I don’t think you’ll see anything big in 2010 for Jamaica online.

I don’t think you’ll see anything big in 2010 for Jamaica online. Not being negative but just realistic. For anything big online, it’s going to cost some cash to get it built and marketed. That kind of money exists with the Internet Ignorant and while they are slowly gaining confidence even with the evidence as blatant as Facebook’s 200,000+ Jamaicans (in Jamaica) and climbing they still choose to throw money at the old mediums..playing it safe!

This was the last email in the discussion I saw this morning, and it came from a colleague of mine as part of an email discussion thread started last night between a bunch of us Jamaican-based technology entrepreneurs. It started with the list of Alexa.com’s top11 Jamaican sites curated and published by another colleague.

Here’s the list.
Top 11 Jamaican sites on Alexa.com
1. Jamaica-Gleaner.Com
2. JamaicaObserver.Com
3. Jamaica-Star.Com
4. Go-Jamaica.Com
5. Jncb.com (National Commercial Bank)
6. Utech.edu.jm (University of Technology)
7. Uwi.edu (University of the West Indies)
8. Digicelgroup.com
9. TechJamaica.Com
10. 876Radio.Com
11. Dancehall.Mobi

The responses from the group followed.

1. One major thing I noticed is that all the sites seem to have a major offline presence or at least some offline marketing going. I’ve seen the 876Radio.Com sticker too many times in Juci Beef. (Kudo’s to Dancehall Mobi btw). Tells us a thing or two about offline promoting at least in Jamaica!

2. Looking at the other list, without the ‘only’ Jamaican sites – I see Facebook now at number one – I guess people almost fully reserve their regular mail for business and are now using facebook solely to communicate with family/friends?…first it was letter, telegram, cable…phone, then text message, then email / IM – now it’s Facebook -interesting to see what’s next. I need something spectacular out of Jamaica…that serves the world and not just Jamaicans…

3. Right on the money…. but seriously – do we really care about visitors? I mean, visitors can be used to convince companies to pay big bucks for adspace – not for sales but mainly for brand awareness, positioning etc…. (Not withstanding the adult site space… its a wonder how people pay more to see half naked people than fully naked people – How come EHarmony.Com makes more money than Porn.Com ?) But what about sites like comparecards.com with 10,000+ visitors monthly and $100,000+ plus in revenue monthly???
4 years ago you needed to improve your Alexa ranking or you were dead…
2 years ago if you were not marketing on MySpace you were dead….
1 year ago if you were not marketing on Facebook you were dead….
Today if you are not marketing on Twitter you ARE dead…..

4. The problem in Jamaica is with those old dudes running the companies who are just getting a hang of FaceBook and the other marketing mediums…but no worries about them and their backward old self – just set your site up, you don’t need millions to do it – I am going to make one and show to you – it will only take a month to build and I will only spend money to market it for the first 2 months just to get a rush in membership – and then it will all be viral, even you gonna join in 🙂

But – as I said, you don’t really need to make the site and depend on local advertisers to advertise – most of them know about Google Adwords and are getting a hang of it…so, you will catch those ads on your Jamaican sites – plus, you have a lot more Jamaicans outside the country who are constantly looking for Jamaican content online…you just have to place the ad for your site on the most trafficked Jamaican sites for the first few months then go viral… just make sure whatever site you are doing, the content is driven by the users – a democratic process, by the users for the users…and bam bidi bam, you gone clear…most hosting companies have good up time now, so – no worries about big expensive hosts – just make sure that your database is well structured and you are not using any free scripts off line (well, I think there are some good things you can find online ) but strive to build everything in house so that it does not eat up the server resource – then it will be expensive on your part – and the returns may not be great.

My two cents
I agree we should stop expecting many of these large, top heavy, old school companies to start thinking and acting like they know they are living and doing business in the Digital Age. Just expect them to continue to lose money and eventually die ( Retail, Tourism and Travel, Food and Beverage industries are ones to closely watch). Haven’t we seen enough evidence of this in North America, in fact world wide. Big brands that are slow to change get clobbered or gobbled up.

We’ll see this in Jamaica and the Caribbean too and this year. Many of these “industry leaders” are unaware of the digital termites ( small, nimble, smart, hungry entrepreneurs) who have been eating away at their foundation and even if they are, in their arrogance they discount and disregard them and it will be to their peril. This is why I keep saying that is Global Recession is also a Global Redistribution of wealth. You just have to chose which side of the change you want to play on. Some Jamaican and Caribbean companies are choosing status quo – same mind-set, management style, way of doing business that has “worked” for them for years.

I believe we’ll see remarkable and spectacular stuff coming out of Jamaica for the Jamaican, Caribbean and Global market. I am a firm believer that you don’t have to be big or the next Facebook to matter or in fact be be a game changer in Jamaica,the Caribbean or globally. Let’s borrow the lens of the 37signals CEO Jason Fried who led his company to ignore the big companies and focus on the many more small companies he had access to in the American market and of course globally. Let’s look out for the startups, the niche players, the many many more small companies who are doing so much more for consumers and industries.

I’m very fortunate to be continuously privy to developments in web-based software, online sites and mobile plays here with Jamaican and Caribbean startups to be hopeful. Alot of which I have not be able to write about here as yet for privacy reasons. But I do expect some remarkable stuff coming to market. And when we say big, what do we really mean…big in terms of the product or service’s impact on consumers; big in terms of revenue for the company; big in terms of it being a game changer in the industry; big in terms of a Facebook type company?

I’m inviting you to read also Seth Godin’s post Welcome to the frustration decade (and the decade of change)

  • Tanya

    Maybe, maybe not…the truth is in the physical world that would apply but each time something seems to squeeze progress online, something else that was there before but ignored or new inspiration blossoms. So let us see what is up for 2010…Google seems to have a lot going on especially in the cloud computing, collaborating (WAVE) and mobile sections, Apple seems ready to break out another innovation with the tablet and who knows what samples of HTML5 we may encounter this year. So to predict as the wave crests once more into new territory may not be the best thing. 2010 may send us to the offical world of web 3.0 and bring a hailstorm of changes or…not:-)

  • Great post Ingrid, it brings to the surface a lot of issues related to the Jamaican online business model. This article says it all http://www.blackweb20.com/2009/05/01/web-20-services-shutting-out-developing-countries/.

    The scalable business models just doesn’t exist rather than targeting “Jamaican or Caribbean markets” why not target the “mainstream”. Otherwise we will be limited to “pet” projects and hobbies.

  • Read This

    “I know of at least one big thing in the digital space in Jamaica in 2010 and a big company is behind the push.”

    A wonder if we a think di same thing? a better nuh say nutten.

    “We must create new technology that will help companies improve bottom line costs, increase off line conversion rates, launch new products and create buzz….”

    M-commerce. So me can order grocery from the corner shop over mobile phone, and just stop by later and make a pick-up. No more hide from the neighbours and slap mi back fi buy a pound a chicken back. Me just pick up di grocery bag and step. Yuhzimi? lol.

  • Wow Colin….now that’s a veddddyyyy thought provoking analysis..I wonder what David thinks of this!?

  • Hi Debi, you are right. There are quite a few smart Caribbean companies out there. You just gotta find them and hook them. Loads of opportunity in the Caribbean

  • Amen David…where there are complaints there are opportunities so jump on them!

  • I know of at least one big thing in the digital space in Jamaica in 2010 and a big company is behind the push.

    The key in my opinion is not to spend time complaining about the lack of big projects or projects with big ideas, it is about involving yourself in those projects and helping to drive them.

    I know I am playing my part in trying to advance things. What are all these others doing?

  • Awesome post Ingrid. I firmly agree. My company targets specifically small businesses in the Caribbean who want to compete for share of voice but without the large cash outlay for traditional media. There are some smart Caribbean companies out there but they are few and far between.

  • Ok…. lets really take a look on this ….. – A companies main source of profit must be sales, no points for everyone knowing about you if you can’t sell anything.

    Jamaican companies that are not localized (for instance targeting a Kingston demographic) are either manufacturing, major retail and serviced based – which are still country JM specific.

    Now the cost of production based on the accessibility to the factors of production (i.e. land, labor, capital) already make our goods and services uncompetitive globally (- not to mention shipping/delivery costs added to that).

    So its not that these companies are not seeing the benefit but there are no competitive advantages to be found globally for Jamaican goods and services.

    Locally the cost of imports are burdened by tariffs and duties so that local companies can remain “viable”.

    Major Deterrent to marketing online
    This brings us to the next point of why not market online to Jamaicans. Well based on the fact that only 30% of the Jamaican population are active online (use the web daily for work and/or leisure) companies must now find their target market in that small sector and sell to them. Not good odds their for ROI.

    Ability to close a sale.
    What is even more daunting is that only 15%- 20% of the population have the ability to close a sale online using Visa or MasterCard services with a credit card. This is a major problem. So when companies market locally they still require secondary action to result in a sale – no different using traditional medium with a much larger reach. Yet another daunting prospect.

    Local banks watch the bottom line.
    Why most local banks don’t make the switch to VISA or MasterCard enabled debit cards is that the legislation for legitimate/fraudulent transactions online is slow, the cost to switch over from life long debit cards to shortened life span Visa/MCard debit card is too great, neither Visa or MCard are willing to forego the 3% charge for transactions outside of the US and they are comfortable paying JETS (local Multilink provider) pennies for transaction costs.

    This all adds up for no good long term marketing strategy for Jamaican firms online.

    What has been done is that companies use the web to improve labor productivity. Hence instead of calling by phone NCB, Scotia, JPS and other service based companies, you can check your accounts online. This means less call center employee hours.

    So as internet marketers WE must focus on two things if we intend to remain in the Jamaican vertical;
    – Promoting services that help to communicate with local people:
    Email lists
    Adspace on the Top 11 Jamaican sites
    Email to SMS
    Twitter to SMS
    Creating FAQ’s
    Creating Downloadable media kits – Ebooks

    Hence we must use our services to make the “connectimass” with the locals offer free stuff, videos etc . This effectively means that we operate much like traditional methods of advertising but have the ability to continue a conversation and generate leads.

    We must create new technology that will help companies improve bottom line costs, increase off line conversion rates, launch new products and create buzz….

    Thats just how I see it for now…