Eye on Emerging Markets, Firm Invests in Start-Up

Monday, July 15, 2013

As the world awaited the next pope in March, Peter Bale, the vice president and general manager for digital at CNN International in London, wanted to know how Africans would react if the pope were from their continent.

Instead of commissioning telephone pollsters or gleaning insights from social media, Mr. Bale used a mobile platform called Jana, which rewards users with free airtime if they take a survey. Within days, Mr. Bale said, he surveyed 20,000 Africans in 11 countries on questions like whether an African pope would increase support for Catholicism on the continent (86 percent said yes) and whether the world was ready for an African pope (61 percent said yes).

“The spread of the mobile economy in Africa is so far and so huge you can reach not only the high end of African people, but you can reach many, many people there,” Mr. Bale said. Because CNN International receives a “very significant amount” of its digital traffic from its African consumers through their mobile devices, using a mobile survey platform made sense, he said.

CNN, however, is not the only organization that wants to connect with a growing mobile-savvy market. On Monday, the Publicis Groupe, one of the world’s largest advertising holding companies, will announce a $15 million investment in Jana.

The investment is the first by the company in a mobile technology start-up. As part of the investment, Maurice Lévy, the chief executive of Publicis, which is based in Paris, will join the board of directors at Jana. (In 2012, Publicis united with France Télécom-Orange and Iris Capital Management to create venture capital funds to invest in European companies.)

Source: The New York Times (link opens in a new window)

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