Archive for the 'Research' Category

What does “number of reads” mean?

To calculate how many times our m-novels are read we look at the number of page views of the last chapter (assumption: if a reader is on the last chapter of a story then he or she has read all previous chapters). Every time someone loads the last chapter, the page view count is incremented. A problem here is that if a user leaves a comment, then she will go the last chapter (page view+1), post her comment, and then see the last chapter reloaded (page view+1 again). So she is racking up two page views, but would’ve most likely only read the chapter once. Clicking “Back” can also reload a page that probably isn’t being read, again pushing up the page view count.

To mitigate against this we reduce the page views by a factor to arrive at an estimated figure for number of genuine reads. Since September 2009 that factor has been one third, meaning that if the last chapter had 3,000 page views then we say that it has been read 2,000 times. The one third factor stemmed from Kontax 1, where we had 94,185 page views of chapter 1 in it’s first month of publication, but only 63,310 subscribers had added Kontax as a MXit contact. (For more on this see the report by Dr Marion Walton titled Mobile literacies & South African teens: Leisure reading, writing, and MXit chatting for teens in Langa and Guguletu). Today, on Yoza, there are more subscribers than page views on most chapters (the opposite situation to Kontax 1). Furthermore, the number of comments posted on a chapter is vastly below the number of page views for that chapter (usually the number of comments is about 3% the number of page views on a chapter — and that’s for the most commented on chapters). This means that the number of non-reading page view increments due to users posting comments is very low. Lastly, the Yoza interface is also better than with Kontax, meaning fewer Back clicks are needed.

Given this shift, our page view reduction factor is changing from 33% to 10%, which is probably still higher than it should be (but rather be safe than sorry!) So, from now on when we say the number of reads of a particular story was 9,000, it means that the page view count of the last chapter was 10,000. The new reduction factor can be applied to all Yoza statistics since it launched on 22 August 2010.


m4Lit: Statistics and lessons from the first year

Since September 2009, m4Lit’s m-novels have been published online under the name of Kontax and, more recently, under the name of Yoza. The stats and lessons learned over the last year are summarised in the presentation given at the VII International Seminar Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development, Barcelona.

Download the presentation (4Mb)

Book-Poor, but Mobile Phone-Rich? Look to M-Novels

Book-Poor, but Mobile Phone-Rich? Look to M-Novels is a guest blog post by Steve Vosloo for the World Bank’s Educational Technology Debate. It is part of a broader debate around The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nick Carr, but seen within a developing country context. The m4Lit project is discussed.

Statistics and findings for Kontax 2: The Big Win

The m-novel Kontax 2: The Big Win was published on MXit and on a mobisite on 17 March 2010. This mini report presents statistics and findings for:

  • Kontax 2, for the period from launch to 31 May 2010 (2.5 months)
  • The overall Kontax series — incorporating Kontax 1 and 2 — for the total period of the m4Lit project: 31 October 2009 to 31 May 2010 (effectively 7 months).

Most traffic to Kontax comes via MXit, with very little coming via the mobisite. The usage statistics presented here are thus from MXit.

Snapshot stats

For Kontax 2 (last 2.5 months):

  • Over 7,500 reads of the story.
  • Over 2,000 entries in the writing competition. (Read the winning entries.)
  • Over 4,000 comments left by readers on individual chapters.

For Kontax series (last 7 months):

  • Over 34,000 reads of the stories.
  • Over 4,000 entries in the writing competitions.
  • Over 4,000 comments left by readers on individual chapters.


To get Kontax on MXit users have to add Kontax as a contact or buddy. Below is a demographic snapshot, taken on 31 May 2010, of all MXit users who have added Kontax as a contact. The figures generally reflect the demographics of Kontax followers since the first story launched on MXit last year.

Demographics 31-May-2010
Total Kontax as contact 58,936
Gender: female 55%
Gender: male 45%
Age: 11‐14 3%
Age: 15‐17 20%
Age: 18-20 33%
Age: 21-30 34%
Age: 31-40 3%
Age: 41-60 3%
Age: 61‐100 4%
Region: South Africa ‐ Eastern Cape 1%
Region: South Africa ‐ Gauteng 70%
Region: South Africa ‐ KwaZulu‐Natal 9%
Region: South Africa ‐ Other 2%
Region: South Africa ‐ Western Cape 16%

While Kontax is aimed at 14 to 18 year olds, there is clear uptake amongst the next older groups too. Young adults also like to read Kontax, perhaps because in a country with such poor reading performance, age is not a good indicator of reading level — a 21 year old might be at the ideal reading level of a 16 year old.

Gauteng and the Western Cape represent most of the MXit followers.

Slightly more girls than boys read the m-novels. This is in line with international trends for online reading.

Kontax 2 not as popular

Kontax 2 did not achieve as high levels of uptake as Kontax 1. The chapter views for each story in the first two weeks after their launch are as follows (Kontax 1 has 21 chapters while Kontax 2 has 14 chapters):

In the first two weeks after launch an estimated 8,821 people read the last chapter of Kontax 1; the equivalent figure for Kontax 2 is 4,306 (approximately half the first number). This could be due to:

  1. less marketing done than for the first Kontax story;
  2. the novelty factor of an m-novel having been used up on Kontax 1;
  3. the fickleness of audiences;
  4. or simply because sequels often have a lower uptake than the first story in a series.

Given that the statistics provided by MXit are not very detailed and don’t allow in-depth analysis, it is simply impossible to deduce the reason(s) for fewer reads of Kontax 2 at this stage.

Marketing and fresh content

For Kontax 1 the general usage trend over time is downward. Since launch, this is what the monthly traffic of the last chapter (the one most likely to represent a complete read of the story) looks like:

March saw an increase in traffic due to Kontax 2 being launched; some readers drawn to Kontax 2 also read Kontax 1. The downward trend suggest two things: 1) marketing is very important, especially in the mobile context where commercial companies with big advertising budgets vie for user attention, and 2) the need for fresh and/or varied content. We did some marketing within MXit for both Kontax 1 and 2 when they launched.

Four and a half months elapsed between the release of Kontax 1 and Kontax 2. This is simply too long. Without fresh content, or other stories for users to read, they didn’t have a reason to keep visiting Kontax. After the release of Kontax 2 one reader commented: “kwl stri hpe kontax 3 is on its way dnt mke us w8 2long” (“Cool story, hope Kontax 3 is on its way, don’t make us wait too long”).


On the mobisite version of Kontax 2 users self-moderated comments through a Report This link. Clicking this link immediately removed the suspicious user-generated content from the site and put it in a moderation queue for an administrator to check. In 2.5 months, not a single thing was reported – although, admittedly, there wasn’t much traffic on the site.

On MXit all comments were first moderated. About 2% of comments were not suitable for publication for these reasons: 1) swearing and abuse, and 2) because users put their phone numbers in the comments with the hope that others will invite them to become friends. The latter situation is usually of a flirtatious nature, e.g. “I realy enjoyed this chapter,chicks invite me at XXX-XXXX”. Obviously we don’t want teens’ phone numbers publicly displayed on the Kontax comment list.

The downside of moderating users’ comments was the delay between the comment being submitted and it being displayed. While we explicitly explained that a delay would occur, and that not all comments would be displayed, users still quickly became frustrated when their comments didn’t go live. One user commented: “Ive bn tryng 2 leave comments here n ive seen none of em,nt even 1!:(” Another simply said: “screw you i dont see my comment here”. Having quicker moderation turn-around time is key for future stories.


As with Kontax 1, there were lots of reader comments on the first and last chapters of Kontax 2. Because we told half the story in one week and the second half a week later, there was also a high number of comments on chapter 7 (the last chapter of the first half of the story).

Also of interest were the spikes, albeit small, in chapter 6 – in which K8 and Sbu kiss – and in chapter 11 – where K8 and Sbu stumble into the scammers den and find themselves trapped. Chapter 11 ends at the moment K8 and Sbu realise the danger they’re in. Some comments on that chapter include:

  • “Nw the story is startin 2 b more intrigueing n interesting” (Indie Gal)
  • “Yhuuuuu! What wl hpen 2 k8 n cbu? Yho!:~:~” (Thandokazi)
  • “The chapter are n0w 2 small” (Jamela)

Do the chapter 6 and 11 spikes indicate that the story needs more love interest and more action, two things that many of the readers requested?

With Kontax 1 users could only leave chapter comments on the mobisite, not on MXit. On the mobisite we awarded a prize for the best daily comment on the story chapters. A concern was that users were only leaving comments because they wanted to win the R100 airtime prize. In Kontax 2 there were no prizes for daily comments. Users in MXit could now also leave comments on chapters. While on the mobisite there were very few comments, on MXit there were over 4,000. This clearly shows that an incentive for comments is not necessary. Young people simply enjoy the opportunity to express themselves (a trait of participatory culture).


For both Kontax stories we’ve offered wallpaper images for download. On MXit the following image sizes are offered for each type of wallpaper:

  • 100×125
  • 128×128
  • 176×220
  • 240×320
  • 352×416

By far the most commonly downloaded size is 100×125 followed by 128×128. Secondly, most of the downloads are of the first type of wallpaper, even though five different ones are offered. So, if you don’t have a lot of money to spend on designing wallpapers then only offer one and in the sizes 100×125 and 128×128. Remember to include a link in the wallpaper image so that if it’s shared via bluetooth people can still see how to access the story.

The wallpaper download figures also confirm that most of our users’ phones have very small screens.

Parting thoughts

While Kontax 2 was not as popular as Kontax 1, it feels as if the second story solidified the group of real Kontax fans (not those who came to Kontax 1 to see what all the m-novel fuss was about). Many of the Kontax 2 chapter comments compared the story to Kontax 1, with some readers preferring the first Kontax and others the second.

Overall, there were many positive comments from readers about m-novels, e.g. “I’m nt big in reading bt wit kontax its different.Dis is de best story eva.Hpe 2 c u on tv cz wat ua doing is really gud” (Ms Ella fox).

Moving forward, five key strategies of m4Lit are to:

  1. Offer a wider range of content. We will be launching a new m-novel space called Yoza — a funky youth-zone with engaging stories that include new Kontax episodes as well as stories from other genres, e.g. soccer, HIV/AIDS and teen chick-lit.
  2. Reduce the time between story launches, so as not to lose momentum among our readers.
  3. Reduce the time it takes for a comment to be moderated.
  4. Keep inviting reader participation in the form of comments, writing competitions and votes.
  5. Offer stories in non-English languages. We have an ongoing call for volunteers to translate stories into other languages. If someone translates a story, we’ll publish it.

Pilot phase reports released

The pilot phase of the m4Lit project (August to December 2009) has concluded, with the release of the reports.

Reader comments from MXit

Below are some of the comments left by readers of Kontax 2: The Big Win on MXit on the first day that the story launched. Most comments were complimentary, but there were also a few criticisms of the story, something that we didn’t get in Kontax 1. Perhaps because we’re not offering prize money for comments in this round?


Karabo: It is n0t dat bad at al,i l0ve it:P

Diamond gal: Hey der,chapter 1 is brilliant but a little repeat of da
previous part but hey great.i wuld lyk 2 put some spice n i mean hot
spice in dis story. am such a gud hey ur stry is awesome.

Ilyaaz: 0mg!i f3el bad 4 airtime n sbu,lmao

Sphiwe: Chapter 1 is very interesting and funny, confusing at some
points bt i lyk it

Xoliswa: The story z gr8 am lovng t,ive alwayz enjoyd readng kontax
since da 1st part,and am lukng 4ward 2 da cumng chaptrz…keep t up

Nomsa: I like it still need more jokes and more….

Nqobile: Al i cn say is,r u goin 2 make a movie bcoz id realy lyk 2 c
it.This is so intertainin i wuldnt evn mynd evn if it was a daily

Angel: Chapter 1 is nt prety clear bcoz u should hv startd 4rm wer
kontax 1 ended 2 clearify da new chapter

Thando: The story startz in a great way,mst say da linking 4rm da 1st
kontax 2 da 2nd kontax ws superbly dne! Swt,kyp up da great work

Ricardo: Due 2 the last chapter i read 4rm kontax 1 and throughout the
story, i found that it was really amazing and fresh…bt reading
chapter 1 of kontax 2,it seem 2 me that the story has lost that
exciting feeling that makes you wanna read more. But because kontax 1
was so gr8, i thought, why not go ahead on reading chapter 2 of kontax
2? And so i did, 2 find that im accualy starting 2 enjoy it same as i
did with kontax 2.

lo: dis chapter its very nice n interesting it says read more..if r u
wit me:D

Mabel: Chapter 1 ws gr8,actually da whole story is xcitin.DA FUNNY

Dida: I like to undastand wat u people saying but i can’t

Des: I think this was a well written chapter. . .its what i expect in
every book i read because now that i have read, i definetly want 2
continue read. . .its a great chapter…i definetly would come 2 u if i
wanted lesson on how 2 write a book

Noxolo: Great start guyz i lov ur story it realy rocks its interesting
thz alot 2 learn in it

Tracy: I luv it bt it bgns slw

Tumelo: Hidding names its nt that helping,putting the cameramen’s name
could have helped to lead to the next chapter

Princess: Y dnt u make a big story nt a shrt 1?

Eugene:    Wow dis is reali a gr8t story. Nd dis shows
dat der r truli gr8t frnds out der wu protects u 4rn dangerous thngs

Sbuda: So far i’m thrilled with chapter one hope to see more chapters
and if there are any auditions please call me


Nancy: I thnk its nt as interestin nd as nice as chaptor 1 of the first

Monique: It’s a cool way to start off the new chapters! I was hooked on
the first series of stories bt these are way better?(G)

Zaquisha: Ai dis ding r0ckz m0s

Swagnificent: I got bored , make the first part more interesting

Naledi: Ur story teach us abt tings whch r hapning in our daily lifes.

Patience: Dis is de best myb is because i read kontax1 long time ago nd
enjoyed it but kontax 2 is de best

Sugar: I like the new kontax story already, i feel its freshness and it
does totaly help most of us work like read with extending our knowledge
and vocabulary. Our charecters seem to be more matured now and they a
making a living out of their life. I the part of airtime winning a quiz
online, most people who are kontax subscriber are more related to him.
I remember when i first won my R100, i was soo over the moon tat i
couldnt believe it. Keep up the gud work guy, i so keen to read more.

males: I thnk m gng to enjy readng ths story it seems lyk itz gng to b
mre crzie and adventurous than kontax issue 1 session one:D


Lebo: The 4 friend actually make a very gud group coz k8 seems like 1
who knws hw 2 keep order in the group,sbu is the 1 who gves gud
advise,song is the 1 who helps out in times of trouble nd airtyme is
the crazy1 in the group he makes it 2 b fun .good combination

Bonolo: Yoh Airtime is extremeley xctd hey!:D.

Tlou: Lol airtime is just out of ths world…i think he’s awesome

Lebohang: I thnk airtime shud listen 2 hs frndz,internet competitions r
nt 100 percent gud,smthn bad myt hapen,even if the organisers r gud,he
dsnt hav a gud plan 4 de mney nd nt remembering dt de mney dt is goin
out nd nt getin in fnsh fast

Wendy: Itz wise of Airtime to spend the money on his dreams.

arriya: was ok

Octavia: The story is so amazin i cnt wait 2 read chapter 3.C u in
chapter 3

Eve: I totaly love the book 😀 awesome piece of work!

Tumelo: The competition that airtym won didnt state any age restriction
and how can a teenage like him go and collect the price by himself ?


sibongile: Airtyms character is funny nd its gr8 4 pple lyk me who lve

Angel: Ur sentences hv 2much errors as i ws reading

Luwanda: Chapter 2 is vry excitin! Da choice of words give a fill of
being part of da stry like u cn jst see evrythng happin ryt in front of

Phumlani Ratya: Eish i have a feeling this is nt going to end well, y?
B.coz wen u r that exited 2 recieve sumthing u usually dnt get it so
lets wait n c


Lerato: Its nt fair 4 mfundo 2 gve 2 thousand 1st while he cant even
see dat money nd by the way they are crookin him bcoz they never tell
dat he was going 2 pay 1st before he gt dt quiz money.

Charolynne: I think that there could b mre characterz inv0lved in dis

The code: Nice romance!

Mbalee: Ah ah ah oh no wat a scam cmon Air u shud knw beta

Lehlohonolo: Now this chapter makes the reader wonder even more. It’s
very good but there’s 1 or 2 typing errors.

Boitumelo: I dnt buy de fact dat airtime should pay R200 for hm 2 get
his price, itz a competition he won they should give him his price,
they where no terms and conditions

Buhle: Chapter 3 makes me think that the two guys who r abot 2 giv
Airtime the money are crooks n u want2 if they realy are


Nelisiwe: So u telling me this what really happens when people win

Lebohang: Airtime dsnt c dt de organisers r crucks,nd hs 2 damn anxious
2 b aware of de situation!

Lungelo: Things are getting interesting now

Lee: B4 singin any 4rm of paper u must read da fine print hpe he did


Zama: Sbu shuld tel k8 dat he lyks her soon

The code: U gotta point there, stuff should be easier!


Juicy: i think dis chaptr is 2 cute. it remind me alot about me n my
exbf n da ow first kiss! i mis him alot

Cynthia: I thnk k8 n sbu shud d8. i also wsh we ddnt hve 2 read part 2
on the 24th of March,because once you start reading the story you dont
want to stop bt thn now you hve  2 stay curious. your story realy
attracts ppl in zulu u would say siyabaHEHA abantu! i promise 2 be the
1st 1 to read part 2 wen it cmes out:)

Joseph: Finally Sbu made a move,n should do this more often(kiss)

arriya: boring.

Tshegofatso: Wt da crew was wrong dy shudve find an info abt street
trading n running away 4rm da cops was not a cleverest choice,wt k8 n
sbu felted 4 each othr i thnk dy shud do smthng abt it n stop making


Fernando: Heart-stopping action at break-neck speeds … pure genius!

sibongile: i realy love the story expecialy chapter 6 i love the part
where sbu and k8 kiss,its so romantic keep it up kontax cant wait for
the next part!

Thandi: Good one Airtime…lol i bet u were busy talking while on the
run. As for s’bu and k8 i wasn’t expecting that 4rm u 2, kissing?


Nelisiwe: Wow,cnt w8 4 Chapter 8 to 14

Khwezi: Agh. Man airtym is being stupid, even my younger sista wud
figure owt its a scam wen they sed they want 2 thousand and she only a
week old

Herbert: Wat a book 4 me coz its first time 2 read a book 4rm ma mobile

Palesa: Ah! poor boy  he rily need dat money sorry frm
today i will never play da internet quiz games 😦 i love u airtime,sbu
nd k8 u rock guys (x)

Nomonday: It realy is intresting even more than the first one.

Donovan: Ya,i really thnk the competition is a scam,bcoz they asked
Mfundo for money,agg,c’mon.everybdy cn c it dat is a scam except Airtym
coz all he ever thnk abt is that R50 000,whch he neva won at da 1st
place,all jst a scam

Corlia: Lve the story but why must we wait for the second part?

Sethu: Luv de story nd defnately cnt wait 4 part 2

Sibuthe: Its a great 1st part, i makes me wanna c wat gonna happend in
da 2nd part, hope da kotax fnd out wats goin on;)

Firdaws: The first half was fab cant wait for the other…. 24 March
better cum soon… keep it up… lots of love (*)twinkle(*)

Zo: It’s a terrific story-couldn’t write a better 1 even if I
tried.Hope K8 nd Sbu end up 2gether

Boitumelo: Sbu,k8 nd airtime they should listen 2 songezwa more often,
bcz she was work wth computers doin all kinds of she knows
this thnks

Anoniem: Awww man guyz!I love da st0RY!I CANT WAIT TILL 24 MARCH!Ill go
mad!I think song is right it is jst a scam po0r AiRtImE f0ol 4 nt
believin her!(What a shocker)

GOMZA: I would like to congratulate u on making part 1 a
fascinating  part of the story surely hookd me up i cnt wait
4 part 2 of dz st0ry

Asanda: This is grate story, always enjoyed reading kotax. I hope dat
Mfundo a.k.a Airtime will realise that this a scam. But i love all the
characters, they advice each other.

siyabonga: Damnn.. I gotta say dic story iz amazin.. Ive finishd al
part 1, gr8 adventure, m half wae dne wit part 2! Nd wel ayi mfundo bru
b patient youl get yo money(G) lol i hpe! Kontax rockz my mxit! Kip up
da gud work guyz!

Jermaine: This is a typical south african scam incident, where the
winner doesn’t believe what’s right infront of them. Well done to the
writers. Hope the second part we actually discover that K8 and Sbu get
serious, but whether Airtime gets his money or not, atleast he has
friends who are willing to bend over backwards for each other. Thank
you, it’s a very interesting story.

Cebo: I like your story it teaches us as kids to open our eyes against
scam from the internet,and don’t do things without having real proof of
what you’ve won.

Tash: Da chapter is very gud, u can see dat song cares abt her 4rnds. I
lyk da way she tries 2 tell her 4rnd da bad news in a polite and humble
way. Da chapter is HOT

Sticks: Th story was gud at al bcz i thnk it advc our not 2 gv a strng
ur dtis thkz

Is 4,000 reads a lot?

Kontax has been read by 4,000 people in it’s first 10 days on MXit. I asked a friend in publishing to put that figure in context in terms of regular teen books sales in SA: is that low, high, ok? While we can’t really compare m-novels to printed books — they’re so different in so many ways — her response is still very interesting:

I can’t testify about teen books in particular, but a typical trade book first print run is 3,000, and a book publisher is usually satisfied if that sells through, particularly for fiction. Figures are much higher for prescribed school books of course, but you’re talking about a voluntary sign-up here. Also, you need to consider the time-frame: the equivalent of 4,000 copies ‘sold’ in less than a month? A publisher might expect that kind of performance over a year to 18 months.

I think this project overcomes so many of the problems of book publishing (language, relevance, distribution, cost) that comparing it with book sales is the ultimate apples-and-oranges. But, as a book publisher, I’d be seriously impressed with these figures.