With Web-based user-generated content and social networking services like YouTube, Flickr, Bebo and MySpace gaining tremendous success, mobile operators around the world are also rushing into a new potential gold mine: Web 2.0 services.
The operators are bringing equivalent applications to their customers, either by partnering with established social networking Internet players or building their own social networking communities from scratch. Among the most notable examples is Vodafone Group, which in February struck a series of global relationships with key Internet brands including Yahoo, Microsoft (Windows Live Messenger), YouTube and MySpace in a bid to bring established Web-based UGC and social networking brands to the mobile world.
In the US Cingular (now AT&T Wireless), Sprint Nextel and Verizon formed partnerships with FaceBook to allow their users to post messages to their FaceBook profiles via SMS text messaging.
In Asia, a handful of mobile operators are also testing the UGC and social networking waters by offering YouTube-like services to their mobile customers in a bid to build their own-brand communities. Singapore's M1, for instance, recently launched a user-generated video-sharing service, called MeTV, which allows M1 subscribers to upload their videos via MMS-enabled handsets for other users to view and download.
'Young people have become increasingly interested in expressing and sharing ideas, views or anything about themselves with their friends and peers,' says Chua Swee Kiat, general manager of corporate communications at M1.
'Riding on this wave of mass consumer interest, we offered MeTV to customers as a self-expression platform to 'see-and-be-seen' by the community.' Chua says what makes the service attractive is that it adopts a revenue-sharing model with end-users that allows them to make money with videos by earning S$0.05 in cash every time someone downloads the video. The top earners have earned between S$50-S$100 ($33-$66) since the launch of the service in March, he says.
'Rewarding customers with cash payouts for their content is a unique selling point for MeTV, and it provides customers the incentive to submit more creative and innovative videos,' Chua notes, adding that response has been good with more than 40,000 customers accessing the service since its launch.
At the same time, Taiwan Cellular introduced a similar service with the same revenue-sharing model in Taiwan in April, according to Arthur Chang, CEO of Green Tomato, which provided the user-generated video platform to Taiwan Cellular. The company has also jointly developed and hosted a mobile blogging portal with CSL in Hong Kong.
The free blog service allows customers of CSL's One2Free brand to upload and view photos and videos either via mobile phone or PC, according to Carol Wan, brand marketing general manager. Wan would not reveal subscriber numbers, but says the response has been 'encouraging' since the service launched last September and traffic is growing. In April alone the company recorded nearly 3.4 million page views, according to Wan.
Meanwhile, PCCW in Hong Kong took a different approach by launching a Flickr-like photo and video community called 'snaap,' which comes with features such as allowing users on the Internet, mobile, broadband TV and residential fixed-line service to view photos and videos.