Bharti Airtel has launched Airtel Blog, powered by Bubble Motion’s Bubbly. Any Airtel subscriber can sign up for their own blog by dialling *7*, and ask their friends and family to call up *<their number>* to subscribe. Blog subscribers will receive an SMS every time there’s an update, and will have to dial *2* to listen to the updates. Whenever a user subscribes to a blog, it’s author receives an SMS update. The service is priced at Rs. 0.75 per minute for voice-blogging, and for listening to blogs. That’s moderate pricing, similar to that from another product from Bubble Motion – Voice SMS. Interestingly, on signing up, Airtel sends a message informing authors that its terms and conditions are available online at http://www.airtelblog.in, which is full of disclaimers around user generated content.
The Premium Blogs Model: BBC News Signs On
One interesting mode of monetization is premium voice blog, which might end up being a significant mode of monetization, as more and more media companies publish snippets of voice updates. Users can sign up for BBC News updates in Hindi by dialling *5151*, paying Rs. 10 for 30 days as subscription, and Rs. 0.75 per minute for accessing. We timed them, and updates are exactly 30 seconds in length each.
I remember that a few years ago, STAR Plus had said that their voice service for summaries related to the popular TV show Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi would get significant traction in Uttar Pradesh, particularly due to power cuts in the evening. Subscribers would be willing to pay Rs. 6 per minute for a 5 minute summary. So, media houses could well monetize this service by providing quick summaries of their popular TV shows. Schools could use this service for broadcasting updates to parents. We could share a daily summary of updates at MediaNama (but we’d prefer that you read)
To call Airtel Blog or Bubbly a voice version of Twitter would be fallacious. The BBC News voice blog might spread if the BBC or Airtel promote it, but certain limitations will prevent this platforms growth as a medium for user generated content:
— Restricted To Operator Network: like in case of Voice SMS, the service is limited to a single operators network: only Airtel subscribers can voice blog, and only Airtel subscribers can listen to their voice blogs. Half the time, I’m not even aware of which operator my friends are on, so how do I know whom to inform about the fact that I’m voice blogging?Like Voice SMS, the service should not be restricted to a single operators network, even if Airtel has over 100 million subscribers.
— Discovery Difficult: the beauty of twitter is in discovering new people, whom you might find interesting. Bubbly has no mechanism by which I can search for a particular user. I would need to know Shashi Tharoor’s mobile number in order to follow him. It’s next to impossible to go beyond your phone book, unless someone promotes their number.
The other discovery issue is around topics and groups. Bubble Motion might be calling Bubbly a voice social network, but it’s impossible to fine to get to know new people or people speaking about interesting topics: keyword search is not possible, and it’s unlikely that
— Skimming Not Possible: I follow around 650 people on Twitter; every time I log in, there’s a completely new set of updates for me to go through – most of which I quickly glance through. I end up checking Twitter every few minutes – over 100 times a day, I’m sure. I can’t imagine following more than 20 people on the Airtel Blog.