Bozza is the new mobile app that allows locals to share their own video content, direct from their cellphones.
Large-scale black and white photograph posters of ordinary South Africans are popping up in townships around the country, opening acts for FreshlyGround’s tour have their own channels and there’s a new name being whispered on the creative wind: “Bozza”.
Currently launching its South African rollout is a mobile app that allows for the distribution and sharing of local content and encourages its users to “Be Bozza”, which is slang for being your own boss.
This brand of African new media for the mobile screen seeks to activate youth empowerment, develop micro-enterprises within the creative industries and leverage m-commerce to grow small township businesses.
Bozza was created by mobility visionary Emma Kaye. Well-known as one of the smartest and nicest achievers in the animation community as co-founder of Triggerfish in 1995 and Animation South Africa, Emma went on become CEO of Breakdesign, which became one of the top seven Flash Lite developers globally for Nokia and Adobe. Starting Gate7 New Media in 2007, she was again responsible for an African first in the form of Mobfest in 2008, a user-generated SMS serialised fiction.
Emma is on the board of the prestigious Mobile Entertainment Forum and was recently voted one of the Top 10 Women in Science and Technology in Africa.
“Mobility has huge socio-economic, educational, commercial, societal and individual significance. Emerging economies have been hugely resourceful in using mobility in socio-economically important ways, to empower micro enterprises. By embracing mobility as a content delivery platform, emerging countries or continents can leapfrog developed economies, establishing a unique societal brand in a vibrant new industry”.
Proof of concept for Bozza in October 2010 in Alexandra and Khayelitsha saw two groups of first-time filmmakers trained to use mobile phones to shoot their own content. “We took seven minutes of content and launched two unknown brands. Within two days we had 40 000 users and in the first month we had 170 000 users,” says Emma.
This message is sweet to the ears of both audiences not currently seeing stories that reflect their experiences and producers dissatisfied with traditional broadcast mechanisms. “There is a deep need to interact and the mobile platform has the potential to actively engage the end user,” explains Emma.
Mobile platforms allow for a level of personal interaction that is not possible with traditional media outlets. “We are leap-frogging the PC and desktop environment in Africa – instead, we’re going straight to mobile,” Emma adds. Bozza allows communities “to tell their stories from the inside out”.
Audience ground zero is the African citizen, predominantly young, black and vocal aged between 18 and 25 years. Yet Bozza is also seeing strong uptake beyond this by older viewers who are deprived of relevant local content through traditional mechanisms and where the stories offer relatable characters.
The Bozza team is creating a ‘mobihood’, or mobile neighbourhood on phones, which allows users to see what content their friends are watching and recommending. Local content creators are allocated their own channel through which they can engage with their audience and earn revenue by offering “hyper-local” content.
There is no specific genre of Bozza content and an entirely new realm of content is starting to emerge as content providers grapple with mobile cameras and webcams as tools to produce content. “We’ve seen a huge demand for poetry and short stories, whether in written, spoken or video formats, which illustrates a revival of the age-old craft of storytelling prevalent across the African continent,” says head of content Nicole Klassen.
Content can be originated on cameras, mobiles or webcams as long as it is submitted according to required specifications. Content is transcoded in-house and pushed out in different formats via handset detection technology. Soon Bozza would like to see content creators shoot, edit and upload via their mobile phones.
Bozza welcomes all levels of filmmakers and overcomes the traditional barriers of entry into the content creation industry, which have hampered broader inclusivity or meaningful transformation.
From the traditional industry, Jo Higgs from Go Trolley films will have her own channel on Bozza as well as Rhodes University, Animation SA and Mdu Comics. What is really exciting is the ability to see what the audience is responding to as they interact, so that creators can adjust accordingly.
Nicole says: “My advice to content creators remains: Deliver for your audience then be consistent on your delivery. Audiences in the digital realm have a plethora of choice - disappoint and you will find yourself struggling to get your fans back, and fans equate to revenue. It’s all about the audience, the community and their relationship with you as a brand.”
Bozza’s maverick pioneers include Pan African rollout plans in their list of 2012 resolutions and there’s no doubt they’ll be re-shaping the global mobile distribution ecology too.