interview


Yahoo: “The next big area of growth in mobile Internet consumption is infotainment”

Tommaso del Re, Yahoo!

We speak to Tommaso del Re, Head of Mobile and Business Development at Yahoo! India & Southeast Asia, about the influence mobile devices are having on internet usage, the increasingly fragmented nature of audience interactions, and the distinctions he has noticed in mobile internet usage across different markets in Southeast Asia.

What are some of the key consumer trends emerging from mobile internet usage in Southeast Asia?

In 2011, Yahoo! undertook a study of user mobile internet consumption and behaviour across various Southeast Asia markets called the Yahoo! Net Index 2011 study, which highlighted a number of key trends.

Across the region, we are witnessing an evolution from shared to private access. Consistent across nearly all markets is that mobile and home access continues to grow, indeed mobile devices are quickly overtaking Internet cafes as the primary means to access the internet.

No doubt the drop in data costs, better infrastructure and rise of Internet-capable devices at more affordable prices are the key drivers when it comes to mobile Internet access cannibalising internet cafes access. An intuitive usage case is that of people wanting to access their email or chat.

In the past this need would have been addressed by checking into an internet café or similar access points. This is no longer the case and users can cheaply and quickly do this through their mobiles.

Taking a closer look at what people do when they access the Internet on their handsets, the Yahoo! Net Index 2011 study identifies the following key activities and services.

1)     Social Networking: barring Vietnam, mobile internet usage is commonly used for social networking in most SEA countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. A significant proportion of social networking updates in markets like Indonesia are primarily made through mobile devices.

2)    Communication (mail/messenger): mail and messenger usage is among the top mobile Internet activities in Malaysia and the Philippines. In Vietnam, IM is particularly popular on mobile.

3)    Infotainment: after communication, searching for information and downloading ringtones are the most popular activities on mobile. In Vietnam, news-related information is most sought after, while in other markets facts/trivia and images are more popular.  Looking closer to Yahoo! content consumption, it is worth noting how Vietnam’s mobile subscribers show a greater interest for news (82 per cent) than other markets.

What influence are mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets having on this picture?

The capabilities of handheld devices are a critical contributor to the growth of the mobile internet market. Based on our observation, only a small minority of handsets are sold today without mobile internet capabilities.

This empowers pretty much any mobile owner to access the internet, any time, anywhere. It is important however not to associate mobile internet access only through smart phones. True, handsets on Android and iOS are without any doubt devices to access the internet as a primary function and make phone calls as a secondary function.

That said, most sub-100 dollar handsets are now becoming “smarter”. These handsets provide more than just a decent Internet service through a better user experience when browsing, simultaneous applications running, touch screen and more.

When looking at tablets, our view is that in Southeast Asia we will continue to witness a steady growth of tablet distribution. As in most cases, Singapore is a notable exception, but in the rest of the region we do not  believe this form factor will revolutionise how users access the Internet.

At present and for the medium term, we see tablets as an additional device to access the Internet, not one that replaces handsets or PCs.

How are Yahoo!’s key activities in SEA being affected by the evolution of consumer demand for Internet/Mobile Internet based services?

Yahoo!’s business is centred around being at the heart of people’s communication and information needs and activities. For many years Yahoo! has been leading the way on mobile by actively investing and innovating in mobile experiences, ensuring that users can continue to interact through our key services like Yahoo! Mail, Messenger, News, OMG and seamlessly across devices.

Furthermore, we observe user behaviour not to be just about migrating from one medium to another. Increasingly, and in the living room especially, Internet users are multi-tasking, for example while watching TV and simultaneously interacting on their mobiles or tablets.

Because of this, Yahoo! bought IntoNow, a company and application designed specifically to provide an augmented and interactive experience that connects viewers in new and exciting ways with the show they are watching.

Keeping close engagement with users across different platforms is critical also because Yahoo!’s premium advertising partners aim to reach their target audience, which has become elusive as their interaction with media becomes increasingly fragmented. For this reason, top brands around the world turn to Yahoo! for deeply immersive advertising solutions across both PC, mobile, tablets and more.

Furthermore, as indicated by the above-mentioned research, the next big area of growth in mobile Internet consumption is infotainment. As the premier digital media company and as the #1 destination for news and entertainment across most key SEA territories, Yahoo! is in a unique position to combine its audience leadership, aggressive investment in both global and local content, and innovation to capitalise on the upcoming growth trend.

What distinctions have you observed in mobile Internet usage across the different markets within Southeast Asia?

As much as there are similarities between the SEA markets, there are also some interesting differences we have observed. As we all know, Singapore stands out from the rest of SEA as the most affluent in terms of smartphone penetration and unlimited data plans.

Whilst Nokia is a dominant brand in terms of Internet-enabled mobile handsets in SEA (except Singapore), at the same time we have witnessed a strong growth of Apple handsets in Malaysia and Philippines during the last 12 months.

Indonesians’ love for Blackberry seems to be generally ongoing. That said, Samsung has been making significant inroads in the Indonesian market, something Apple handsets have been lacking.

In terms of data plan adoption outside Singapore, most markets have been similarly positioned with what we estimate being around 20-30 per cent market penetration. Philippines used to be on the lower end but recently we have witnessed the telcos in this country taking a more aggressive approach in driving data adoption.

Furthermore, the Philippines stands apart as the only country in Southeast Asia where women (57 per cent) make up a higher proportion of mobile Internet users than men (43 per cent). This is contrary to the trend that skews towards male users in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam and right across the region.

Tommaso is speaking at the Broadband IP&TV Asia 2012 event, taking place in Malaysia on 15th-16th May. For more information and to register, please visit http://asia.broadbandworldforum.com

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