It’s once again time for your weekly roundup of major digital marketing news with an international flavour. In this week’s update: Google reveals that mobile search is dominant in 10 countries in the midst of mobile-focussed initiatives; vKontakte is now bigger than Russia’s Channel 1; LINE is prepping for an IPO; China issues explicit advice on what it censors; and a small Microsoft test goes viral in Turkey.
Tucked away in an announcement about new mobile advertising features for AdWords is the revelation that more Google searches now take place on mobile devices than computers in 10 countries. Attributed only to “Google internal data”, the United States and Japan are singled out as examples of nations where the long-awaited threshold has been passed.
The increasing importance of mobile to Google has been underlined by the engine’s recent strategic decisions, including the well publicised 21 April update (christened “Mobilegeddon”) aimed at giving a boost in search from mobile devices for appropriately optimised sites.
Google’s experiments in this area even extend to automatically optimising sites without the input of webmasters – a field test in Indonesia is serving users on legacy mobile connections (e.g. 2G) a version of the requested site that loads four times faster with a 80% less data in its footprint. Webmasters have the option of opting out of this feature.
vKontakte is the undisputed leader of Russian social media, but its audience growth is now sufficiently large for it to be one of largest properties in media more generally. Russian Search Tips reports that VK’s monthly reach – 20.1 million people – is now equal to Channel 1, the biggest national TV channel in Russia. Yandex’s reach was similarly measured against the station in the past – the search engine’s audience surpassed that of Channel 1 back in mid-2012.
LINE, the messaging app hugely popular in Japan, is said to be set for an Initial Public Offering (IPO), trading shares in Tokyo and potentially, New York. The business’ predicted value is $8 billion USD, though disagreements with South Korean parent company, Naver, reportedly slowed attempts for an IPO late last year.
LINE offers free calls, instant message sending, post photos and videos. A key differentiator is its large-scale “stickers”, essentially plus-sized emoji, that appeal to the teenage demographic. Despite the fact that the audience skews younger in this way, the LINE app recently launched on Apple Watch.
China’s censorship practices being traditionally opaque, a recent list of explicit rules directed at online news portals, published by the Cyberspace Administration of China, signals the state embracing its reputation for Internet control. The directive cites the publishing of pornographic material and “false information or rumours” on news portals as actions that could cause a summons, and subsequent fines, temporary suspensions or closure. Similar punishments would be handed out for sites maintaining “incomplete Internet security systems”.
The directive follows in the wake of investigations into Sina Corp and Netease. The latter recently deleted 24,000 messages, and closed problematic channels and user accounts after government intervention.
Social media exploded last week with posts sharing Microsoft’s How-old.net demo – a simple application that claims to be able to detect the age and gender of persons in a photograph. Offering either scarily accurate results or (more commonly) hilariously inaccurate guesses, the site offers an interesting look at the cross-border potential of virality – 210,000 images were submitted “in a matter of hours”, and strangely, 29,000 of the 35,000 unique users detected were from Turkey.
Speaking on Quora.com, a developer claiming to have worked on the tool discussed some key reasons why the tool achieved its virality. Most of the theorised reasons were non-technical: if your project caters to narcissism, lacks a language barrier and is first disseminated by your biggest fans, you have some of the conditions necessary for larger-scale uptake.
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Classic Venice photo by Flickr user Roberto Trm
Oh, your mom is on TV photo by Flickr user Alexey Ivanov
Roof photo by Flickr user m-louis
How-old.net photo by Flickr user Matteo Doni