Cyworld eyes global connection


CANNES -- Korean lifestyle media platform Cyworld is expanding into Europe this summer as part of its plan to create a globally connected community, according to Hyun-oh Yoo, president and chief executive of Korean telecommunications company SK Communications.

Delivering a keynote address Wednesday at MIPTV on "Convergence and Lifestyle Media," Yoo outlined an expansion plan that also includes increasing Cyworld's profile in the U.S. and adding Warner Bros. movies to its downloadable programming slate later this year.

About 96% of 19- to 29-year-olds in Korea regularly use Cyworld, which Yoo described as a combination of social networking, multimedia blogging, games and photo and video sharing through "mini homepages."

"The ultimate vision (is) to connect everyone to one network," Yoo said.

Launched in Korea in 1999, Cyworld expanded into China in 2005 and currently has four million mainland users. The platform started operations in Japan, Taiwan and the U.S. last year and will launch in Germany and Vietnam this year.

The service is localized for each market, "but the fundamental sense remains intact," Yoo added.

In Korea, Cyworld has 20 million subscribers and 22 million monthly unique visitors. The platform sells $300,000 worth of digital items a day, including songs and avatars, and has a daily video upload count of 100,000.

The concept of lifestyle media involves seamlessly integrating multiple devices, including personal computers, television sets, and mobile phones with a single password, Yoo said.

"I strongly believe that the vision of lifestyle media can only be fulfilled when everyone's knowledge and information is not only accessed from the PC but from all devices connected to the Internet," he added.

At the moment, 35% of the company's revenue comes from digital songs and 40% from selling digital skins/wallpaper.

Yoo said advertising was not a huge part of the mix, though the new HappyClicks service allows users to put ads on their home pages and get paid with "acorns" (virtual cash).