WW-174 -- Off-portal sites in Japan see excessive growth

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Issue No. 174 Wednesday June 02, 2008
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Off-portal sites in Japan see excessive growth

Japanese mobile content sites inside the walled garden of the
official carrier portals have a tough time. Competition is
severe and lots of free content is available on the mobile
Internet not regulated by the carriers. The introduction of
search engines has made it easier to find your favorite
content. Over the past four years, many content providers and
publishing companies have moved (part of) their content to the
free public Internet.

Mobage Town is a good example of such an off-portal service
offering games, social networking services and news. In April,
Mobage Town had 10 million registered users and a total number
of 15.6 billion page views were generated. It took only 2 years
to reach these numbers.

We thought that setting up off-portal sites and making money was
pretty difficult for non-Japanese companies wishing to enter
this dynamic mobile market. In March we met Goal.com, a Swiss
company providing soccer content on the web and mobile. In terms
of page views and unique visitors, Goal.com is the world’s
largest new media soccer news provider. It publishes 17 editions
in 14 different languages – even a full Japanese version is
available written by Japanese editors based in Europe. Joan
Blaas, Vice President Mobile of Goal.com came to Japan for
business development: ‘We launched our Japanese mobile site in
November 2007, as of today we have more than 1 million page
views a month,’ said Joan. We were not so impressed by this
number. ‘Since the launch, we have not done any promotion for
the site in Japan. My technical team in Europe has not even
optimized the content for Japanese handsets,’ continued Joan.
Out of curiosity we took our phone and entered the URL
m.goal.com in our browser. The site looked bad – images were
very small and it took a long time to load. One million page
views on such a site without marketing suddenly looked very
good.

We advised Joan to get in touch with UBIT, a local mobile
technology company that could help Goal.com with optimizing and
testing the site on Japanese phones. The next step was to
introduce Goal.com to Mobage Town. Within two weeks, Goal.com
and UBIT adapted the site and the number of page views
subsequently doubled in a month. Goal.com has plans to grow
aggressively. ‘We went live with our content in Mobage Town,
and expect to reach 4 million page views during EURO 2008, and
aim to become the largest soccer site in 2009. With this traffic
and focus on soccer, we are an interesting medium to
advertise,’ said Joan. We agreed. Goal.com enjoys riding the
off-portal wave.

By Arjen Van Blokland

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++END

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