dropped there, the number of page views went from zero to several million each month.

In Germany, Vodafone charges 20 cents per minute (12 euros per hour). O2 has a reasonable plan -- 8.5 euros per 200MB -- but they only target business users. And newspaper-turned-mobile provider Bild Mobile is now offering free surfing -- but only for their own portal, Bild Mobile charges 35 cents per MB (70 euros per 200MB, so much more than even O2) if you venture off their site.

The pricing model is clearer and more affordable in France and the UK. While Vodafone charges 12 euros per hour in Germany, pay just 50% more and you get unlimited on-portal surfing in the UK. Of course, most consumers would like to surf any site they like, not just a carrier's portal, but at 35 pounds a month (43 euros), this is still affordable.

Pricing in France is comparable to the UK. SFR charges 40 euros per month. There's even a Google search box on SFR's portal. But the French carrier places barriers in the way. Start a search and a message appears warning you are about to leave the site of the operator. It's like SFR is saying “Be very very careful. It's a dangerous world out there. Even Google search results could be bad for you and your phone.”

(Don't Forget to Tell People)

The Czech Republic is #28 in Europe when it comes to mobile traffic, with less than one million page views per month.

But T-Mobile has a pretty good offer, at least that's what their rep told me. I told him that T-Mobile's mobile surfing charges weren't clear. He disagreed. “You can roam the internet for just 1 Euro a week,” he said.

“So how come people aren't using it?” I asked.
His reply: “Because consumers don't know about it!”

Build it and they will come? Well, only if you know where to go, how to get there and how much it will cost. With a pricetag of just 1 Euro a week, T-Mobile should be packaging mobile browsing with its normal services, not as a special opt-in.

I don't want you to get the wrong idea. There is some positive movement in the European mobile market.

First of all, telcos are collaborating to define the metrics of the European industry. Common metrics will make it easier for advertisers to make buying decisions and calculate ROI.

Second, brands have a clearer idea of where to turn when they want to advertise. A few years ago, mobile ad companies claimed they could do everything -- media buying, technology, consulting, you name it. Today, there is more differentiation and specialisation. Advertisers can work with

  • an agency for advice on which type of mobile service is best for a specific campaign (SMS, mobile banners, etc.)
  • a mobile search company like Google (though this is still not so developed)
  • a local network or operator (for on-portal ads)
  • an ad network like BuzzCity.
The advantage of BuzzCity's approach is that (a) we can deliver the traffic and (b) we only charge for click-throughs not page views.

Third, brands no longer question the validity of mobile advertising. They understand the value of the medium. However in Europe this is now a mis-match between (a) markets that advertisers want to reach and (b) markets with enough eyeballs to warrant advertising.

With more than 103 million banner ads in the third quarter of the year, Romania is by far the largest European market. But European advertisers would much rather target German consumers, whose spending power far outweighs that of Romanians. Unfortunately, there's just no off-portal mobile traffic to speak of Germany, so we can't service the advertisers' demand.


What needs to happen? It's really very simple. European telcos need to

  1. Drop the barriers to mobile surfing.
  2. Adopt clear affordable pricing models.
  3. Educate consumers
Three simple steps. Then, Europeans can truly celebrate The Year of the Mobile Internet.

October 13, 2008


Here's the latest data from BuzzCity's quarterly Mobile Advertising Index, which monitors the growth of the mobile internet. From July to September 2008, we delivered approximately 5.4 billion banners, up 38% from the previous quarter. While this growth rate is down a bit from the last survey, we are noticing more depth in the marketplace. Twenty-three markets now top the 10 million banners per month mark, up from 12 such markets in the first quarter.   

The Top Ten

1. Indonesia : 1.8 billion (+47%)
2. India : 660 million (-1%)
3. South Africa : 540 million (-7%)
4. Kenya : 299 million (+91%)
5. United States : 261 million (+37%)
6. Bangladesh : 134 million (+71%)
7. Libya : 103 million (+1640%)
8. Tanzania : 114 million (+30%)
9. Romania : 103 million (+43%)
10. Egypt : 98 million (+76%)

By the end of September '08, Indonesia, India, South Africa, Kenya and USA each delivered 100 million banners to their respective audiences. Notable among the Top 10 is Libya which has had a phenomenal growth of 1,640% just in Q3 2008.

For more details, please download the Mobile Advertising Index (Q3 – 08) here.

October 07, 2008


By Hisham Isa, Vice President (Marketing)


The economic headlines only seem to get worse – the US credit crunch is leading employers to layoff workers, Europe is bailing out banks and stock market indices across the globe are in retreat. However, as Kok Fung wrote in his last entry, the mood in our industry is still upbeat. In my column today, I'd like to suggest two reasons why this is the case:

1. Mobile services already went through a downturn three years ago. In 2005, poor content was too often matched with high prices. In 2006-2007, industry executives adjusted their business models. Subscription-based fees were largely abandoned, prices were lowered and new avenues for distribution developed.

2. New services and new content that are relevant to consumers are continually being rolled out. Relevance is the key here.

Let's take a look at some examples . . .

Italian Guide to Lower Food Prices 

A government ministry in Italy has launched a free service to help consumers compare food prices. SMS Consumatori sources information from over 2000 stores and sorts the price data by region. Consumers send a text message with the name of the item they wish to buy. SMS Consumatori returns a message with wholesale and retail prices. The government website also tracks pricing trends and lists the stores with the highest and lowest prices.


Mobile Marketplace in Bangladesh

University students post ads to tutour secondary school students. Farmers buy and sell cattle and produce. There are postings for computer parts, flats for rent, used cars, you name it. CellBazaar has been used by more than a million Bangladeshis since its launch in August 2007. A quarter-million use the service on a regular basis. Some observers call it Bangladesh's "Craig's List". There's a website and a WAP site. But users must have a contract with GrameenPhone, which earns revenue from users who text messages to the site. To find an item to buy, just text "buy" to the short code 3838 and then browse the categories or view individual postings. In percentage terms, the service's penetration isn't that high (less than 1 percent), but it's greater than the percent who use PCs and is growing. For the farmers, fisherman, shopkeepers and students who use it, CellBazaar is revolutionising their opportunities.

Mobile Banking in The Maldives
It's not unusual for a Maldivian to travel four hours by boat to collect a salary or make bank deposits. Internet penetration and PC ownership is low, so the Maldives government is turning to m-banking to improve the lives of its citizens. In fact, the country hopes to become the first nation where mobile phones are the primary vehicle for banking.

M-commerce in Mexico
Japanese have long been accustomed to using their mobile phones to buy train tickets or food and other items from a vending machine. But m-commerce has been slow to catch on in other parts of the world. Now, Mexican banks and telecom companies (Iusacell and Telefonica SA) are teaming up to enable consumers to pay restaurant bills and taxis via mobile. Cell phone users simply need to tell their banker to link their bank and phone accounts.

Property Search

Services like Trulia and Terabitz allow consumers to search homes for sale, see photos and property details. They started out online but subsequently launched mobile services. Terabitz focuses on the iPhone market, but Trulia is available on many platforms. Both services map property locations, which looks pretty cool and makes it easier to chart a course and find them. Given the current state of property and credit markets, these services aren't as relevant now as they were a year ago.

So what's next?
Like everyone else, mobile industry players are keeping a close eye on trends (and shocks) in the broader economy. But content producers are providing services that enable users to make money more easily or cut costs. User costs are always a factor. Fortunately data rates have dropped pretty much everywhere (with the exception of a few notable cases like Zimbabwe, where it can cost as much as US$7 to send a SMS).

The bottom line is that the mobile economy is developing well and that mobile services continue to improve people's lives, good economy or not. If you're going to build something, make it useful, make it relevant, make it affordable . . . and consumers will still come.
BUZZCITY CEO TO SPEAK IN JAKARTAInterest in the Indonesian market continues to offer more opportunities for mobile players. If you are in Jakarta on 4th & 5th November, be sure to catch Kok Fung as he shares insights into developing new mobile content services at the

Indonesia Telecom International Summit
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel
Kuningan District

Kok Fung will share ideas on the potential in Indonesia for user generated content, mobile social networking and the different models for profitable partnerships. He will also share our experience from overseas emerging and developed markets.

September 24, 2008


By Lai Kok Fung, BuzzCity CEO

The vibe in the mobile industry now is completely different from the tone emanating from Wall Street (and financial districts worldwide for that matter). In fact the mobile internet feels more vibrant now than it did just six months ago. Let me explain.

August 28, 2008


By Lai Kok Fung, BuzzCity CEO

Today, I am extremely excited to announce that MIH/Naspers has invested US$10 million in BuzzCity. They are buying a 25% stake in the company. This investment closes one chapter in our company's history and opens another.


We first started talking to MIH (the investment arm of Naspers) about two years ago. BuzzCity's primary growth driver then was paid mobile services, not mobile advertising as it is now. But Naspers, an international media company based in South Africa, didn't find this business strategy exciting enough.

By the end of 2007, our mobile ad business was showing tremendous growth (see Note 1 below), so I contacted MIH again. Now that our business model had become ad-driven, we spoke a language that media companies understand. It didn't take long for MIH to make up its mind. By the beginning of 2008, MIH signaled it wanted in.

SO HOW WILL WE USE THE MONEY?First, I'd like to highlight that BuzzCity’s business is financially viable with earnings that adequately meet our operating expenses. This investment will enable BuzzCity to expand more aggressively than it would have otherwise. We'll put more people on the ground to talk with advertisers and publishers. We can build more localised versions of myGamma. And best of all, we now have the luxury of taking a longer term view. We don't need to be overly obsessed with short term returns in each new market. We can take time to build the brand by investing in marketing and public relations so that more potential business partners know about BuzzCity and the opportunities that exist in mobile social networking and mobile advertising. I expect BuzzCity will expand in Africa, Middle East and Latin America, and strengthen our operations across Asia, Europe and the US.

This investment means a lot more to BuzzCity, though, than an infusion of funds. It may sound cliched, but we really are gaining a strategic partner. In particular, there are two benefits that are readily apparent:

One, MIH has a presence and experience in many of the markets where we want to expand. These markets are experiencing explosive mobile Internet growth. But some of these markets are also characterized by difficult and sometimes opaque operating environments. We can tap MIH’s offices and personnel in these countries. This means we may share space with a company in the MIH Group in some countries, rather than open a new office. It also means there are professionals who can offer advice on how best to navigate the local markets.

Two, there are business synergies with a number of companies in the MIH Group, which includes Tencent in China, in Russia, Sanook in Thailand and MXit in South Africa. Some are leading Internet companies, others offer innovative mobile services in the area of instant messaging, billing and content aggregation. Since our offerings are complementary, it makes sense for our companies to go to market together. In the very near future, we expect to create combined offerings that will help BuzzCity attract more advertisers and publishers. In turn, BuzzCity can help MIH portfolio companies mobilize and distribute their existing media properties through our mobile community and monetize the resulting traffic through our mobile ad network.

(We were recently misquoted by a blogger – who was then quoted by other bloggers -- as having said that BuzzCity was in talks with an Indian entity about a strategic partnership. While this was not accurate, MIH/Naspers has equity interest in Indian companies like ACL-Wireless and Ibibo.)

Since MIH confirmed its interest in BuzzCity at the beginning of the year, it's taken a number of months to finalise the investment because BuzzCity is simultaneously restructuring its shareholdings. This required multiple negotiations as three of our initial venture investors – 3i, BancBoston and SPH Multimedia – are taking this opportunity to cash in their chips. (SPH Multimedia is keeping a small stake.) The industry jargon is "selective capital reduction" which simply means that BuzzCity is using a portion of the new round of investments to buy out the other shareholders. 3i, BancBoston and SPH Multimedia have been great partners and I would like to thank them for their support over the last eight years.

In addition, we have taken the important step to convert all existing preferred shares into ordinary shares. As is the case with many start-up companies, our early-round institutional investors purchased stock that carried special rights. Now, all shareholders hold common stock. This simplifies corporate governance and future financing.

I am really excited about the future. MIH's investment is a vote of confidence in BuzzCity's strategy to connect the "UNWIRED". With this new round of financing, I feel like BuzzCity is graduating from our adolescent years and that we are now ready to make an even bigger splash in the world of mobile communities and advertising. Stay tuned, or better yet, come join us on this exciting ride!

Note: A word about advertising. BuzzCity served 445 million ads in December 2007, a ten-fold jump from January. Today, the picture is even stronger. The number of page views served on the myGamma Mobile Ad Network rose 300 percent from August 2007 to August 2008. The index is growing 50 percent on average every quarter.

August 22, 2008


It's always great to be recognised and we enjoy reporting fun news, so here's the latest from the Awards Circuit:

BuzzCity has won a Silver Medal for our contribution to Web 2.0 in the Future Mobile Awards.

"BuzzCity’s 'myGamma' community has made stunning headway in the mobile social networking space," write the judges. "It has successfully applied the D2C business model in an operator-dominated market (certainly, a Mobile Web 2.0 trait) and established a strong advertising base that hit 1.7 billion paid ad impressions in July 2008 ... (myGamma) is a shining example of how the social web can span demographic, as well as geographic divides."

A panel of judges from Juniper Research used a number of criteria to evaluate candidates, including commercial deployment, customer retention and growth, ease of use, functionality, innovation, pricing, revenue generation and user interface.

Juniper Research writes that The Future Mobile Awards are presented "to companies that (they) believe have made significant progress within their sector during the previous year, and are now poised to make considerable market impact in the future."

You can take a look at the full list of winners here.

BuzzCity is a finalist at the ME Awards, which will be presented on 25 September at the Royal Garden Hotel in London. We've been nominated in the Best Communities Company category. These awards are produced by Media Entertainment, a trade publication dedicated to the mobile content industry. The other four finalists in this category are Flirtomatic, GoFresh, Peperoni and Shozu.

And on the conference circuit, Kok Fung will be speaking at the Next Generation Telecom 2008 Conference at The Raffles City Convention Centre, Singapore on 27 – 29 August, 2008; and the Mobie Web Strategies 2008 at Moscone West, San Francisco, on 9 September 2008.


By Hisham Isa, Vice President (Marketing)


Telephone manufacturers, mobile service providers and content producers need to put the "smart" back in "Smart Phones" by offering applications that improve users' lives.
BuzzCity recently surveyed mobile social networkers in more than ten countries. One theme that clearly emerged from our research is that wireless consumers want to be able to do more with their mobile phones. There's a demand for m-commerce, mobile banking, search, chat, dating and more. In some cases, mobile services like these may already exist in a country but consumers simply don't know about them (which means that providers need to do a better job of getting the word out).

There's no clear industry definition of what constitutes a "Smart Phone" -- but what comes to mind for most people are Palm Pilots, Blackberries and iPhones. These devices are targeted at business users. However executives are just a small segment of the market and these handsets are just one type of smartphone. But what about the phones the rest of us use

Thanks to improvements in technology, most consumers now have access to multimedia internet-enabled phones. They want practical applications, including product information and the ability to act on it. For example, a supermarket can publish or sponsor mobile sites that offer recipes. The ingredients become a shopping list, which with the right m-commerce applications, consumers can purchase with their phones.

There are already some mobile recipe sites, but there's space for a whole lot more.

  • Kraft Foods features a new recipe every day on its mobile website. Users can also search Kraft's databank of recipes, each one obviously featuring a Kraft Foods' product.
  • has customised sites for both PC and mobile connections. There are hundreds of recipes here that you can browse by category (rice, snacks, chutney, etc.), popularity or date.
  • You can search by ingredient on the's mobile site, which also features user-generated reviews and ratings.

None of these mobile sites, though, takes the obvious next step, which is to enable consumers to make a purchase. In the BuzzCity myGamma Digital Lifestyle survey, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they had made a remote purchase (by phone, mail or internet). And half of the respondents indicated they would like to use their phones to make financial transactions. So there is clearly a market here that is just waiting to be tapped.

Recipes are obviously just one example of the type of content that can be used as the basis for mobile communities and applications. Here are a few more:

More than half of our survey respondents are likely to look for a new job within the coming year, either because they will graduate from school or are looking to switch employers. Job Placement companies and online Job Banks, take note.

The electronic media – TV, movies, music – is by far the favourite leisure activity of myGamma members. Yet less than four percent of survey respondents have purchased movie tickets online or via their mobile phones. Either mobile ticketing services are not available or cinemas and ticketing agencies are not doing a good job of getting the word out.

And as mentioned, more than half of the survey respondents say they would use their mobile phones for financial services, if such services were available in their country. One-third would like to be able to transfer money. Yet mobile remittance services are already available in many of these markets. Consumers just don't know it. Banks and companies like Western Union need to step up their public education and marketing programmes if consumers are to use their services.

Of course, not every site needs to be based on commerce. Here's a website that definitely meets a need. With MizPee, you can locate a nearby a toilet and also check out its ranking ("Royal Flush" being the best, "Prison Toilet" the worst). Other pages of this website are based on e-commerce, with restaurant and shopping deals on offer, again based on locality. I'm not sure if MizPee has developed a mobile version, but if they haven't, they should.

So, let's not get too caught up in the iPhone media buzz. For the foreseeable future, the mass market multimedia phone will remain the dominant method of accessing mobile data services. Advertisers, content producers, marketers and publishers who want to tap the potential of the mobile medium need to broaden their focus, look beyond the iPhone and devices like it and develop better consumer services.

July 04, 2008


Mobile Internet usage is certainly growing and could even become the dominant Internet platform of the future. From our Mobile Advertising Index (Q2 - 08), listed by advertising page views and percentage Quarter-on-Quarter growth (in parenthesis) is :-


  1. Indonesia : 1.21 billion (85%)
  2. India : 669 million (16%)
  3. South Africa : 578 million (36%)
  4. USA : 190 million (45%)
  5. Kenya : 156 million (99%)
  6. Tanzania : 88 million (53%)
  7. Bangladesh : 78 million (47%)
  8. Romania : 71 million (26%)
  9. Brunei : 63 million (80%)
  10. Philippines : 55 million (86%)
During this period, we delivered close to 3.9 billion advertising banners and Indonesian growth continued to dominate the Index (despite intermittent carrier problems in June).

For more information, please download the Mobile Advertising Index (Q2 - 08) here.

In Other News :
BuzzCity was awarded the Gold Award for Best Progress In Emerging Markets at the Mobile Content Awards & Conference in London.

June 03, 2008


By Lai Kok Fung, BuzzCity CEO

One of Singapore's leading mobile service providers, MobileOne (M1), has implemented a service that they claim helps mobile web pages load faster and improves a user's experience. But in reality, their “mobile web content transcoding engine” MobileSurf violates consumer and publisher rights and makes surfing the mobile internet more difficult for consumers.

M1 should disable MobileSurf immediately. BuzzCity has already conveyed this message in writing to M1, but so far the company has dismissed our appeal. More about that in a moment.

What MobileSurf does is insert the company's branded headers and footers onto mobile web pages that do not belong to it. The engine also tracks consumers' surfing patterns. All this is done without the permission of M1 users or the mobile sites visited. These practices infringe on the copyrighted content of web publishers (including BuzzCity), jack up prices for mobile surfers, violate consumer privacy and cause service disruptions.

What M1 is doing is not new. In the fixed line internet world, it's called “Browser Hijacking,” a practice where a company uses scripting tools or server-side programs to manipulate browser settings and displays seen by the end users.

Here's an image taken by one user of a mobile website before M1 started Browser Hijacking:

And here's an image taken afterwards:

Back in 2005, SpyWare called Browser Hijacking “a despicable trend.” Australian computer journalist Rose Vines writes: “Let's face it, anyone who is prepared to kidnap you in this fashion has little regard for your privacy.” Vines adds that hijackers are trying – over and over again – to drive users to their site in the hope of boosting business. She also notes that porn sites were the first to implement this tactic.

At BuzzCity, we strongly believe that what M1 is doing is wrong for the following reasons:

1. Copyright Infringement. M1 does not own the pages that it is modifying. End of story. Imagine for a moment that you are a media company like CNBC or BBC. Would you allow a mobile carrier to insert branded headers and footers into your carefully designed pages? It's bad enough when this happens on PC internet sites, but in the mobile world, where the screen size is already quite small, M1's ads can sometimes occupy more than a quarter of the viewing page.

2. Privacy. M1 is tracking the pages visited by users as well as the date that the site is visited and the time spent there. Hello Big Brother.

3. Data Costs. M1 is basically increasing its revenues and raising the consumers' costs without their consent. Consumer charges are based in part on data transfer and M1's banners add to the size of the data transmitted when consumers surf the mobile internet.

Since MobileSurf was launched in early April, we've written M1 to ask that the headers and footers be removed. At first we were told that the banners were only inserted on webpages during MobileSurf's launch phase. When we later pointed out that they were still in place, M1 replied: "we are of the view that there has been no infringement on your rights in any way." As for the banners, M1 says they help "customers to navigate and manage the websites they are surfing on their mobile phones." It adds that "the access links do not form any part of your website nor do they alter the contents of your website in any way."

But as soon as M1 implemented MobileSurf, it attracted complaints from consumers as well. One blogger writes “Call M1 hotline 1627 and tell them they don't have the rights!" Another blogger notes that a number of applications that he was accustomed to using – Google Maps, Opera Mini, Outlook Mobile Access and Twitter – stopped functioning. In response to a M1 claim that MobileSurf “provides a friendlier way to browse the Web on your mobile phone, making it easier to go online wherever you may be” this blogger replied “Friendlier way my ass.” After talking to M1's helpline a couple times, he determined that there is a workaround – turn off MobileSurf. For the benefit of other M1 users, he posted instructions on how to do it. Users of the chat forum Hardware Zone were similarly peeved.

The BuzzCity Ad Network meanwhile can track the number of page views by carrier. We note that M1's share of the market dropped from 21% to 13% after MobileSurf was introduced. And this is taking place against the backdrop of a huge increase in our reported advertising inventory based on over 2000 publisher sites.

If companies like M1 want to drive users to their mobile sites, the solution is simple. They should offer content consumers want. What they shouldn't do is hijack other pages.

M1, it's time to do the right thing. Turn off MobileSurf.

April 25, 2008

The myGamma Global Mobile Advertising Index

By Hisham Isa, Vice President (Marketing)

This week BuzzCity releases its first quarterly survey of advertising trends, the myGamma Global Mobile Advertising Index. With this tool, BuzzCity tracks the growth of our advertising network – ads are currently served on more than 2000 publisher sites worldwide – and by extension the growth of the mobile internet. No matter which direction the index moves (and it's an easy bet right now it will continue to rise and rise), we'll announce the results and trends every quarter.

But for now . . . Mark the date. The time has come to announce that MOBILE ADVERTISING is no longer a promise, it's real. Despite contracting economies in many regions and sectors, mobile is growing. And it's growing spectacularly. In fact, over the past year, the number of advertisements served across the myGamma
Network has grown 730% from 340 million ads in the first quarter of 2007 to over 2.5 BILLION ads in the first quarter of this year.

At the top of the myGamma Global Mobile Advertising Index is Indonesia with more than 654 million ads served. What's particularly interesting is that Indonesia wasn't even among the top ten markets a year earlier. In fact three of the top ten countries -- China, Pakistan and Indonesia -- are new entries.

Here's the top ten list by advertising page views and percent year-on-year growth in parenthesis:

1. Indonesia : 654 million (+ 13328%)
2. India : 577 million (+ 1522%)
3. South Africa : 426 million (+ 418%)
4. USA : 132 million (+ 917%)
5. Kenya : 79 million (+ 424%)
6. Romania : 57 million (+ 446%)
7. Bangladesh : 53 million (+ 305%)
8. China : 37 million (+ 6053%)
9. Brunei : 35 million (+ 221%)
10. Pakistan : 35 million (+ 814%)

As you can see, from the table above, the number of advertising page views in Indonesia grew by more than than 13,000 percent. I don't think I've ever written a percentage that high before. But there were in fact twenty markets on our list registering more than 1000 percent growth. And among the top twenty countries, even the smallest growth story is experiencing nearly 100 percent growth year on year.

Let's take a closer look at who is placing the ads. The top advertisers by segment are

1. Mobile Services
2. Financial Services
3. Consumer brands

Mobile service companies – businesses that sell ringtones, games, other social networks and ad-supported services – were among the first adopters of the medium and they still occupy top spot. But financials and other brick and mortar companies are not far behind. Here's an example from each sector:

Cellufun is an ad-sponsored mobile gaming service that wishes to increase its global distribution. They are running multiple campaigns across a variety of markets. Cellufun optimises bannners regularly to keep spending in check, and as a result, achieves click-through rate higher then the network average.

Standard Bank has undertaken several campaigns in South Africa. They've launched a mobile banking service and a referral recruitment drive. Both subscribers and referrals were entered into a lucky draw to win a new phone. The lucky draw was promoted with banner ads targeting South African visitors to myGamma. This campaign costs just US$58 per day and generates nearly half a million page views per month. And this month, Standard Chartered is engaging consumers with another interactive campaign – leveraging on its sponsorship of the Pro20 Cricket Series to promote mobile banking. In this case, consumers can win tickets to the matches.

Coca-Cola is promoting the Sprite brand with a wap site called “Sprite Yard”. This campaign has targeted French mobile users with graphic and text banners, inviting them to a social network where they can download branded content such as visual ringtones and animated “mobisodes”. Coca-Cola spent just US$12 per day on the campaign.

In the first quarter of the year, there were

38 countries averaging more than 1 million page views per month;
11 countries averaging more than 10 million page views per month;
3 countries averaging more than 100 million page views per month.

Within the next two quarters, we expect all of the countries in the Top Ten will exceed monthly page views of 100 million.


So why is Indonesia at the top of the charts and why is its growth so incredibly off-the-charts? First, the cost of handsets has dropped. So more people have phones. Second, the cost of mobile access has dropped too. So more people can get online. Third, advertising on the mobile internet is extremely cost competitive with other media. The Indonesian example is a good indicator of trends in the rest of the world. Basically, mobile is cheap. It has great reach and penetration. So it shouldn't really be a surprise that advertisers are turning mobile. To many, though, it still is. They just haven't seen the myGamma Global Mobile Advertising Index yet.

March 31, 2008


In September '07, Kok Fung’s blog "Connecting Africa", reported on the phenomenal activity of the mobile internet, especially in South Africa. Since then we have seen more traffic from the African continent, particularly from the northern end, in Egypt.

In Q1 of 2008, we served more than 26 million banners to Egyptian users. This is a growth of 5,400% against the first quarter of 2007 when we served only 490,000 impressions. During this period, Saudi Arabian traffic grew by nearly 900% to 22 million banners.

Advertisers, like Mozat from Singapore, have been quick to take advantage of the rise of the mobile internet in the Middle East and have targeted campaigns to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

All in all, it has been a busy first quarter. We delivered 3 billion banner ads (whew!). And we deployed new services in Croatia, Iran, Namibia, Nepal, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

myGamma now serves mobile networkers in 68 countries.

March 17, 2008


By Hisham Isa, Vice President (Marketing)
“Geo-targeting” is a hot buzz term in the mobile industry these days. It's basically a fancy way of saying “Let's have a different ad for every locale. Let's customise our message based on where someone's from or where they happen to be right now.”

Targeted advertising isn't new. It's actually been with us for a long time. The best example is The Yellow Pages, not the one you get online now but the voluminous hard copy that used to be delivered door to door. In many countries, these business listings and ads were customised by postal codes or districts. Consumers in Jefferson County received a different book than someone in neighbouring Oldham County. This made sense, right? Targeting helps brands deliver the right message to the right customer, i.e. those customers most likely to make a purchase. And from the consumer's perspective .... when you're looking for a plumber, you want a professional who will come to your home, not someone who will have to travel from far away.

today's mobile age, the big question about geo-targeting is just how far do you drill down, how specific should we get. Do you localise all the way down to street level so that someone on Robinson Road gets a different message than a person on Cecil Street?

Relevance is the key here and geo-targeting helps advertisers connect better with consumers. However, as in any business activity, there are costs involved. In this case, there's the cost of tailoring the creative content plus the cost of disseminating each ad. Advertisers need to know the number of people who will see – and act on – each local ad and then do a cost benefit analysis. What's the cost per viewer? The cost per converted consumer?

How granular can you get before you lose the critical mass that advertisers need?

With mobile devices, there's another element to think about as well. Phones are personal devices. Users decorate the screens with customised screensavers. They download ringtones and other bling. Cyber-hawking, based solely on proximity, is like trespassing. You risk a severe consumer backlash not to mention a poor response rate.

So highly-targeted mobile campaigns need an opt-in element. For example, at a cinema, users can be asked to use their phones to rate the film. Movie-goers will participate if they're offered a chance in a lucky draw or a discount on their next movie ticket.


One company that has done it right is Kodak India. They ran a campaign on the myGamma network called “Shoot It, Win It” that encouraged consumers to take digital photos and print them at a Kodak shop. Participants stood a chance to win prizes. Thanks to country-specific targeting, the Kodak ad banners were only seen by Indian users. After clicking, these consumers were directed to a registration form and a store locator with a drop-down menu that had state and city listings. The campaign engaged consumers and helped them to locate a photo store nearby. Plus, Kodak India registered new sales as well as gathered information from the participants who opted in.

Here at BuzzCity, we call this “filtering” - drilling down to get the targeting desired, so advertisers can differentiate between consumers in Boston and Bombay and between inner-city Chicago and the suburbs. Other filtering techniques include personalised local news, classifieds, price guides and restaurant directories.
Another way to filter is to target based on consumer interests. Ad agencies should take a look at the niche communities sprouting up across the mobile space – from newlyweds to sports enthusiasts - and tailor creative campaigns to them.

You see, you don't need GPS to locate your consumers. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, “it's the content, stupid” not the technology.

myGamma has added four new countries. Welcome Croatia, Namibia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen! We are now in 66 countries and have 2.5 million members. The Gamma advertising network, meanwhile, is serving one billion ads every month. That's a jump from 2007 -- which was already a good year – when we served 5 billion ads. The Gamma network should top that figure by June.

February 13, 2008

Let The People Speak !

We're Number 1! ; ) Judges at the Mobile World Congress have named myGamma the "Best Mobile Social Networking service".

We've been waiting with baited breath for the final announcement -- as have our members.

“Let the people speak.” said the judging panel, describing myGamma as a “rapidly growing social network site spanning borders, cultures and languages. The world just got a lot smaller – and smarter.”

And speak they did! Since we announced our nomination, myGamma members have sent us more than 3000 messages of support and encouragement. Mary from Central Visayas, Philippines, thinks “myGamma’s d best wapsite” as does Tushki from Uttar Pradesh, India. Abuzola from Lagos, Nigeria, had promised to “intensify my prayer for mygamma to win” and if you see fireworks tonight in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, that’s probably Jonyluv celebrating!

“We are very honoured by the recognition the GSMA has given us and also humbled by the support of our members” says Lai Kok Fung, BuzzCity CEO. “The team has put a lot of effort into making myGamma a powerful tool, but it’s our members who make it a great experience."

“Each year as the influence of mobile communications spreads further to enhance more and more aspects of people’s lives, the scope of the Awards become greater, and the competition becomes more intense as a result” says GSMA CEO Rob Conway. “Because the mobile world is such an amazing universe of opportunities, its gravitational forces are pulling other industries into its realm—internet, finance, advertising, music and film.

To view the full list of winners, please click here

February 05, 2008


By Hisham Isa, Vice President (Marketing)

"Search Eskimos" may seem like an odd heading for this week's blog entry, but if you've seen Hutchison's brillant Indian ad campaign, you know that "searching eskimos" has everything to do with educating the public about the possibilities of the mobile internet. It also highlights how telecom carriers can promote - or hinder - mobile surfing.

At this stage of the game, public education -- letting consumers know what they can do with their phones -- is key. But this message is being broadcast more loudly in some markets than others. Let's take a look at three marketing campaigns: "Mr Blue Sky" by SFR (France), "Can you hear me now?" by Verizon in the US and Hutch's "Search for Anything" in India.


SFR is the second largest mobile operator in France with a 35% market share (in 2006) and nearly 18 million clients. Three million of these consumers are using 3G phones. SFR's campaign features popular French footballer Thierry Henry, who is France's leading goal-scorer. The ad, "Revolution sur the Mobile", highlights that users can use their phones for email, internet searches, messenging, music, video and more. The main message is that SFR offers unlimited 3G internet access.

Vodafone Essar / Hutch has 38 million clients in India. Their ad campaign is the most creative of the three. Eskimos, in full winter attire and carrying spears, are traveling in India - by sailboat, by foot (wearing snowshoes on the beach), in an open-air lorry and on the back of a bicycle. Switch now to an image of a cup of tea and an older Indian man drinking it. The man looks surprised. The eskimos have arrived in his home. His phone beeps and we see "Live Search - Eskimo - Search Complete" on the screen. The commercial then switches to two slates: "Search for Anything" and "Live Search - only on your Hutch GPRS phone".
In the US, Verizon doesn't publicise search, downloads or any aspect of the mobile internet. Rather, its ads focus on voice and the company has identified coverage as the issue most important to users. The "Can You Hear Me Now?" campaign shows monkeys in a zoo holding bananas as if they were telephones. "Some wireless companies like to pretend they're the best" says the narrator, "but there's only one most reliable wireless network in the nation." A Verizon worker then walks past the monkey cage, holding a real phone, and says "Can you hear me now? Good!"

The lack of public education in the US explains why
only one-quarter of US mobile phone users subscribe to an Internet access plan and less than 10 percent have used their phones for internet search in the past six months. By contrast, 20 percent of Indian users -- more than 30 million people -- connect to the Internet with a handset.

Come on, Verizon, get with it!

February 04, 2008

A Mobile Math Problem

By Hisham Isa, Vice President (Marketing)

Here's a math problem for all the telecom experts out there:

If John pays $25 for 10MB per month, how long can he spend talking on his phone or accessing the mobile internet?

Answer: Beats me.

And that's the problem - pricing models for mobile phone usage don't make sense to most people.

Indian and Thai operators have got it right, though. They're now packaging their products in a unit that consumers can understand - time. This allows users to make informed purchasing decisions and manage their usage better. Selling contracts in terms of minutes or hours is also a big step forward in user education.

Of course, another way around the KB/MB/GB pricing problem is to offer unlimited surfing packages.

India is now leading the way here too. For just five rupees a day (US$0.13) -- the cost of a banana -- Indian consumers can enjoy unlimited surfing. Pre-paid card users get an even better deal with AirTel - unlimited usage for just 2 rupees per day. Indian carriers have dramatically cut access fees to capture market share, enlarge the user base and attract high volumes.

Telecom operators in most other countries though punish low-to-moderate usage consumers. For a 10MB package, Bouygues (France) charges more than $36, AT&T (USA) - $25, O2 (UK) - about $20 and SingTel (Singapore) - $18.

Orange (UK) is heading in the right direction, though. They have priced their product to encourage surfing from the start and will do well to cap their prices close to current surfer friendly prices.

Check out our recent survey of telecom pricing across eight countries and 25 carriers.

January 23, 2008

myGamma Nominated for Global Mobile Award - Best Mobile Social Networking

We're very excited to announce that myGamma has been nominated as the "Best Mobile Social Networking Service" in the the 13th annual Global Mobile Awards! The winner will be announced on 12 February.

"It's particularly gratifying to be nominated alongside partners with whom we work closely on a regular basis ; like Cellufun, Glu, myWaves and Tiny Pictures. " says KF Lai CEO of BuzzCity.

"Entries to the Global Mobile Awards this year demonstrate the social, business and economic impact that mobile communications is having in every corner of the world,” says Rob Conway, GSMA CEO. “I congratulate the nominees on their achievement thus far, being nominated by our independent judging panel is no mean feat given the calibre of experts it comprises, and the quality and quantity of submissions received."

The GSM Association (GSMA) is the operator-led trade association for the global mobile industry. Its membership includes more than 700 network operators that provide mobile communications services across more than 218 countries of the world. The GSMA's members serve more than 2.5 billion users - or approximately 83% of the world's digital mobile market.

The primary goals of the GSMA are to ensure mobile phones and wireless services work globally and are easily accessible, enhancing their value to individual customers and national economies, while creating new business opportunities for operators and their suppliers. The Association's members serve more than two billion customers - 82% of the world's mobile phone users.

January 08, 2008


By Lai Kok Fung, CEO, BuzzCity
Happy New Year!! I'm expecting 2008 to be a fantastic year for the mobile internet and for BuzzCity as well. Here's why:

1. More Content
It's becoming a lot easier to create a presence on the mobile internet. Just like Blogger, TypePad and others have made it easy for businesses and consumers alike to create a presence on the web, companies like Safira Solutions and Wapple are now offering web-based tools for creating dynamic interactive mobile websites. Other companies like Incentivated are specialising in mobile marketing -- helping businesses develop and manage mobile ad campaigns.

In one high-profile example, Wapple worked with MTV to create mobile sites promoting programmes like Beavis & Butthead and the MTV Europe Music Awards.

More mobile web-building tools will be launched this year, some as early as next month at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.  

2. Mobile Content Goes Mainstream
Content may be king, but the best content isn't worth much if no one knows about it. Over the past year, media companies like BBC, CNBC and CNN have launched mobile platforms that enable consumers to access the latest news from their phones. But these mobile sites were taking a backseat to the wired internet. Network anchors, radio DJs and other media personalities began routinely inviting viewers to click onto a programme's website for more information, but how many times did you hear a network anchor say, "check out our WAP site for details"? In 2008, major media companies are starting to promote mobile content in the same breath as their websites.

3. Easier Access to Mobile Content - The Fall of the "Walled Garden"
Telecom carriers have tried hard to keep consumers on their own carrier portals, just as AOL (America Online) made it difficult for its clients to access the World Wide Web. But AOL's walls fell and now so too are the carrier portals'. The biggest and most recent example of this is Verizon, which announced in December that it will open its wireless network to "any device and any application".

Why did Verizon -- which had been one of the biggest defenders of restrictive carrier portals -- change its mind? It's simple -- competition -- or the fear of more competition. Specifically, Google wants to be able to bid for a wireless spectrum in the US and if it gets the go-ahead,
the company will offer cheap or free data access, including voice calls, in exchange for ads. Verizon is hoping to head this off and also send a message to US regulators that there' s no need to further open the US wireless spectrum.

4. Lower (and More Predictable) Prices
One of the biggest drags on mobile surfing has been price - not just price levels, but also the unpredictability of monthly charges. When carriers bill based on every MB used, it's hard for consumers to know how much they've spent. But now the move towards flat rate pricing is gaining momentum.

Take the example of the iPhone in the UK. O2 reports that some 60 percent of iPhone users are sending and receiving 25MB or more of data each month. Among O2's other consumers, less than two percent use this much data. Yes, the iPhone has a unique user-friendly interface. But O2 also provides iPhone users with a flat-rate pricing plan, which means they don't face any unpleasant surprises at the end of the month.

Meanwhile in Asia, eleven carriers -- including AirTel (India), SK Telecom (Korea), SingTel (Singapore) and
Telkomsel (Indonesia) -- are collaborating to offer fixed rate roaming plans -- US$30 for 15 MB and US$60 for 40MB.

Lower pricing, predictable bills, more and better content are leading consumers to spend more time surfing the mobile internet -- which in turn is increasing the appetite of businesses who want to reach out to these mobile consumers.

MOBILE ADVERTISING - From 2007 to 2008
In January 2007, BuzzCity was serving approximately 50 million mobile ads for a handful of clients each month. One
year later, we have several hundred advertising clients and the number of monthly ads served has risen 20-fold to one billion ads.

To service these advertisers - and content publishers - better, BuzzCity is

* Introducing more sophisticated ad targeting, based on carriers, demographics, phone models and more. (See
Hisham's discussion of this in November).


* Streamlining and automating purchase orders. Publishers can use online tools to open their sites to ads and accept quotations. Similarly, advertisers can create campaigns and top up credits online. Of course, our customer service agents are still ready to assist clients who need additional support. We've been rolling out the online tools over the past several months and we're continually improving the process. The feedback so far from our clients has been great.

* Scaling up to handle the increase in traffic.

* Launching a new website, with clearer instructions for advertisers, merchants and publishers.

* Providing more data, analysis and tools so our clients can get the best results possible for every ad placed and dollar spent.

Finally, an overview of 2008 wouldn't be complete without at least one prediction, so I'll share our advertising projection with you -- by the end of this year, BuzzCity will be serving three to five billion ads every month.

I hope 2008 is as prosperous a year for you as I think it will be for the mobile industry.