With 1.016 billion internet users, Asia now accounts for46 percent of the world’s online population, according to research by the Asia Digital Marketing Association (ADMA). A further 623 million Asians use mobile phones to access the web. Although online habits vary from country to country, regional mobile internet trends are emerging, with innovative brands beginning to create effective ways of connecting with mobile consumers, and the increasing move to mobile is attracting inflows of investment and driving yet more innovation among advertisers, agencies and mobile technology companies. News organisations need to match this innovation if they are to develop successful digital businesses.
More than half of Asia’s internet users are in China, which has an online population of 513 million. Yet the internet penetration rate is not that high, only 38.3% at the end of last year. Compare that to 78% on average in western European countries. The necessary internet infrastructure is not yet in place in many areas of rural China. China is not alone in Asia when it comes to relatively low rates of internet use. Many other countries – such as India and Indonesia – also struggling with low internet penetration. Yet in all these developing markets mobile is on the rise, as it offers an affordable way to access the internet, especially in markets where desktops are often priced out of reach. With mobile use growing so fast across the region, it’s no wonder that businesses are following. By 2015, the Asia-Pacific region is expected to account for a third of all global mobile ad spend, $6.92 billion.
Another interesting phenomenon is that Asian users are more likely to use banking services and to shop online with their mobile devices. 62% of users check their bank balances on their mobile phones, and 41% use them to make online purchases, significantly higher numbers than in the US and Europe. Asian mobile users downloaded some 5 bn apps in 2011, generating $871m in revenue. Mobile is also closing the information gap between urban and rural consumers, connecting rural users to services like bill payments for the first time.
Moreover, Asian online advertising spend reached US$24.8 billion in 2011, second only to the US with $34.5 million. China’s internet advertising is expected to have an annual growth of 32.1 percent in the next five years. In terms of advertising and marketing, the impact of social networks is also noticeable. Asians are already highly engaged in social networks and as this trend intensifies, social media is likely to become the primary way for companies to engage with customers. But brands need to think carefully and define their strategies before engaging in social networking. ADMA cautions that: “Although 60 percent of social networkers say that social networks are a good place to learn about brands, 50 percent also say they don’t want to be bothered by brands.” ADMA also cautioned readers to note the fragmentation of online activities between different nations.
With the trend towards mobile gathering pace, mobile and social media are important elements in any Asian news business’s digital strategy.