The most fascinating lesson I learned from my week in Korea was the phenomenon that is CyWorld.
To those familiar with our book or this blogsite, it is like marrying Habbo Hotel with mobile blogging. And a sure-fure hit. With already 15 Million users, CyWorld has become the must-have service for the 20 year olds in Korea. And to put it in context, there are more bloggers on CyWorld in Korea than all other bloggers in the rest of the world today..
What is it? Well, first of all its your mini home page (called minihomepi) where you have much like the rooms in Habbo Hotel, your miniroom and, of course, your digital persona in the form of an avatar, as your minime. The miniroom can be decorated like your home or office, or it could be aspirational of what you'd like your real life to be. You can invite friends to visit your miniroom, where you can exhibit your pictures, blogs, etc. Much like the use of premium SMS to pay for content and services in Habbo Hotel, in CyWorld you buy "acorns" and these form the trading currency in CyWorld.
It gets interesting when we add the blogging part. CyWorld is provided by the internet arm of SK and there is direct mobile blogging opportunity from the mobile arm of SK. The traffic in pictures and blogging posts is enormous, with picture posting and viewing of picture galleries considered now the most addictive part of CyWorld. Mobile blogging (mostly for CyWorld) is the second biggest value-add service in Korea today, ahead of music, behind only gaming revenues, averaging 3.40 USD per user.
But its not only pictures. Koreans want to have music in the background, and Universal Music in Korea already sells 100,000 full-track songs per month just as background music in CyWorld. And while it is a youthful service attracting those between ages 15 - 25, there are plenty of older users already, such as several politicians who have set up CyWorld pages to interact with their voters. And now, in 2005, we see CyWorld taking on the real world. They already expanded into China with another 700,000 users there already.
Marrying two of our favourite services - and case studies from our book - Habbo Hotel and blogging. This is a surefire winner, and yes, of course this was going to be done in Korea first. Amazing.