Saturday, April 16, 2011

Content, Search and Advertising: Developments in the South Korean Market

As readers of this blog know, I believe that search, or easy and broad access to information is the so-called "killer app" that people want when they log on to their computers or mobile devices.   This is hardly surprising as human beings are essentially communicative animals, whatever their culture or language.  For years now Naver, although it only searches within the Korean-language "intranet" and ignores the wider, diverse world of the English and other-language internet, has been dominant in South Korean search.  This made Korea one of only four countries in the world that bucked the Google trend, the others being Russia, China and the Czech Republic.
This week, two news items relating to the role of language and culture in search caught my attention.   The first was the news, as reported in the Chosun Ilbo, that Daum and Nate have formed a partnership to take on Naver.  Naver's strength in search is a main reason it is currently the dominant web portal and online advertising service in South Korea.  The new partnership calls for cooperation in online advertising and content. SK Communications boasts some 33 million users on its Nate messenger service and operates the popular social networking service Cyworld, while Daum features e-mail services, forums and news. The two sides are hoping to create synergy through the cooperation.  The partnership will be the first sharing of content by major portals in Korea.
The second news item was the announcement, reported in the Joongang Daily, that Naver and Daum have asked the Fair Trade Commission to investigate Google for allegedly stifling competition in the availability of search engines available on smart phones. NHN and Daum argue that Google, the developer of the Android operating system, pressed local smartphone makers to preload only its mobile search programs in an effort to increase its market share in Korea, which has long been dominated by local search engines that had 90 percent of the local market last year.  
Things are getting interesting in the Korean market.   Obviously content, search and advertising are all closely inter-related in the emerging world of broadband internet as we move toward a ubiquitous network society.  However, local press coverage here fails to frame the issue in terms of Korea's heavy dependence upon Korean-language only content, a dependence that has started to break down, especially among younger generations, since the arrival of Apple's iPhone way back in December of 2009.

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