Video meets magazine – solution to death of print?

So there’s been a big hoo-ha over the past few years about how print is dying out and that in the not-too-distant future nobody will be paying good money to buy a newspaper or a magazine. As much as South Africa is moving at a relatively slower pace when it comes to this ‘dying out of print’, we’re also bound to get there eventually.

Now, you can imagine my surprise when I saw, on the front page of Financial Timeslast week, an article about how an upcoming issue of Entertainment Weekly’s print edition will be embedded with a video player that will run ads for CBS shows and Pepsi. Obviously, the first thing that came to mind was mobile. It doesn’t get better than a newspaper or a magazine, which some people still love to read, that has an embedded video.

The way it’s said to work is that a small video screen about the size of a mobile phone screen is glued onto the page. The screen is 2.7mm thick, contains rechargeable batteries and can store forty minutes of video. Talk about heavy duty performance. CBS is set to show a preview of their upcoming programmes, while Pepsi shows a drinks ad.

The technology for the ad, called “Video In Print” has been developed by US company Americhip who specialise in branding and design that appeals to all five senses.

Each chip can hold up to 40 minutes of video. The 2.7 millimetre thick screens have a diagonal width of 5 centimetres and mini-speakers. The ad is said to come in a heavy-paper package resembling the kind of novelty greeting cards that make noises when you open them. A small screen, with a speaker embedded below it, starts playing automatically as the page flips open.

CBS Corp and Time Warner Inc’s Entertainment Weekly billed the video advertisement as the first ever to appear in a print magazine. CBS says the video player insert, made by a Los Angeles company called Americhip Inc, will be able to withstand the binding processes and mail delivery.

Generate revenue

It doesn’t come as a surprise that CBS won’t reveal how much it is paying for the spread, but the idea behind these new experiments is generally to charge a premium for advertising that has more potential to catch readers’ attention. There’s no doubt that the idea of a video in a magazine will grab readers’ attention, but what about the negative aspects?

Surely something as technologically advanced as this ‘video in print’ stands great potential to get damaged when the paper is dropped off on the doorstep. Usually, magazines and newspapers are tattered and torn by the time they reach their subscribers. What more with an embedded video chip in it? But that’s just my concern.

Ink-on-paper titles have been trying new formats to boost advertising revenue. Major newspapers have taken the once-taboo step of offering ads on their front pages, while magazines have tucked ads into cover flaps and even distributed video promotions on DVDs.

What many people are probably thinking about is whether the world is ready for video ads in magazines and newspapers. Sure, we saw it in Harry Potter, but does that mean it should be happening in reality? I would probably go yes on this one. What other alternatives do the advertising industry big-wigs have? If technology’s going to ruin your chances at generating good revenue, then why not make use of that very same technology to gain in revenue? This may just be a solution to the death of print, and it’s mobile.

Related links
Video appears in paper magazine
Why Entertainment Weekly’s ad misses the point
Coming to a magazine near you… video, right on the page

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2010 World Cup: IS it coming soon to the smallest screen in your pocket?

In a relatively short period of time the mobile phone has evolved from being just a phone to offering functions from personalised ringtones to music downloads. Now, mobile TV is just about set to hit South Africa, with both Vodacom and MTN running tests. South Africa is expected to join Nigeria in the roll-out of the DVB-H mobile TV.

Nigeria has beaten South Africa in race for commercial mobile television the DVB-H mobile TV, since MultiChoice Africa’s local business partner in Nigeria has launched Africa’s first commercial mobile broadcast TV service in the city of Abuja.

The launch places Nigeria at the forefront of the development in world digital television technology, and highlights the progressive stance that the country’s National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is taking in the adoption of new modes of technologies.

For us in South Africa, ICASA’s slow progress on mobile television regulations means that MultiChoice may not be able to honour its pledge to FIFA that the 2010 event will be available on mobile phones.

In February this year ICASA unexpectedly withdrew an invitation to apply for mobile TV licences, saying that it wants to finalise the digital migration policy and frequency band plans first.  In July ICASA released a findings document regarding the finalisation of the Digital Terrestrial TV (DTT) Regulations, something which should assist the progress of mobile TV licensing.

Easily accessible

DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcast – Handheld) is a mobile broadcast technology that allows for the digital terrestrial broadcast of live television channels to a mobile phone. While 3G is a one-to-one transmission, which makes it subject to bandwidth and frequency limitations, DVB-H is one-to-many true broadcast and does not suffer such limitations. The advantage of offering both technologies on one handset is that 3G can accommodate a ‘return path’, allowing a user to request content on demand, and download it for use almost immediately or at a later stage.

Mobile TV signals will be handled by special chips on a mobile phone that sit alongside the chips that process the mobile phone’s calls, music and streaming video clips. The difference between TV and streaming video services is that the TV signals are broadcast to all users at the same time, while streaming video is delivered on demand by mobile operators. Mobile TV images are expected to be of higher quality than mobile video streams.

MultiChoice launched its DVB-H mobile TV trials three years ago, offering users with a DVB-H handset and enabled SIM access to four sports channels, CNN International, Cartoon Network and urban television channel Trace.

The purpose of the trial is to refine the technical transmission of DVB-H. The trial started in November 2005 and is building unique South African mobile broadcast expertise. So hopefully soon most of us will be able to access whatever programming we want, whenever we want.

Two years ago MTN introduced the Samsung P910 handset, South Africa’s first commercially available 3G DVB-H capable cellphone. The Samsung P910 may allow access to MTN’s DStv-Mobile DVB-H trial which makes the DVB-H trial only applicable to users with a Samsung P910 and upgraded Samsung cellphone when used in conjunction with an MTN DVB-H capable USIM, within the Multichoice and M-Net DVB-H Trial Network coverage areas – restricted to selected suburbs in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Soweto, and Pretoria.

2010 frenzy

In 2006, MultiChoice extended its services to mobile devices using DVB-H digital terrestrial broadcasting on a trial basis in preparation for the 2010 World Cup Soccer Tournament, increasing the number of subscribers to 4000.

Site acceptance tests were completed on schedule at the end of May 2006. A successful live capability demonstration ran throughout the 2006 World Cup. The trial has since grown to 4000 trialists in 4 cities around the country. Trial results have been positive, with audience appreciation still on the rise.

It seems that MultiChoice is ready to give South Africa a new and different way of watching TV. The only thing that is standing in the way is ICASA. What’s left is to see whether they make it to the 2010 World Cup. If Nigeria can do it, there should be nothing standing in their way, especially since they seem to be operationally and technically ready to launch a full commercial DVB-H service.

Check out The Next Generation TV Show, where Cath speaks about mobile television in the digital age. On Diginomics Joy also talks about the economics of going mobile.

Related links:

Mobile TV inches forward
Project 2010
DStv Mobile
Movie Magic Comes to the Smallest Screen

Digital sales and virtual tickets – playing the lotto on your mobile

South Africa’s national lottery operator, Gidani recently reported that it will offer a new method of playing the Lotto through cellphone banking, ATMs and online banking using mobile gambling B-On service, a gaming technology supplied by Intralot of Greece. The new method will enable players to access services exclusively through their First National Bank account.

This probably comes as shocking news, especially considering that FNB was forced to close its “million a month” savings accounts because the Lotto saw it as an infringement of its government monopoly. But it is not surprising that they are the first option, because when it comes to cellphone banking FNB appears to be in the lead with 1.5 million mobile customers, and then followed by Absa with 1.3 million.

The new Lotto agreement, which was signed recently, will allow players to participate using their mobile telephones and through facilities linked to their bank accounts, customers can play the lottery digitally. At the moment the service will only be through FNB of South Africa, but other banking institutions may be added in the near future.

The gaming technology and services provider operates in over 50 countries on five continents, supplying gaming and transaction processing systems, innovative game content, and sports betting management to state-licensed gaming organizations in standard lottery, betting and video lottery.

The Intralot Interactive subsidiary will be providing the B-On gaming platform, which includes player club services, multi-channel support and e-payment and e-marketing services. The platform features various multi-player mobile and Internet gaming capabilities and can also support a wide range of game types involving skill, knowledge and chance.

FNB customers using online banking and cellphone banking channels now have immediate access to the Lotto. ATM play is being rolled out in phases, and by 11 August 2009 customers were able to play the lottery at all approved FNB ATMs.

Secure connections

The added advantage of secure online banking is a huge plus for the new development. Banking channels are a sure-fire way of ensuring the profile of each player instantly, and will go a long way in eliminating unlawful participation in the lottery.

Chairman and CEO for Gidani, Bongani Khumalo hopes that with the new system underage people will effectively be restricted from participation and that the potential challenge of excessive gambling will also be easily controlled and firmly handled since.

Obviously, a move of this magnitude requires proper working measures in place, and CEO of Mobile and Transact Solutions at FNB, Len Pienaar is convinced its technology will meet the necessary requirements. It is definitely not a simple project when it comes to the changes the bank needed to implement in order for it to take off.

Purchases will be secure, as each channel of play will sit behind existing authentication systems. Tickets are only digitally redeemable and winnings will also only be paid out into players’ accounts, ensuring the money is received by the correct person. Winnings of up to R50 000 are automatically paid into the player’s FNB account.

If a player wins more than R50 000, FNB will contact them to explain how to claim the prize money according to national lottery regulations. In the move to digital sales and virtual tickets, it is crucial to ensure the process flows and makes sense in the digital world, and that connections between Gidani and FNB work and are properly maintained.

Related Links
Don’t que: Bank by phone
Intralot of Greece to supply technology for South African lottery
Now you can play Lotto through ATM
Lotto scheme is ‘pro-grambling’
FNB brings LOTTO to your cellphone

The revolution – a potential local turf war for marketing (Part 2)

The current mobile phone penetration in South Africa is 83 percent of the population. This makes it a very attractive medium for marketing and advertising. But many marketers seem to assume that the market for their products and services is so small and specialised that over 10 million mobile internet users are not, and will never be, their customers.

A lot is being said about the potential of mobile phones as a mainstream content and marketing opportunity. The numbers are impressive and the potential is huge; its supporters dedicated and agencies enthusiastic. Business opportunities abound.

But without the excitement numerous issues remain. Well-known author Jacob Nielsen, described accessing content via the mobile web as “a cringeworthy experience” and compared the Mobile Web in 2009 to the Desktop Web of 1998. He notes an “abysmal success rate”, bad download times, sites not optimised for mobile browsers, and design not suited to the medium and the list goes on.

He found that regular sized phones offered horrible usability to users; even the ever-popular smartphones got the thumbs down and the iPhone and similar offered only “impoverished usability”.

Growth potential

Tracking data on mobile advertising spend in South Africa is scarce and local businesses active in this arena haven’t yet come up with a unified campaign that would educate marketers on where mobile could fit into their marketing strategies.

Yet in spite of the bad reviews, mobile is universally expected to help transform how marketers talk to customers and how customers talk back. The launch of a local chapter of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) signifies a new level of growth and development for the sector.

Top 10 mobile sites accessed in South Africa (# of unique users)

1. facebook.com
2. google.com
3. wikipedia.org
4. gamejump.com
5. yahoo.com
6. my.opera.com
7. mxit.co.za
8. youtube.com
9. webmail.co.za
10. waptrick.com

Rick Joubert, Executive Head of the Vodacom Mobile Advertising business and Chairman of the MMA in South Africa, estimated that in South Africa R250 million is spent on mobile advertising annually. No figures exist for the amount spent on mobile marketing as a whole in this country although the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) in South Africa estimates that almost half of total direct marketing expenditure is now accounted for by mobile channels.

Mobisite marketing

The opportunities are numerous and brands need to research which are the most appropriate to their target market in order to launch into the mobile space. There are a wide range of options marketers can make use of, from mobile messaging to competitions, ‘click to receive’ email, coupons, videos, downloadable content or branded mobisites.

Mobisites have come to be hugely popular, but the number of visitors compared to the number of cellular users disappoints. Two sites doing relatively well are SuperSport, developed by Yonder Media, which in January 2009 saw nearly one million pages to 74 000 unique visitors. Another is Soccer-Laduma, which served a staggering 1.5 million pages to 85 000 unique visitors. The big operator portals, however, like that of Vodafone in South Africa, continue to serve up to three million unique users per month.

Marketers should take care to approach mobile with a firm strategy in mind and not to land on the wrong side of customer expectations. When it come to mobile marketing, no complication necessary and awareness of how your target audience engage with their phones is important. It is going to be their call after all.

Related links

Balancing Act
Way Forward for Mobile Marketing

The revolution – a change is gonna come (Part 1)

Overall, Africa’s mobile market has probably been the fastest growing of any region in the world over the past five years, and mobile access has grown twice as rapidly as the global average.

It took the African continent 100 years to accumulate 28 million fixed lines – an average access rate of 3 per 100 inhabitants – but this was overtaken by mobile connections in 2001, and with 137 million mobile subscribers in 2005 mobiles outnumbered fixed lines by more than five to one.

The ratio is even higher in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 90% of subscribers with telephone access use mobiles. Mobile access doubled in just two years from 6.5 per 100 inhabitants in 2003 to 13.1 per 100 in 2005. This was driven by the private sector rather than government, and access rates are higher in competitive markets than in those where monopolies remain in place.

Local is lekker

Many of these private sector operators are homegrown: because multinational investors have in the past preferred large markets in Asia and Latin America, African operators have relied on local funding, and firms like MTN, Vodacom and the like have successfully exploited the experience and skills gained domestically in other African markets.

Africa 1

In 2005 the continent’s seven largest investors controlled 53% of the African mobile market, and the big players are seeking to increase their dominance still further. Celtel has established its One Network system in East Africa, creating a borderless market so that subscribers can use airtime bought in Kenya for calls in Uganda or Tanzania.

The global mobile user market is expected to grow a further 33% to 4 billion by 2010. Some four-fifths of this expansion will come from lower-income emerging markets, many of them in Africa.

Broadband big guns

Africa

Less than 2 percent of households in Africa have broadband, compared with 68 percent of homes in North American. However, while broadband packages with high-speed internet access are available in 22 economies, they only come at very high prices. On average, broadband prices in Africa are three times higher than in Asia, although at least ten African countries are now offering broadband at less than US$15 per 100 kbps per month.

Broadband prices are found to be somewhat reasonable in most North African countries, i.e. Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia, as well as in Mauritius and South Africa. Broadband is cheapest in Morocco, where Menara Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides a service at US$2.18 per 100 kbps per month. However, the African average is US$206 per 100 kbps a month – almost three times the global average of US$76.

Cost and price will have a crucial influence on market growth, where African mobile operators will have to make the use of mobile telephones more affordable for lower-income users. This means that operators will have to adopt high-volume, low-cost market access strategies using innovative pricing and payment methods.

Third-generation mobile services with higher transmission speeds and enhanced data services have been commercially available in Africa since 2003 and there are now 17 countries with 3G networks. Five years ago broadband services were available in only three African countries, but now mobile is killing broadband, ‘the big cahuna’ of internet access, while quality and speeds are being improved upon. The revolution is here.

Related links
World Internet Usage Statistics
Mobile Future
PEW
Digital Divide

MTN – hello the Bharti

As 2008 came to an end MTN South Africa posted a subscriber base of 17.2 million, resulting in a hike of 16 percent but still falling short of Vodacom’s 23 million customers. In South Africa MTN ended 2008 with a market share of 36 percent, while the competition was sitting comfortably with a market share of 58 percent. Vodacom_logo Despite not being ‘South Africa’s leading cellular network’, MTN Group – Africa’s largest mobile operator – has managed to post a total subscriber base of 98 million at the end of March 2009.

Clearly, MTN is showing a lot of potential when it comes to revenue and market growth. This is why Sunil Mittal, CEO of Bharti Airtel, India’s leading mobile operator, decided to go shopping. And where did he end up? South Africa’s doorstep and into MTN. MTN_logo Bharti has renewed its effort to acquire a 49 percent stake in MTN, and the two telecoms have again agreed to discuss the potential transaction by 31 July 2009. MTN will also make a 36 percent acquisition into Bharti, ultimately resulting in the creation of one of the world’s biggest telecom groups. This new entity would be the third biggest operator in the world after China Mobile and Vodafone.

This is not the first attempt the two conglomerates have made at a merger. In 2008 talks came to a screeching halt when Bharti Airtel was looking into buying a 51 percent stake in the MTN Group. The two apparently hit a deadlock when it was not made clear who would control the emerging entity. Combined the companies will have revenues of over $20 billion and a subscriber base of over 200 million in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

MTN Group's global locations

MTN Group's global locations

For mobile operators this is a huge plus because they will effectively be able to tap into three of the fastest growing mobile markets globally.

The numbers

If this time the deal does not fall through, Airtel will own 49 percent of MTN for an approximate cost of $13.1 billion. MTN will pay about $9.6 billion for a 25 percent stake in Airtel, and the remaining 11 percent of Airtel will be paid for and owned by MTN shareholders by means of a share swop.

Both companies stand to gain from the merger, that much is evident. Although, I’m tempted to think that Bharti stands to gain a lot more than MTN. At the moment the strong subscriber growth appears to be a feature in almost all the countries in which MTN operates. That alone is enough to hike up Bharti’s numbers. MTN would be a prize catch for Bharti.

The spoils

There is the issue of Bharti gaining more subscribers considering MTN’s additional 100 million customers. The revenues will obviously be higher because of the stake in MTN; subscription revenue shot up by 46 percent by the end of the first quater this year. There is also the broader geographic coverage that Bharti will get, spanning across several continents because of MTN’s much larger existing subscriber base.

MTN also stands to gain. A joint effort with Bharti will mean getting in on the low-cost operations and innovations synonymous with the Indian telecom, which includes incredibly low call rates. Bharti also plans on investing $9 billion of capital in rural expansion of cellphone networks and 3G, from which MTN will benefit.

Since talks are still in progress one can only speculate as to where the deal will end up, but it looks to me like Bharti Airtel will ultimately be calling the shots at MTN. Whether MTN customers willl benefit from this, for example getting cheaper call rates to India, remains to be seen. It does seem promising that the two companies are looking into creating a working mechanism that will serve lower LSM and rural customers successfully. That is a gap in the mobile service industry that should be filled.

Related links
Bharti May Buy MTN Stake in $23 Billion Merger
MTN’s already wired to TechM, Subex

Review: Qik Mobile Video Streaming

Qik is a social networking and video blogging tool that gives the mobile phone video camera better use and much more entertainment. With Qik a person can shoot videos of whatever interests them, and then share them with the world. Wi-Fi Planet has even referred to it as “a Twitter for those who prefer video”.

There is some competition in the industry which means Qik isn’t the sole application available for live mobile video streaming. The first ever mobile video streaming application came from Livecast, more commonly known as Comvu back then. It was the first live video broadcast service for 3G mobile phones that were launched in 2005.

Livecast's mobile video streaming site

Livecast's mobile video streaming site

After some snooping around and some research, I discovered that this application is easy to use and does not require you to login every time you want to do something, as with other video streaming tools, such as Livecast. Users can quite easily change the settings to have either one or all of your streams made private.

How to Qik

Qik offers a list of supported phones so it’s useful to look at it to make sure you have the right handset. Naturally, I searched for my handset to see if it met the requirements. Needless to say, I was nothing less than satisfied.

To get started you’d have to access the Qik site through your mobile phone’s browser, then sign up for an account. You’ll receive a text message from Qik with a link that lets you download the Qik application. Thereafter you save and install it, which is a relatively quick process.

Once you start up the Qik application you’ll see that the controls are simple. Before you start your recording sessions, you might want to select the option to give your video a name and maybe a description. Then, tap the ‘Stream’ button to begin recording. Tap it again to stop the recording. Then, you have your video. It’s hardly rocket science so there’s really not much to it. Even the most technologically challenged person can pull together a decent live video with this application.

Qik's mobile video streaming site

Qik's mobile video streaming site

Qik has taken all the hassle out of online video sharing by allowing the user to simply do the recording, while it does the rest. It will upload your video and make it accessible from your account page. So, as you record the footage, the app uploads it to the Qik site where others can view it.

Remember, you can change settings to public or private, especially when you want to share videos with just friends and family. Since Twitter is all the rage, with your personal Qik page you can connect your videos to your Twitter account, so that Twitter friends can follow your video streams.

Roaming around

Last month Qik announced a long term partnership with telecommunications company Cubic Telecom to create Qik Roam, which is a global roaming service that will let you Qik while you’re traveling abroad at savings of between 60-80% off usual roaming costs. So you get more adventure, more streaming, at less the cost. You don’t need an expensive, cutting-edge device. Nor do you need to download any software. All you need to do is insert the Qik Roam SIM card – which can be purchased on the company’s website – into an unlocked GSM phone and log into your My Qik Roam control panel to set up your account before using the phone to Qik.

At the moment Qik supports a limited range of mobile phones, but hopefully Nokia and other mobile phone manufacturers see the need for live video streaming enabled handsets. All the advertising, media, marketing and entertainment gimmicks anyone can come up with will probably be inexhaustible. So, give it a try if your phone allows it. It promises to be fun. As for me, I’ve created my account, now I’m off to Qik.

Related links:
Gottaquirk
Mogulus goes Livestream
Qik Blog