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Yahoo eyes emerging markets with content on USSD

Yahoo! logoThe real money and growth in tech is in emerging markets as well as mobile services and everyone seems to be looking in that direction for growth and relevance.

Yahoo’s growth strategy for mobile services will now include a smarter focus on emerging markets after it was announced in a press release from the Myriad Group, a company working with Yahoo, that it will start pushing its news content via a USSD platform.

This means that users with basic (the mbudzi or “dumb” variety) and feature phones will be able to access Yahoo News from their devices. It’s a big deal when you consider statistics that indicate a low uptake of smartphone devices in emerging markets. Looking, for example, at Africa where smartphone penetration averages at most 18%, this shows a huge market for such “offline” services.

Plans are to introduce, at a later stage in the year the Yahoomail and Messenger services as well.

The Myriad Group are not new when it comes to porting web services to USSD, having worked with Facebook and Twitter via the Orange network in parts of Africa, Telefonica in Latin America and Vodafone in India. These services were just like those offered by Econet and ForgetMeNot Africa when they gave us Facebook for feature phones some time ago.

The new roll out is reportedly set to start with Vodafone India and will assume the usual fashion of an ad free service for subscribers. However Myriad is exploring ways to introduce advertising on to the USSD platform. This will allow Yahoo to offer their news services as zero rated to the end users.

With any luck this drive will expand to other regions. In African countries, Zimbabwe included, Yahoo has an established presence through online services. Angling for “offline users” might just work if the concept of the service being zero rated is added to this equation. It could also create a new ad platform that can be exploited by local businesses.

Through adverting via USSD, Yahoo gets to boost its revenues while providing the Mobile Network Operator that activates the service an additional revenue stream as well.

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