By Me Yesterday: The World Leader in Mobile Facebook Access? Indonesia

My WSJ Digits post begins:

Indonesia leads the world in terms of the percentage of its Facebook users who access the social network on their mobile devices.

That’s according to research firm eMarketer, which said Thursday that some 92.4% of Facebook users in the country — 62.6 million people — tap into the social network via their phones at least once a month. That’s up from 88.1% last year and 77.7% in 2013.

Click through for more.

By Me Today: WhatsApp’s Now Available on a Web Browser

My post at WSJ Digits begins:

Users of the popular messaging app WhatsApp can now conduct their chats via a Web browser — with a few restrictions.

The Facebook-owned service with some 700 million monthly active users said in a blog post Wednesday that people can now link their mobile phones with a WhatsApp Web client, allowing them to write and read messages via their computers.

There are, however, a few limitations to the setup. First, those with iPhones are out of luck due to “Apple platform limitations,” WhatsApp says. The service works with Android, BlackBerry, Nokia S60 and Windows devices, but users need the latest version of WhatsApp.

To start, WhatsApp users can visit Web.WhatsApp.com via Google’s Chrome browser on their computers, where a QR code will appear.

Click through for instructions on how to set it up.

And, yes, an you’ll see an image of a WhatsApp conversation I had via a Web browser…with myself.

As I said on Facebook earlier: Anything in the name of journalism.

By Me Yesterday: Twitter Buys India-Based Startup ZipDial to Tap Emerging Markets

Our main story at WSJ.com begins:

Twitter Inc. agreed to buy India-based mobile marketing startup ZipDial for an undisclosed sum in its first acquisition in Asia, as it seeks to tap more offline users in fast-growing emerging markets.

Countries like India, Indonesia and Brazil are key to Twitter as it tries to attract new users and advertising dollars, analysts say. Emerging markets are increasingly becoming an important part of Twitter’s growth strategy as it peaks in developed markets such as the U.S. and the U.K. In the three months ended September, Twitter reached 284 million monthly active users, about 77% of whom came from outside the U.S.

Bangalore-based ZipDial is known for its “missed call” marketing service, which allows consumers to dial a number for a company and hang up before connecting. The company in turn sends them free text messages containing advertisements and other content, like sports scores, without users incurring a charge.

A colleague and I also wrote this primer on ZipDial:

Twitter said Tuesday it is paying an undisclosed sum to acquire ZipDial, a Bangalore, India-based startup known for its success at “missed call” marketing.

Wait, what’s a missed call?

In India, many cost-conscious consumers use missed calls — they dial a number, let it ring, then hang up before connecting — to send a message, like “I’m running late,” to friends and family. A missed call is free, since callers are only charged when the other party answers.

What does ZipDial do?

ZipDial lets companies take advantage of this practice. The startup, which was founded in 2010 and has 56 employees, provides services that allow brands to advertise a number for “missed calls.”

For example, in one campaign for Colgate toothpaste, users could give a missed call to a special number shown on advertising banners in Mumbai, then receive a text message. Consumers would respond to that with their addresses, and then are sent a free sample of toothpaste.

ZipDial’s other clients have included the likes of Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Walt Disney and more.

Click through for more.

My Q&A with Dan Neary, Facebook’s Asia-Pacific VP

It begins:

Dan Neary oversees Facebook Inc. ’s advertising operations across Asia-Pacific, a fast-growing region that is home to some of the social network’s biggest markets.

Nearly all of Facebook’s revenue—some $3.2 billion as of the third quarter—comes from fees companies pay to show users ads.

As the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company continues to add to its 1.35 billion monthly active users globally, many are coming from emerging Asian countries such as Indonesia and India.

Moreover, such users are accessing the platform not just on PCs, but increasingly on mobile devices, presenting new challenges and opportunities for Facebook and advertisers.

Mr. Neary, a 49-year-old Chicago native who began his career at Kellogg Co. before holding senior positions at Skype and eBay Inc., is tasked with ensuring the company continues to profit in an ever-changing technological environment.

In a recent interview at Facebook’s offices in Singapore, Mr. Neary discussed the shift to mobile, as well as what Facebook’s photo-sharing service Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp can contribute to the company.

Mr. Neary was cautious in addressing Founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg ’s October visit to China and possible expansion there, saying only that having access to the country’s 1.3 billion people is an important part of Facebook’s future growth plan.

Click through to read the whole thing.

You may recall that some of my similar interviews in the past — part of our “Boss Talk” series — include chats with BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen; Twitter’s vice president of Asia Pacific, the Americas and emerging markets, Shailesh Rao; and Evernote Chief Executive Phil Libin.

By Me and a Colleague: BlackBerry Releases High-End ‘Classic’ Smartphone in India

A story I wrote with colleague Jai Krishna:

Samsung this week said it would unveil in India a sub-$100 smartphone based on its own operating system, its latest attempt to turn around its declining sales.

That isn’t stopping rival BlackBerry from launching a high-end smartphone in the country, with the Canadian company hoping corporate executives and professionals there will pay a premium for its devices.

BlackBerry on Thursday said it is releasing its new Classic phone for 31,990 rupees ($518), slightly higher than the $449 it costs in the U.S., where it went on sale in December.

The Classic, which comes with a physical QWERTY keyboard and trackpad, reflects the company’s plan to appeal to corporate customers in search of secure services, Sunil Lalvani, managing director at BlackBerry India, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview.

Click through to read the rest.

‘Bangkok Airport’ — Trailer for New Show Coming to BBC Three

Given my many previous posts about Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point this out.

Embedded above and on YouTube here: A trailer for “Bangkok Airport,” a series of six hour-long shows about the facility and the people who work there and pass through it.

It looks…quite entertaining.

Thailand Uber-blogger Richard Barrow has more, and says the show begins Jan. 22.

Additional details from a BBC press release:

Bangkok Airport (w/t) – 6 x 60 minutes

Bangkok airport, the gateway to South-East Asia, is a thriving, bustling hub of excitement and anticipation, of pale arrivals to tanned departures and everything in between. BBC Three has gained unparalleled access to all aspects of the airport in this thrilling six-part series which sees young Brits passing through to embark on adventures of a lifetime. Each episode follows some of the thousands of youth British travellers checking in and checking out, run-ins with the tourist police, incidents in immigration, customs, treatment at the on-site medical centre, missed flights, expired passports and emergencies abroad. The action takes place inside and occasionally outside the airport – at island trouble spots and the British Embassy in downtown Bangkok. And in a unique twist, contributors’ UGC (user generated content) will be used alongside fly-on-the-wall docusoap content. Bangkok Airport is made by Keo Films. It is series produced by Fiona Inskip and executive produced by Paula Trafford. BBC commissioning editor is Sam Bickley.

By Me Today: Nintendo Pulls the Plug on Brazil

From my post today at WSJ Digits:

It’s game over for Nintendo in Brazil.

The Japanese videogame maker on Friday said it is ending direct sales of its games and consoles in Latin America’s biggest economy due to what it called a business environment that made its operations “unsustainable” there.

High import taxes have meant that games like the company’s popular “Super Smash Bros.” cost nearly 20% more than in the U.S. Other Latin American countries, which have a separate distributor, will not be affected.

Yes, This is a Photo of Me with Giorgio Chiellini

2015 01 11 np chielini

File under: Brushes with iconic soccer players in Jakarta. Related post from May: Meeting Fulham and Manchester United great Edwin van der Sar in the Jakarta airport.

I’m back after an excellent holiday break.

In the week or so I spent offline with friends and family, I had plenty of time to daydream, catch up on sleep, read books — books!* — and consider all the excellent things that happened during 2014.

And I realized: I forgot to tell you, dear friends, about how I met** Juventus and Italy great Giorgio Chiellini*** in Jakarta in August.

Yes, that’s the two of us in the photo above.

I was in Indonesia working on stories and, one afternoon, visited a five star hotel in Jakarta.

It just so happened that storied Italian club side Juventus were staying there, as they were in town for an exhibition game.

And who did I see? Yes, it was Chielini, the powerful Juventus and Italy defender.

Yes, the player who Luis Suarez bit during the World Cup last summer:

It was remarkable to see him in person.

And the answer is: No, I did not pose for the photo — like this one — as if I were biting him.

*More to come soon on a remarkable novel I read during my down time.

**By “met,” I mean that I approached him as he strode across the hotel lobby, gestured to my phone, and then stood next to him for approximately five seconds as we had our photo taken together. After which he walked away. It was not a lengthy interaction.

***No, given my love for all things goalkeeper-related, I did not bump into Juventus and Italy’s legendary Gianluigi Buffon.