Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Bubbly "Voice Twitter" Service Launches in the Philippines

I last wrote about Bubble Motion, provider of the Bubbly mobile messaging service, exactly a year ago. At the time, the company had 150,000 users. Today, it has more than seven million.

Bubble Motion, which is funded by Sequoia Capital and others, is now launching Bubbly in the Philippines, after releases in India, Indonesia and Japan (chosen because of their deep mobile phone penetration). Its launch partner in the Philippines is Globe Telecom.

By the midway point of this year, Bubbly will be rolled out to all major carriers in those four countries, for a total potential audience of 800 million.

Bubbly allows users to send each other voice-based status updates. People who follow a user receive an SMS each time a new status message is posted, and pay to listen to the status message with a fee added to their regular phone bill. This can be used both for communicating with friends and family and for subscribing to updates from celebrities.

Users pay either a monthly subscription fee for celebrities in India and Indonesia, or per message in the Philippines and Japan, following the carrier billing styles in each country. The average user gets one to two messages per day.

Celebrities on Bubbly often have two to three times as many followers as they have on Twitter, bragged Bubble Motion CEO Tom Clayton on a phone interview on Wednesday. And that’s despite the fact that Bubbly costs money and Twitter is free.

Part of the reason is Bubbly has more reach than Twitter in the four countries it has launched in, Clayton said, given it is a mobile service and Twitter is often accessed over the Internet.

But grooming a stable of stars might not be defensible in the long term, given Twitter is ramping up its mobile efforts and celebrities may want to have a broader reach than they can achieve with local phone carriers and voice updates. Clayton said another edge his company has is the infrastructure it has built to deliver voice files–250 million of them since Bubbly was first launched–without overloading carrier networks.

Clayton said Bubble Motion, which has raised about $30 million in funding, is not profitable yet but is growing revenue with a direct correlation to its traffic, which is to say, doubling every quarter.

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— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”