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Friday, January 26, 2007

Mobile Downloading and Japan

It’s been a while since my last entry on our blog, my excuse – I spent the first two weeks of this year in Tokyo. So without further ado, some thought on mobile phone use over there and how they might tie in to some of the issues we’ve been looking at within the UK market… We’ve all by now heard that the use of 3G services is at a far more advanced stage in Japan than in the UK. And you don’t have to look too hard to see the signs of this when you’re actually there. Taking a typical train journey as an example, although it’s considered antisocial to actually talk on your phone when in transit, look around and you’ll see people doing all sorts of other things with their mobiles: Emailing, playing games, using 3G portal services. Talking to the locals gave me some interesting insight into the much less discussed flipside of this phenomenon – that PC use is less common in Japan than in the UK (even more so the US). So whereas the average Japanese consumer may turn to their mobile for travel or shopping information they would be less likely to turn to a PC for the same thing. This is established behaviour based on precedence. Mobile phones have become established as the source for information. Use of the WWW seems some way from the level it has reached here and may never be as popular as long. In many ways the opposite of the situation we are seeing in the UK. This fact is also reflected in the relative size of the online and mobile download markets in Japan. The mobile music download market has historically dwarfed that for PCs – by up to 50 times a few years ago. Japanese consumers have been used to using their mobiles as their access point to online services, including music downloads. The magnitude is now nearer to 10 times – and closing. It seems likely that this is in some part due to the rise of the iPod, almost as common a sight on Japanese trains as it is over here, giving consumers a new reason to download music onto their computers. There are some promising signs for the mobile network providers in the UK. Our most recent groups on mobile music suggest that consumers are coming to expect MP3 playback facilities on new mobiles. Alongside this (and despite continuing cynicism from some) they gradually seem to be coming round to the idea of using their mobiles as music players. Still though, in trying to kick start the mobile music download market here, providers need to work with the situation on the ground as it is, and that is one in which people are used to using PCs for downloading. Rather than trying to battle their online competitors head on, it may be that working alongside and complementing current behaviour holds deeper promise as a means of persuading UK consumers to start looking at their phones as a viable source for music downloads and online information. Encouraging a gradual shift to mobile downloading - through innovation or by utilising the strengths of the mobile medium - seems a far more likely prospect than expecting consumers to suddenly change what are established everyday habits.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

CBB - the Indian View

Where has the month gone? Is it now definitely too late to wish everyone happy new year?… Anyway, I'm writing from a somewhat topical business trip…hot on the heels of Gordon Brown, I'm finding myself in Mumbai and planted a question in last night's groups on - what else, Big Brother, Shilpa and Jade. The mood amongst our (very) middle class respondents was one of dignified but somehow also resigned distaste for Jade (who seems to be becoming a household name here for all the wrong reasons) but perhaps surprisingly only muted sympathy for Shilpa. "As an Indian I feel I have to support her" was one view but whilst this seemed to be a common background feeling, our group participants also thought that 'she should have been better prepared…she should have been more thick skinned and should have known that they are like that." "Britishers are known for being racist". Britains' colonial history in India as (or so I hear) taught in school has left an image of the nation as racist towards Indians which is reinforced by negative experiences reported back by compatriots living in the UK. Respondents were talking about friends in London having had their houses searched and being suspected of terrorism 'without reason'. Whilst our consumers were quite media savvy and also thought the CBB clashes were hyped by the media - both in the UK and in India - and set up by the programme makers to bump up ratings, the whole episode has definitely not won Britain any favours in the old colony. When I spoke to my colleague after the groups I found it interesting that she assumed that the British were very aware of being seen as racists by Indians. Well, not quite, is my view. Surely, well educated Brits are very much aware of the negative excesses of the colonial presence in India but wouldn't they also see their modern nation as standing for tolerance and inclusiveness? Wouldn't Brits be surprised to be brandished a racist nation today? (What do others think?) The whole distasteful CBB episode may have sparked an interesting domestic debate on what constitutes racism in the UK but as we know well from researching creative across countries, some of the subtlety does get lost when you go abroad…