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Ofo wants users to watch a video ad when unlocking a bike

Bike rental firm is trying to find new ways to make money

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

Bike sharing has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride.

First it was cheered as a way to solve urban commuting problems… and also a great business idea that attracted tons of startups. But the market was quickly flooded, and many struggled to make money.

(It’s also more like bike rental than bike sharing, but that’s a whole other thing.)

Now Ofo, one of the biggest operators in the market, thinks it knows how to increase revenue. But there’s one little problem: Users hate it.

Their big idea? Video ads. After people use their Ofo app to scan a QR code on a bike, they get a code to unlock the bike -- along with a five second ad.

In fairness, you don’t have to wait for the ad to finish -- a code to unlock the bike appears immediately. It doesn’t really cost you any extra time to get on a bike and pedal away.

But the change hasn’t been welcomed. Many are upset about using cellular data for these ads. And they’re worried about the trend this might start.

“Now it’s 5 seconds, then it’ll be 15 seconds, 30 seconds and 90 seconds… then you’ll have to spend 10 yuan a month to get rid of them,” one popular comment says.
It’s not the first time Ofo has tried to boost revenue, as it strives to remain independent in the in industry where its rivals have either been sold or gone bust.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba. Alibaba has a stake in Ofo.)

Kids are the new target in China’s bike-sharing mania

The Ofo app now also has online lending, a travel frog-like egg-raising game, and a shopping section for clothes and accessories. Last month, it also rolled out a news feed in its app, filled mostly with stories from state media.
Users can now borrow money and shop for clothes inside Ofo’s bike sharing app. (Pictures: Ofo)
Ofo also had hopes of success in foreign markets, vowing to expand into 100 US cities by the end of 2018. But it looks like that’s not happening: The company has reportedly cut most of its operations in the US, and also pulled out of Germany, Australia and Israel.
But Ofo says that everything is on track: it says in June that it has good revenue coming from advertising on the bike and in the app, and that it’s now profitable in more than 100 cities in China.

Hundreds of rental bikes dumped in Dallas as Ofo opts out

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