Business in Korea


Internet, Mobile, IT and industry in Korea

La présence coréenne et les tendances du CES 2010

La dernière édition du salon Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2010 de l’électronique grand public qui s’est tenue du 7 au 10 janvier dernier à Las Vegas aux Etats-Unis fut une nouvelle fois l’occasion pour les grands fabricants de présenter leurs dernières nouveautés et innovations. Même si une cinquantaine d’entreprises coréennes étaient présentes sur le salon, ce sont essentiellement les grands rivaux Samsung Electronics et LG Electronics qui ont fait parler d’eux.

Parmi les grandes tendances de ce salon on note la montée en puissance des téléviseurs à rétro éclairage LED, Samsung annonce vouloir en vendre 10 M d’exemplaires en 2010. La 3D est également à l’honneur : téléviseur, lecteur Blu-ray, lunettes. Samsung comme LG ont annoncé un objectif de 2 M d’unités chacun sur cette gamme de téléviseurs. Enfin les téléviseurs deviennent « intelligents ». Chez LG on remarque les téléviseurs équipés du logiciel Skype permettant de passer des appels vocaux et vidéo par internet. Samsung met l’accent sur sa plateforme d’applications Samsung Apps depuis laquelle les utilisateurs peuvent télécharger des applications et contenus divers depuis leur télévision via internet.

En informatique, on retient surtout les tablettes et livres électroniques. Après les netbooks et les smartbooks, ce sont les tablettes et livres électroniques qui tiennent le devant de la scène cette année. Samsung annonce 2 modèles de livre électronique (6 et 10 pouces) disposant d’un accès par wifi à la bibliothèque en ligne de Google, d’un clavier coulissant et surtout de la reconnaissance de l’écriture manuscrite. Samsung profite également du salon pour présenter un netbook à l’écran OLED transparent de 14 pouces des plus futuristiques.

Côté téléphonie mobile, les écrans AMOLED, la télévision mobile digitale, le système d’exploitation Android et les technologies de 4e génération LTE et Wimax concentrent l’attention.

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Interview Jinsoo Kim – Representative director Yahoo! Korea

dsc04235Do you receive directions from the USA ?

Yes, for some part. I have to comply with the corporate direction, so I have to take it into consideration when I make the local strategy. But as you know, in order to succeed we have to consider the local users needs.

And they don’t know much about this at Sunnyvale, right ? I guess you have quite a lot of freedom in your everyday decisions ?

There are some constraints as you know but I have some degree of freedom to run the business here. About 2 years ago, we set up regional office so I don’t directly communicate with the guys in the US but through the regional office in Tapei.

Which are the main differences between Yahoo ! Korea and its main competitors like Naver or Daum and which features are specific to Yahoo ! Korea ?

First of all, I took my new role in 2007 and I had three different strategies :
-openness : in order to compete on this market, we need to have more good quality content so I tried to get some content from outside, from partners and from individual users, from the bloggers.
-another is globalization. Yahoo ! is known as a global company but we haven’t done that much in that regard so I tried to get some content from outside and put it into our network. For example, we are running a top of bloggers and some of them are getting content from Japan, US, China and translate those contents in Korean to provide them to Korean users.
-third one is personalization. Even if we have a lot of contents, these contents are not relevant to every user, that is why I emphasized on personalization. One personalization method is called implicit personalization. In order to use My Yahoo ! you have to set preferences but I think the reasons we are not succeeding with My Yahoo ! in the Korean market is because people are not willing to do that.

So it has to be automatic ?

Yes, automatically. For example, if you visit Yahoo ! Korea there is a news module and when a user click some content then  we can automatically push relevant content next time. It is not for everybody. We don’t know users behaviour if they don’t visit frequently. For frequent visitors, we provide one tab called personalized news so that they can find more relevant content there.

Do they have to login or do you use cookies ?

No, just by cookies. Other thing I’d like to add is that editing is very important as there are more and more content, too many content, so we have to select quality content. Before, editors do that work by intuition. I asked engineers to make a tool to track the clicks. If there is a low number of clicks during a certain period of time, they can switch for new content. That is different from our competitors and from Yahoo ! in other countries.

And which are the features people are using the more ?

The most frequently used module is news, people click a lot and we update frequently.

Which kind of news ?

The most popular are entertainment news and sport news. Sometimes political and economic news. These days people are very sensitive to economic news. Most of the clicks are made on the frontpage. News is number one and second one is search. Third one is blogs. The second module below news is for blogs. We give money to individual bloggers to keep posting 2-3 times a week. One blog can attract more than 100,000 visits a day. We selected bloggers in 2007 under the project named 100 top bloggers to be come Yahoo ! top bloggers

Which subjects are popular ?

Sometimes historical contents, artistic ones…

We talked about User Generated Content. It is an opportunity for you to have free content, but at the same time, quality can be very uneven and sometimes users can feel overloaded ?

When we think about web 2.0, UGC, we have to think from two different perspectives : the reader perspective and the content generator perspective. We are dealing with 4.3 millions users but only couple of thousands are really generating their own quality content. So first of all , we figured out who are the top bloggers, we payed them. We have also blog search which ranks bloggers based on queries and an algorithm, every day. By using blog search, readers can easily find which bloggers are the best. Also I’d like to further emphasize we filter the quality and divide blogs in categories so  that users can easily access to contents.

Do you take into account votes or comments from readers ?

We are not doing that yet, but we are thinking about such features for blogs selection. We have Buzz running in the US and my plan is to add this feature to Yahoo ! Korea.

Is it working well in the US, because we mainly hear about Digg ?

I heard that Buzz is working better than Digg, that is good news. But users have to login to access this buttons. We would like to get rid of this.

Recently Google and Yahoo ! seal a deal here in Korea on Maps. Here, Google and Yahoo ! are not the big players, is it the only reason ?

I think the reason is quite obvious. Some engineers from Google and Yahoo ! came to us to have this kind of deal. We reviewed the proposition. They are very good with Youtube and video contents and we are very strong in local contents. So by exchanging we can better work.

You easily got the OK from Sunnyvale ?

Some peope had concerns, but it went very well.

Do you have any other project of partnership ?

No. But the basic principle is to think from a very pratical perspective, instead of political reasons. We need the market. This is the biggest goal. So we can continue to do this kind of things. And they are not exactly competitors in the market, so we work together and increase our market share.

How do you think the average Internet starting page will look like in couple of years ?

I have to talk from two different perspectives. One is visual/design and the other is content. From the visual/design perspective, if you remember when Yahoo ! opened it just had links, no images, except for the logo; that changed a lot. We are trying to meet users’ needs. I don’t know if we are meeting users ‘ expectations as much as they would like but we try to do that. Also, the frontpage is considered as the corporate brand identity so we have a quite similar look and feel as the US version. And from the content point of view, we introduced images and video modules at the bottom of the page. Contents are getting richer. Also the contents are getting more and more relevant to individual users by applying personalization features. But the evolution is different from country to country. In Korea, the Internet infrastructure is good so we can put more on the frontpage compare to other countries.

Finally, what are your plans for the mobile version of the site ?

We have to prepare for that, but I don’t have much room to think about that. For now we have to focus on PC, and after we have succeeded, we will have to gradually migrate to other devices like mobiles or IPTV.

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Interview Benjamin Joffe, CEO of +8* and founder of Mobile Monday in Beijing

Benjamin Joffe is the CEO of +8*, a Beijing-based strategic consultancy focused on Internet and mobile innovation in Asia. Clients include Microsoft, Deutsche Telekom, China Mobile, Sands Capital and Adidas. Benjamin is also the founder of Mobile Monday in Beijing.

Do you think Facebook, Google and other big western Internet players will eventually gain more market shares in Korea?

No… A little bit, since Facebook does not have a local equivalent (Cyworld’s DNA and target population is quite different). Google possibly a bit as they hired some pretty good guy, including my friend Kim Changwon with their acquisition of TNC. However, Naver = search in the mind of Korean users, and Google looks like an old toy for kids compared to Naver’s search.

What is the main model of monetization for social networks on mobile in Korea and Japan?

Cyworld monetizes via virtual goods and advertising. Mixi in Japan uses mostly advertising. Mobile Game Town and Gree in Japan monetize on mobile and mostly via digital goods, associated with in-browser mobile Flash games.

Do you think there are limits to the advertising based model on mobile in general?

Yes. Advertising does not scale rapidly, has very little network effects. Essentially, advertising is a B2B play, while virtual goods is B2C.
Are there still barriers to the development of mobile Internet in China?

Yes, huge ones. The main barrier is that China Mobile makes life hard for content providers, who have to find ways to generate revenues outside of the operator’s influence. Innovation comes from constraints, so some companies have already found interesting service concepts and revenue models, but overall life is tough. Another barrier is the absence of good flat-rate data plans, which was one of the main catalysts for the market growth in Japan once 3G was introduced. Last, 3G is just starting, at about the same level the Japanese market was at the end of 2001 and other advanced markets were in 2005, so there is still a long way to go.
What are the big lessons to be learnt by European mobile players from the Asian experience to build a better ecosystem for mobile Internet?

Europeans invented SMS+, which was a good idea to monetize content. Now SMS is slowing them down, as they cannot get rid of it since most of their profit comes from it. Japan has had push email since 1999 and messaging is now a very small percentage of their data revenue (data ARPU is about 30%). Basically, improving on SMS instead of going all-IP is like improving on candle technologies instead of using electricity. In terms of ecosystems, Japan has done an amazing job for which the closest model is Apple’s iPhone with its application store + revenue share on data. I think most telcos worldwide did not understand what is an ecosystem and saw that as “suppliers” or “contractors” and tried to squeeze content providers instead of helping them thrive. I think their vision is unlikely to change and that the market will simply pass them by.
When it comes to the revenues who are the biggest earners in Asia : telcos, manufacturers, Internet portals?

Telcos make billions in revenues and profits. Manufacturers have low margins and generally struggle. Internet portals make hundreds of millions and have decent margins. The big winners are the online game companies, the social networks and some e-commerce players. This is going to continue.
Finally, what are the main innovations and trends in the mobile area for 2009 according to you?

The iPhone raised the bar for all mobile phone manufacturers, so one big trend is the touch screen and wide screen. Another trend is GPS – Nokia is especially keen on that. I don’t expect much technical innovations aside from displays and multi-touch, but the spread of services (most of them already successful in Japan) such as mobile music, mobile advertising, mobile commerce, mobile social networks, possibly mobile books (already a hit in Japan), casual free games as well. Mobile video should be more and more popular but the revenue models are still very unclear. Personally, I find the most interesting is the combination of SNS with location and gaming – a field I worked in back in 2003. Combined with GPS, electronic compass and databases, you can also “point” at things and receive information on them. This will lead to “pervasive” things – somewhat “seeing the Matrix”. Later you’ll be able to point your phone at people or just “detect” them around you, and get info about them (with more or less disclosure). This will change our lives and is not even technically difficult, this is more a business model and service design problem.

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Google buys TNC

Google just acquired Korean Tatter and Company (TNC), owner of the blogging platform Textcube. TNC provides services to more than 400,000 bloggers, including many of Korea’s top bloggers. The platform is often compared to WordPress for the quality of its services. Google’s strategy to increase its presence in the country through acquisitions makes sense as Blogger, Google’s blogging platform, doesn’t find its public in Korea where blogging is really popular. Google said it wants to “broaden its portfolio of locally-focused products, further encourage creation of openly accessible user-generated content, and improve search experiences of Korean users.”

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Naver : most popular website in Korea

A survey conducted by the internet and media research   company KoreanClick announced Korean major internet portal Naver as the most visited website in Korea in June 2008.

In June 2008 Naver is ranked No.1 for visitors with 31,164,000 unique visitors.  Another Korean Internet portal : Daum is ranked No.2 with 29,521,000 unique visitors. No.3 is Cyworld, the most popular Cyber world community in Korea with 23,889,000 unique visitors.

The ranking of search engines is :

1.Naver : 3,556,790,000 queries
2.Daum : 922,881,000 queries
3.Empas : 242,752,000 queries
4.Yahoo: 209,171,000 queries
5.Google : 25,202,000 queries

The leader of shopping destinations is Auction with 17,998,000 unique visitors , followed by Gmarket with 17,951,000 unique visitors and Interpark with 11,704,000 unique visitors.

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