Bubbly's voice tweets to expand from Asia

Tue Oct 25, 2011 4:19am EDT
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By Tarmo Virki, European Technology Correspondent

(Reuters) - Fans of Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber looking for more than their 140-character tweets may soon be able to follow and hear their idols chatter over a new online service.

Voice microblogging service Bubbly, which allows people to send Twitter-like short sound messages, has grown to reach more than 12 million clients in Asia in just 18 months and plans to take the service global this year.

Bubbly, a service of startup Bubble Motion, currently has 75 staff based in Singapore.

It sends users a text message with a link to a short audio message from people they are following. The message is played back as a voice call.

To enable that, Bubble Motion has struck deals with local mobile phone operators for the service and for sharing revenues. This has created a strong revenue stream for the startup, which is almost profitable, said Chief Executive Thomas Clayton.

"With mobile operators acting as the gatekeepers to Asia's mass markets and the only viable means of doing microbilling to users, Bubble Motion's strategy of partnering with carriers has proved extremely fruitful," Clayton said.

In Japan -- where top followed people are soccer star Yasuhiko Okudera and idol group AKB Girls -- customers pay on average $43 a year for the service.

Over the past three months, Bubbly has launched on Vodafone in India, SoftBank Mobile in Japan and Indonesia's biggest mobile phone operator Telekomunikasi Selular (Telkomsel).   Continued...