The operator has soft-launched the customisable portal and will gradually drive traffic to it before starting to phase out Vodafone Live over the summer. A debut UK switch-over will initially be followed by rollouts in 11 international markets.
It’s a radical strategy shake-up for the operator which, like its rivals, currently offers subscribers an editorially controlled portal with a search service.
Vodafone Live was one of the most significant drivers of mobile internet services following its launch in 2002, with the operator investing more than £130m to promote the brand globally, according to marketing company Xtreme Information.
It relaunched the service in June 2007 with a string of content deals with internet partners including Google, Ebay, MySpace, PriceRunner and YouTube.
My Web comprises a predefined selection of links to sites such as the BBC, Twitter and Facebook, with subscribers able to customise and add feeds in an iGoogle-style format.
Simon Ryder, marketing planning manager at Vodafone, said, “We’ve proven via Vodafone Live that people love our services. It’s about making them easier to use. Our subscribers say time is important to them and anything which increases efficiency is a good thing. They also say Live is great but it would be better if they were able to personalise it more.”
Vodafone subscribers can manage My Web from their PC as the operator blends the mobile and online internet. The operator has also developed a toolbar that can be embedded in browsers to let people add their favourite sites for access via mobile.
Vodafone will continue to sell content such as ringtones, games and video via a Shop tab on the My Web portal as its commercial agreements with content providers remain unchanged. It will also continue to sell mobile ad inventory and offer mobile search via Google.
Nokia N85 and 6210 phones will be the first to be switched over to the My Web experience.
“We have a bunch of customers on Vodafone Live and we don’t want to switch them all over before we’ve had some feedback,” said Ryder. “If people are happy, we’ll manage a staged migration over the summer.”
The shift forms part of the launch of the Vodafone Homescreen user interface, which also includes the launch of the Vodafone Apps Shop. This features around 60 apps from providers including AOL, BBC Sports, Time Out and Toptable. Vodafone aims to have 1,000 apps by October.
Stephen Cheliotis, chairman of UK Superbrands, said Vodafone is the UK’s top mobile operator but is 151st overall in this week’s Superbrands Council survey. He welcomed the changes but questioned the need for a rebrand of the widely known Live service.
“Customers are increasingly savvy, sceptical and cynical, and a large number will question the benefit and costs associated with dropping the Vodafone Live name,” he said. “Vodafone should spend its money on improving the product so everyone talks about it.”
This story first appeared on newmediaage.co.uk