This year’s World Telemedia in Marbella on 18-20 October couldn’t come at a more pivotal time for the industry. In the midst of a maelstrom of issues – carrier billing, affiliate marketing, telecoms consolidation and heavier regulation (not to mention a potential Brexit) – this is the one show that brings all the interested parties together to help resolve these issues.
So what is on the cards? The full agenda is online at www.wtevent.com but essentially the show is going to tackle three big ‘issues of the day’: Marketing and promotion; Payments; Networking and telecoms issues.
So what can you expect to hear?
Affiliate marketing is the main way to drive clicks to merchant services and media companies. But in a world of tightening regulation these highly competitive networks will do anything to get that click. At World Telemedia Marbella, we will be looking to address these issues and hear from leading affiliate networks themselves as to how to run a good affiliate campaign.
We will also take a look at how to avoid ‘the perfect storm’ of competition, regulation and wary MNOs that could be a massive issue in the years ahead.
“The industry needs to work together on this,” warns Alan Partington from show sponsor Telecom2. “We need a list of rogue affiliates or similar and we need to work as an industry to make sure affiliate marketing works for us.”
This is echoed by Jeremy Flynn from Empello, who says: “It’s a complicated subject: everyone needs clicks and affiliates are the efficient way to deliver that, but many affiliates use other affiliates and so it gets very complex from a compliance point of view. I liken it to the old days of telecoms when you had mobile originating networks (MOs) and mobile terminating networks (MTs). These days you have originating affiliates who tend to sit on the merchant side and terminating ones that work with media. You then have many more in between that link the two. Understand this and checking compliance across these networks of networks is very hard.”
Carrier billing looked to have such a bright future but that has been stymied. The show aims to get to the bottom of why.
According to AIME MD Rory Maguire, the biggest challenge for the telemedia industry runs along four main themes, particularly as the industry is evolving into an online payment mechanism for digital content and services and consumers mobile access to internet is near saturated.
“Firstly, there is a widescale unawareness by consumers that you can charge items to your mobile account,” he says. “This makes consumers delighted when they realise they can for products they have sought or shock and disbelief when they realise they HAVE made a purchase just by clicking a few buttons.”
Maguire continues: “Secondly, widescale unawareness by potential merchants that consumers can buy from them and charge it to their mobile account. As more online content becomes chargeable due to advertising inventory drop off, merchants look to payment mechanics and don’t even consider premium rate mechanics
“Thirdly there is the highly complex regulatory environment and not just from the regulator. This puts companies off entering into the market
“Finally, there is no single product. Merchants get PayPal, Amazon Pay, Credit and Debit cards. The Telemedia product range is not a uniform picture to the merchant.”
The biggest opportunities are Ticketing for transport and entertainment, says Maguire, with the latter ripe for plucking by the right technology companies. “We need an Uber effect for entertainment. Digital publishing as ad inventory falls away and integrated discounting,” he concludes.
Direct carrier billing (DCB) faces the same challenges it always has – what’s changed is the quality of the ‘opposition’. What does that mean? Well, DCB’s always had two big advantages: it reaches all those people who don’t have a bank card or who do but don’t want to use it to buy digital goods. And it provides an easier payment experience. I’d argue the former still applies. But the latter? Less so.
In the past paying by card on an unfamiliar site (i.e. not Amazon or eBay etc) was a pain. Loads of form filling, and the anxiety of surrendering payment credentials to yet another third party. But now, thanks to processors like Square, that’s all speeding up. And then there’s Apple Pay. People focus on Apple Pay’s contactless function, but to me that’s far less interesting than what it can do inside apps. Using a fingerprint to make an instant payment (where the details are held locally and not shared with the retailer)? That’s powerful. And rumours are, it’s coming to the mobile web too.
“So DCB needs to get a move on,” warns Tim Green, editor of mobilemoneyrevolution.com and keynote speaker at the show. “That means operators doing more on rev shares – which have admittedly tumbled in recent years)– and helping aggregators to connect. Regulators can help too. I’ve written loads on DCB before and I’m still unclear as to why I can use it for wifi but not parking (unless I’m in the Nordics).”
Oxygen8’s Kevin Dawson believes that lack of support from network operators – often because of mergers and internal battles – is stifling uptake of DCB. “[There’s] no real support to adapt new models, flows and payments to kickstart the market as hoped, some MNO’s are keen and supportive, others are not offering anything beyond standard terms and no focus.”
But all is not lost. According to Green: “ There are so many areas where many people would – for reasons a psychologist could explain better than I – rather pay by mobile than card: in-app upgrades, ebooks, charity donations, and so on. Then there are the unbanked and underbanked. There are billions of people with smartphones now, and most don’t have a debit card. They’re all potential customers. Even Apple recognises this, having quietly launched DCB in Russia and Germany on its app store.”
Telecoms and PRS
As others have alluded to, the telecoms market globally is in a spate of consolidation through mergers and acquisitions – where the EU will let it – and this is having some massive impacts on how domestic MNOs approach services. However, there are broader issues to. As keynote speaker John Strand says: “Declining prices, increasing regulation, net neutrality, zero rating banding, EU data protection directive are all limiting telecoms. Many want to consolidate as a result but this uncertainty is leading to limited VAS innovation in Europe, with fewer platforms and content providers dominate the market – typically non-telcos Google and Facebook – and all the innovation coming from Silicon Valley. The winners take it all – Google / Facebook.”
According to Strand: “If you can innovate and create new business models, sponsored services / content. Bundling of content and Mobile Services, Operators there understand that we have to reinvent the old partner model from premium SMS. This could help the telemedia industry no end.”
On the PRS front, Rob Johnson from show sponsors Telecom2 believes that there is much to discuss.
“Higher rate PRS, for one,” he says. “We asked for inflation indexing and got inflation busting rates, these voice rates have far higher out payments than the equivalent shortcodes and clients are beginning to realise this and are switching.”
Piero Bertini from phonegroup agrees. “Premium rate traffic needs ranges with good payout and stable access. If a player is able to work on this with a mix of Carriers Tier1&Tier2 and local operators there is a big opportunity of keeping a stable and good business for everyone. Currently wholesale market has some difficulties with low margin and high risk. Value Added Services (VAS), if done in the right way, can be a good opportunity for Carriers too, in order to have good profits with real traffic!” he says.
Josef Bruckschlogl from KWAK meanwhile is looking further a field: “The great challenge of the upcoming years will be to create global access to payment and content services. Unique caller gross rates will implement a transparent fee structure and we’ll see an improvement of the professional quality of our industry’s quality!
He concludes: “The biggest driver of opportunities within Telemedia is the enormous need for cash within the media sector. Since we see an rapid inflation of media space the need for paid interaction rises.”