Reading ComScore’s “India Digital Future in Focus” Report 2013, Part One

India digital futureSeveral interesting takeaways from this year’s ComScore “Digital Future in Focus India 2013” report.  For the first part of this reading, I look at the basics.  Slides 1-12.  Follow along by downloading the report here.

Basics:

1. 41% (ie, a plurality) of the world’s online audience is APAC-based, and in absolute numbers, this audience is growing. This fact is significant for consumer-facing media companies for many reasons.

  • A) The political establishment in many of these countries does not necessarily have an established history of favoring the free press.  From a legal perspective, social networks and certain related online companies are intermediaries, not publishers.  From a practical perspective, though, their expansion will be deeply affected by media and free speech laws in these nations – a trend that we’ve seen emerge in India and that will only intensify.  America and many nations in Europe enjoy a high level of press freedom and protection of what Americans typically consider First Amendment rights.  Such freedom is not the global norm.
  • B) Online behavior can and can’t be generalized across APAC. One interesting trend – the increasing emergence of social networking as a standalone and/or “bridge to the Internet” experience, a reality promoted by the runaway success of programs like Facebook for Every Phone.  In India, much is made of the “fragmented” media market – separated by language, earning power, method of consumption and preferences.  This fragmentation will be visible in the online sphere as well.
  • C) The emergence of far more robust “alternative” media, with ensuing demands for greater transparency among established media players.  By lowering the barriers to entry for publishing, the Internet erodes the traditional monopolies on information enjoyed by media houses.  Also, on an anecdotal level, I can say that holding “Big Media” to account is a very popular activity in the Blog-verse.
  • D) Emergence of publishers/monetizable online communities.  I remember meeting Premesh of Malaysiakini at an industry event a while back and was struck by the love-hate relationship that his site enjoys with regulation. On the one hand, strict government regulation is the entire reason that Malaysiakini evolved and grew – print newspapers weren’t free to criticize ruling authorities. Malaysiakini, digital-only, quickly developed a reputation for its ability and willingness to criticize regimes. Of course, this also led to government raids and extreme difficulty getting advertisers. Malaysiakini survived as a subscriber-supported site, when all its nearby competition is free.  To an extent, this type of community is what the new Dish is supposed to be about.
  • E) An urgent need for greater creativity regarding migrating ad revenues to mobiles.  Increased competition for online ad spends as well as low cost per consumer/click/view will combine. We will be seeing much more micro-media and micro-payment, with related opportunities for profitable disruption of the media delivery model.

2.  Report says India is “at a tipping point for online businesses.”  Guys – whether this is true or not, I can’t say. But I can say that every day brings a new ecommerce site into the mix, many of which seem to be powered by little more than a Shopify front and a Facebook ad campaign.  Clearly, some of these sites are achieving stickiness, but how many? Wouldn’t mind seeing a more detailed drilldown of ecomm startup launches and failures.

Tomorrow: Significance of age and gender breakdown, what the heck is up with car rentals and blogs?

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