Google is having a very hard time explaining what it was thinking as it scrapped data from a rival’s database. But that is not surprising because Google might be getting a barrage of calls from all major media houses in the world to get some explanations on the happenings and so it has to explain it. Getting calls is one thing but the scary part for Google’s always arrogant PR machine is that 90% of those calling already believed the Mocality story. Spinning that around might be very hard because few of the blogs and media houses would have the guts to say “our initial reporting was wrong. Google did not commit this.”
That effectively means that whatever Google decides to say about the whole fiasco, it must first admit liability in even a small part. The story is juicy for everybody, especially the scandal hungry blogs and media houses. It is juicy because Google is such a BIG company and because Mocality is looking like an underdog here. Nelson Mattos, Google’s VP of Engineering – EMEA Region, was admitting everything on his Google+ page (they also had to try to woo traffic to Google+).
First, I trust that what Mocality’s claims are well grounded and happening all the time. The only problem is that the people Google has been doing such things to does not have the influence and contacts to arouse the attention of the international media like the Naspers Group which Mocality is under. And the second problem is that Mocality is not a victim but also part of the fraud. Guilty by association. read on.
Naspers Group is no small company. It is a leading multinational media group with roots in South African but its tentacles is spread and felt in almost all continents of this world. Naspers group which owns MIH Internet company (the mother company of Mocality) has business interests in internet, print media, pay-tv and technology companies all over the world.
On Mocality operations in Kenya only and with no revenue structure, Naspers group has spent more than US $1 Million in just under two years to get its Mocality and Dealfish business up but earn nothing in return. Just like Stefan says in the blog post, you wont be surprised to find that MIH Interenet is biggest spender on online advertising in Kenya. The company also spend a great deal on TV, radio and physical banner display advertising in Kenya. MIH Internet has no clear strategy on when they will break-even or even start generating even an insignificant amount of revenue. It looks like it’s all charity now.
Before the Mocality vs Google fiasco, Mocality and Dealfish have been limping. However much Stefan and former Dealfish General Manager would want us to believe there has never been any differences between them, these people had a fight. Moses left Dealfish a very bitter man. He would want to show that he is not one who burns the bridges by consoling Mocality or MIH Internet (Mocality and Dealfish are under MIH Internet which is owned by Naspers Group) in hard times like this. The truth is that MIH Internet mostly poked Moses Kemibaro in the eye and he wasn’t happy.
One blogger, Kahenya, tweeted something worth noting;
Its ironic, Google may have just saved Mocality from certain death.
— Kahenya (@kahenya) January 13, 2012
MIH Internet had even to close one of its local offerings, Kalahari Kenya and Nigeria, because the businesses were not sustainable. Kalahari was part of the business of MIH Internet which could generate its revenue and pay its costs even if it was not making profit. The group shut it down because its main focus was traffic and they believed that the directory business and classifieds would get more people on its platforms than an e-commerce offering. So it decided to shut down what was starting to pay-off and leave two well marketed products but with no revenue to their names.
So when the opportunity to “smoke Google out” as a data thief presented itself, MIH Internet had to dispatch its General Manager who sits in South Africa to come and carry out the task himself. It presented an opportunity for Mocality to earn that publicity of being a start-up which is being brought down by a bully with huge amounts of money.
So the Mocality blog post has not been re-tweeted more than 6,000 times. The original reads and retweets from the sites like Guardian, The Verge, Mashable, TNW, The Register, Boing Boing, BBC, PC Mag, Venturebeat, Forbes and others provides a great publicity for Mocality. It might just be the lifeline for Mocality now.
It is not wrong to shout-out for help when you are being bullied but what should we do when you also bully others? MIH Internet’s own Dealfish has been scrapping listings from other classifieds portals in Kenya. The company has also not solved the issue of fake listings. Take for instance a search for Nexus from the system. That will draw almost 85% of very fraudulent listings which are posted by con men based in Asia, West Africa or Eastern Europe. The listings are not consistent in pricing nor even contact information provided.
When you go to motor listings, you will realise that Dealfish has more than 20,000 vehicle listings on its database and most of them are being updated every morning and almost at the same time. Dealfish is scrapping data from rivals to fill up its listings. There is no way a classifieds system will have 20,000 vehicle listings in Kenya and they are not reducing even when the year changes. Having more than 20,000 vehicles listed on its database means that a random call of 5 motor dealers in Nairobi would see 3 of the dealers saying they know Dealfish. That it not the case. So I believe that either most of the auto listings on Dealfish are duplicated or fraudulent or they are just data stolen from rival classifieds portal to fill up the pages.
Example – why are the listings almost at the same time?;
The classifieds market in Kenya is getting strong competition. Many players including South Africa’s Naspers, US-based Google, Swiss-based Ringier, internationally backed Kenyan player Cheki and a number of other South African players including BidorBuy, Junkmail, PNet and so on have recently entered the market. Two other players, Swedish media company Schipsted and India’s Verse, are expected to join the fray soon.
Unethical behaviour is being used in most of the verticals – jobs, real estate, auto classifieds and so on – to fight rivals. Most of the classifieds strongly believe that “volume of listings = success”. Google Trader, Dealfish and PigiaMe are all engaging in the mal-practises. You cannot monetize false listings, duplicate listings, scraped content from your competitors. If you use false listings or dirty tricks to get to an artificially inflated number of listings, it is impossible to then go back to ‘truth’ and ‘trust’ when you try to turn your business into an actual business that makes money. This article on Business Daily talks of almost the same issue.
The reasons Kenyans are not online and conducting e-commerce is precisely because they do not trust the internet as a medium. So for these players to be pursuing a strategy of ‘let’s con Kenyans into believing we have more ads than anyone else’ is a total fail as a strategy in that they are undermining the industry as a whole not to mention their own future ability to have a profitable business.
Mocality or MIH Internet group should not shout how they are the victim here. They are very much part of the fraudulent system. They con users and it is eroding trust. I am so certain that Mocality did not get 100% of their data from its own efforts. And most of the data looks old. Most of the time I find Kenya Plex reliable.