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MWC 2009: New Media Services Well Placed in Recession, Delegates Agree

By: NMK Created on: February 25th, 2009
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The great and the good of the mobile industry met this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. In the depths of a global recession the industry is witnessing mixed fortunes. New Media Knowledge caught up with some exhibitors and visitors to gauge their thoughts on the show.

Among the general debate at Mobile World Congress 2009 (MWC) about 4G, mobile wrist phones, green technologies and the growth of mobile social networking there was a clear divide between the fortunes of the small innovators and handset manufacturers. NMK interviewed mobile ad network firms seeing 30 per cent growth in each of the last four months at the same time as handset makers were predicted to see a five per cent fall in sales, according to analysts Gartner. That would represent the first fall in handset sales since 2001, despite the four billionth connection being made this month.

Ad-verse Conditions

BuzzCity is a Singapore-based developer of global wireless communities and consumer services. The company’s CEO K.F. Lai said the company said that community builders were well-equipped to deal with the recession.

“We’re seeing advertisers cut ad budgets overall, especially from traditional media, but they’re looking at mobile as part of their strategy so as a community builder we’re seeing growth,” Lai told NMK.

The company is working with firms like Renault in Europe on mobile advertising strategies and has built a global ad network with 1,000 advertisers. Lai believes one of the key issues in the market is enabling mobiles to be used to make purchases and payments.

“Mobile users want to access the Web from their handheld, and that includes making transactions. This is especially important when it’s hard to reach an ATM. With a pre-paid model you’d reduce the need for credit cards,” he said.


Un-Crowded House

Registered delegates at the show fell below 50,000 at Mobile World Congress this year, compared to more than 55,000 last year. This should not detract from the quality of innovation and developments taking place, according to show visitor Xavier Adam, managing director of marketing firm AMC Network.

“I’ve come to MWC in previous years and seen technology demonstrated that either nobody wants or concepts that aren’t available yet. This year those innovations are here and they’re working, which is really exciting for the industry,” he said.

Tim Deluca-Smith of mobile device management and support firm WDS Global and the Wireless Informatics Forum said that despite lower numbers the mobile industry continues to get bigger every year.

“MWC is a great event from an educational standpoint, not just for selling. The downside in this climate is that sales cycles are longer so it’s going to take longer to judge the return on investment and value of exhibiting,” Deluca-Smith said.

Diminishing Returns

While WDS Global and BuzzCity are both enjoying incredible sales growth that defies the wider economic gloom, the mobile industry needs to continue to innovate to keep growing while other sectors suffer, exhibitors agreed.

Christophe Hocquet, co-founder of mobile social network enabler Kiboo, is upbeat. “The mobile industry is not the automobile industry, thankfully. I know which one I’d rather be in right now,” he concluded. “The new media industry is well-placed during the Credit Crunch. If anything, we’re seeing acceleration in the transition from tradition media to new formats but it’s still a risky industry. So many small companies can come up with a good idea but disappear within 18 months.”


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