When hailing a ride, Uber users in China keep the app open for an average of 90 seconds once they get in the car, according to the company.
A minute and a half doesn’t seem like much, but in the word of mobile content it’s very valuable. Which is why Uber is hoping to make serious bank on that minute and a half.
In May, the company first announced their UberLIFE initiative for China, which involves a curated mesh of content including recommended cultural, sporting and dining options based on collected travel data.
Uber China VP and General Manager of Central China reiterated that commitment at TechCrunch Shanghai on Monday, which was co-hosted by Technode, saying that the company wants to be a service “understand the lives” of their users, not just their riding habits.
It’s just one of the latest initiatives the company is trialling as part of an aggressive attempt to maintain customers while attempting to lower subsidies. However while the company has launched several new ride-related services in China, UberLIFE represents their first foray into a much more risky area: content. As U.S. tech companies Apple, Google and Linkedin know all too well, even the most innocent content curation can attract the ire of the Chinese government.
Uber is backed by Baidu in China, the country’s leading search engine, but even they have come under fire from the government recently over content issues. Regulators recently released a ruling requiring Baidu to clearly identify ads on their platforms.
For now, Uber’s goal is to just keep users in their app during that first 90 seconds, and possibly longer. The company implied the recommendations within the app would be driven by data collected on where consumers were going when using the app, though the potential for advertising is very obvious.
It’s worth noting that in taxi services in Beijing, riders can read a similar, physical lifestyle and events magazine that is often offered in the backseat pocket of taxis. Popular examples include 慢步, which is like a localized in-flight magazine for Beijing, so UberLIFE could be picking up on an existing behavior in some cities.