Sunday, December 31, 2006

Edelman, Technorati and Asia

There are a complicated series of posts around the place about Technorati's relationship with Edelman. See Om Malik here and Edelman's Steve Rubel here and here about how the project is coming to an end.

I was interested in Steve's comments about the Asian versions. He says:

Work on the Asian language sites - Korean and Chinese - has ceased. In China there are access issues and Korea data quality is less than desirable because most blog platforms don't ping. That's the nature of the culture.

The objective of the programme was to produce "localized versions of Technorati that can understand what a user inputs in their native language". This was previously not possible, Rubel says, noting that "the one exception here is Technorati Japan."

Getting there

Web access is not yet quite glitch free and a few sites seem slower than others. But even Yahoo! has reappeared on the scene so things are pretty much back to normal.

The Haloscan comments feature I have on this blog also wasn't showing up until today. So, thanks for the input from a couple of days ago to which I have now responded.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Day 3 - getting better

We seem to have a lot more sites accessible today in Hong Kong but access is still very patchy. Yahoo! has disappeared without trace. The BBC is back. Others come and go.
 
I received a bunch of e-mails this morning including the usual array of rubbish going straight into the junk mail folder (which had remained mysteriously empty for the previous two days).
 
Fons Tuinstra points here to a blog that suggests the big winners in all of this may be domestic Chinese IM services such as QQ and WangWang.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Evil Empire II to the rescue

There is no Yahoo!, no AOL, no BBC, no CNN. The Taiwan earthquake damage to undersea cables is now expected to take up to a week to repair. The Hong Kong government is calling for urgent meetings with the cable and telecoms companies to redesign the international networks to make sure "this never happens again".

A friend called me this morning and asked "are you out of business too?".

In the midst of all this, the only reliable connection with the outside world is through Google. Somewhere, a Google mirror is reflecting the rest of the world into Hong Kong which remains otherwise cut off. And its not just the search home page; personal home page, Google Finance, Blogger, gMail, etc. etc. are all up and running, albeit with sluggish response and various components of the homepage which don't load (those originating outside the Google Empire).

Who would have thought?

Update: I see from Fons Tuinstra (via Google Reader - can't get to the original post) that he is having the same experience in Shanghai.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blame the earthquake

Update: There's a message on their customer service (ha!) line now. The earthquake which killed one person in Taiwan and caused a good deal of damage has, apparently, severed one of the main undersea links and we are, indeed, cut off. I wonder if these messages are getting through and, if so, how?

Update update: Various services are now reporting widespread disruption of Internet services around Asia by this quake. Forgive my simple-mindedness, but I though the Internet was originally designed to survive a nuclear strike with the capacity for traffic to be quickly re-rerouted if a major link was lost. If that's the case, why is most of Asia's Internet traffic apparently going through a single point in the south of Taiwan? Seems to defeat the point. Not only is Taiwan earthquake-prone, but it is also under constant threat of military attack from mainland China.

Hong Kong cut off

A strange way to come back to work; Internet connections via Hong Kong's largest service provider, Netvigator, appear to be cut off from the outside world. Hong Kong web sites are working fine, but all others (except Google which I assume is operating through a local mirror) are dead. The company, a subsidiary of little Dickie Li's PCCW, has notoriously horrible customer service and is intermittently unreliable. Needless to say, their telephones are not being answered this morning, even by machines and there are no notices on their home page as to what's going on.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Whitman eyes m-Commerce in China

Forbes quotes Meg Whitman suggesting that eBay's withdrawal from China is no such thing (see our most recent TomBay update here) and that m-Commerce is the goal of the tie-up with Tom Online. There's some sense in that as Tom has invested quite a bit in mobile services and content.

The Forbes piece quotes Whitman saying "'We do not anticipate fading from China, we are very committed to the China market and we think the China market is going to be a very big market for m-commerce (mobile commerce) as well as e-commerce".

It also notes that, while the company will be abandonning the eBay brand within China, it "will continue to keep its eBay.com.cn site active, but this would be only for international transactions and that domestic China auctions would be through the new joint venture.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Winter Solstice

There is much scurrying around in offices in Hong Kong this afternoon as today is both the last working day before the holidays and the Winter Solstice which, according to Chinese tradition, is a time for families to gather at the clan temple and enjoy a large banquet. The last part of that at least survives and many offices allow staff home early to assist with the chopping that accompanies large Chinese banquets.

Judging by the crowds in the Causeway Bay district, many of the young ladies of Hong Kong are happy to leave that part of things to their traditional aunties and indulge instead in the more modern alternative to chopping - shopping.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

There are 20 million blogs in Beijing

Perhaps we could get Katie Melua to sing that. It's not longer true about the bicycles.

I'm a bit a behind, but just caught this Melbourne Age piece from a couple of weeks ago about the number of blogs in China - touching 20 million. The piece says "While more than 15 per cent update their blogs at least once a week, only 4.6 per cent do it daily". This all comes from a baidu survey which says that "blogs devoted to medicine and education are particularly popular".

Rubbing it in?

As the rumoured TomBay deal is concluded, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post quotes (sorry, subscription required here) Alibaba.com's Porter Erisman welcoming co-operation with eBay. He is quoted as saying "With the confirmation of the new venture, we [Alibaba.com and eBay] are no longer competitors in China. We want to build up an alliance in the online market place to help buyers and sellers around the world."

According to Tom Group's press release and as predicted "eBay will have a 49% stake in the joint venture, and TOM Online will have a 51% stake". Both companies will make financial contributions to the venture, including, as predicted, a US$40 million cash contribution from eBay with just US$20 million coming from TOM Online. Sounds like a good deal fro TOM.

Needless to say, eBay is not painting this as a withdrawal with Meg Whitman quoted as saying "eBay has helped pioneer e-commerce in China, and by combining our expertise with that of
a strong local partner like TOM Online, we are even better positioned to participate in this
growing market. This agreement is a sign of our continued commitment to delivering the best online buying and selling experiences in China.” Yadda, yadda, yadda....

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Baidipulation...all's fair in war and the Internet in China

Interesting piece on the China Web 2.0 Review talking about Baidu's inadvertent admission that it manipulates site rankings. It seems that Branding Director Peter Wang wanted to punish Sohu and Sina by 'demoting' them in the Baidu rankings for writing nasty things about Baidu (no link, see - my way of expressing my disapproval). According to Fons Tuinstra, Wang has paid the price for his indiscretion by having to offer his resignation.

The competitive environment in China is certainly heating up across the media. We have seen several media companies this year using China's messy regulatory environment for print media as a competitive weapon; reporting competitors to the authorities for alleged transgressions of publishing laws. At best, this can result in time-consuming investigations and, at worst, the closure of long-standing businesses.

Update: Meanwhile, China Tech Stories reports that Baidu and Microsoft started promoting joint search services on 14th December.

TomBay update

More on the eBay/Tom Group rumours from Bloomberg: this story suggests that eBay will close its China site and pay Li Ka Shing's Tom Group $40 million for a 49% stake in a new venture. Sounds like roll over and play dead to me. I'll bet Meg Whitman wishes she hadn't bothered to spend that summer in China now -- there are easier places to spend your holidays.

Update: More on this at the FT which carries the same numbers and a good backgrounder on the story.

Departing for pastures greener

This is not directly an Asia story, but we could certainly do with ventures like this in our part of the world as air pollution in particular clouds the Chinese skies. 20+ year B2B media veteran Pete May has announced that he is moving on from Prism to form a new company, Greener World Media. He describes this as "the first media company focused exclusively on the greening of mainstream business". The company will, he says, be exclusively online to start, building on existing websites called Greenbiz.com, Greenerbuildings.com and Climatebiz.com.

Pete and I, like half of the world's B2B media industry it sometimes seems, share common time together at Miller Freeman in the 1990s. Good luck!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

TomBay rumours hit the headlines again

Back in September, we reported that Hong Kong media were speculating on eBay gently giving up on it's lone efforts in China by handing over at least part of its business to Li Ka Shing's Tom Group.

Well, they're back. Reuters is reporting "a person familiar with the matter" saying that "EBay will roll its China site into a joint venture run by a Chinese partner in the latest example of a Western media firm ceding control of its China operation in the face of a tough market". Victory, it would seem, for this round at least to Alibaba.com's Taobao.com.

To many i's

Google has just launched its classifieds website Kijiji in India. That may altogether too many i's for comfort but is an interesting indication of how this sector is heating up. The Reed Infomedia JV's first offering was hotfrog.in back in November (see here for how we reported that).

The contentsutra posting notes "they have a ’Rural Marketplace‘ classifieds listing, with listings in local languages - in Hindi and Tamil - though the sellers are still using English to describe the products, so that negates the local language advantage to some extent".

I was also intrigued by a linked they offered to a June story about mobile yellow pages. We've written twice recently (including an about-to-be-publishing Insight) for our partners at EPS on mobile content in Asia. I'm convinced that this sector is about to break out from the SMS, MMS and ringtones segments into much more interesting areas of the information industry. 2007 may be the year it happens and India may be the place. Watch this space.

Thumbs up for CMP Asia

My former colleagues at CMP Asia are singled out for attention in United Business Media's trading update released yesterday. "PR Newswire and CMP Asia continue to perform strongly while trading at CMP Information and CMP Technology has been mixed", the announcement says.

It goes on to say "The strong underlying revenue and profit performance of CMP Asia has continued during the second half of the year. The Hong Kong Jewellery & Watch Fair and Cosmoprof, the largest beauty trade event in Asia, held in September and November respectively, both exceeded expectations. CMP Asia continues to expand its activities throughout this high growth region, most recently with the successful co-launch with CMP Information of the Indian CPhI show in December and with the launch of several new shows in Hong Kong and China".

Well guys, I suppose you can take that as a hearty "Merry Christmas" from the boss.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Power of Television

It's almost depressing. You run a good business really well for years and the market takes almost no notice. One TV pundit mentions your name and "boom", you're up 20%. Apparently, CNBC's Jim Cramer told the world that he likes Global Sources. The chart here shows the effect.

Monday, December 11, 2006

IECM kicks off with Bello

Here in Singapore for a couple of days the biennial IECM conference organised by local exhibition industry association SACEOS. They've attracted a good crowd of 170+ with over-seas delegates from 17 countries.

The event kicked off with a stirring pitch for the Las Vegas Sands group's integrated resort concept from Vice President of Sales Eric Bello. He was keen to be seen (and heard) reaching out to the existing venues in Singapore, most notably his neighbours-to-be at Suntec City Exhibition and Convention Centre, speaking of events which would use all the venues.

It was interesting as well, to see Jimmy Lau and his colleagues from the new Singapore Airshow (see here for previous posts on this) pitching their new venue to the exhibition industry. It's due to be finished in August next year and they tell me they've already sold out for the new show. They just have to build it now (see picture)!

Hard to hold on to people in China

Less than two weeks after it was announced that Yahoo! China's President Xie Wen was to resign, we read that Google is losing one of its two China Presidents, Johnny Chou. Seeking Alpha quotes Hambrecht analyst James Lee as suggesting this is good news for Baidu. "We believe Mr. Chou’s leaving is a major blow to Google China’s localization effort, which is the key to catching up with Baidu", he says.

Time and again, our clients tell us that finding and holding on to really good people is the single biggest challenge to running a good business in China.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Baidu looks to Japan

In an interesting sign of what I believe may be things to come in East Asia, we see a major Chinese Internet company, baidu.com, looking towards Japan as a new market opportunity. Relevant language skills and a rich, albeit slow-growing, market make Japan a natural destination for Chinese IT and media skills.

Reuters reports that the market liked this and that Baidu shares were up 2% on the news. Analysts, however, were sceptical, noting that Japan is competitive and that Baidu may find entering the market harder than they think.

Another Cybermedia over-seas acquisition

Following through on IPO time promises to invest over-seas as well as in India, Cybermedia's Pradeep Gupta has announced another deal with the acquisition of 49% of US-based publishing services firm PSI. Clients of the Champaign, Illinois-based company include McGraw-Hill, Cambridge University Press, Harvard University Press, Elsevier Science, John Wiley & Sons, and Oxford University Press.

Cybermedia says the acquisition will provide "access to a strong client base and team of experienced US-based professionals for growing its high potential content outsourcing business". It goes on to note that "according to industry estimates, the global opportunity for publishing outsourcing is estimated at US$ 8.2bn. The Indian market for publishing outsourcing is expected to grow at a CAGR of 38% from US$ 200mn in 2005 to US$ 1.1bn by 2010, driven by availability of trained workforce proficient in English language and publishing, offering high quality at competitive prices".

Bruno Wu pulls out of Singapore business

As regular readers will know, we've followed the ins and outs of constant restructuring at Sun Business Media (formerly Panpac) in Singapore on this blog since May last year and most recently in September. Finally, it seems, they've had enough of shuffling that particular pack of cards and have issued a press release saying that he, his wife Yang Lan and You Susheng will step down as directors while Sun Media Investments Holding Limited will "cease to be a direct substantial
shareholder in the Group".

Maybe Ricky Ang and his colleagues in Singapore will be able to get on with running a media business now.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Funny Google

As an end of the week bonus, take yourself to Google Moon. Enjoy the flags for the different moon landing sites. Then, zoom in. Zoom in as far as you can go. Crack out the crackers and find yourself more in the mood for the weekend than you were before.

Good blog on China Law

My friend Bob Grace over at Plastics News has pointed out to me an excellent blog on the legal system in China. That may sound less exciting to some of you than the some of the wackier ones we look at. But, in our business in China, a combination of the IP and regulatory issues that bedevil the information industry make good legal insights essential. I shall certainly be tracking Dan Harris' postings with interest.

See here for his links on the China Forum: Navigating China's Business Landscape which Bob was involved in organising. He tells me that presentations and audio files are here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Careful with those pharma ads

Medical advertising in China has long been one of the world's more bizarre corners of the wild claim. Medicines which claim to cure everything from acne to athlete's foot and AIDS are still regularly promoted in many media.

It was with some interest then that we noticed this Xinhua piece about new restrictions on medical advertising. It notes that "new regulations, which will take effect on January 1, 2007, will eliminate exaggeration of the effects of certain medical treatments by banning the mention of any disease names".

We assume that this will be welcomed by the mainstream international medical media. Their relationships with the major international pharma companies - the fount of all profitability in the medical media business - should allow them to stake out the high ground of medi media more effectively in China with this sort of government backing.

China looks to India

I liked this story today on ContentSutra about Haier's plans to set up a development centre in India for mobile applications. What is missing here? The west, that's what's missing. We are looking at a newly-emerging world class company outsourcing some of its software development activity and there are no European, no US companies directly involved in any part of it. Be sure that most of the western media will miss the point. That being said, and kudos to them, CMP's EE Times, were the ones who picked it up.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Too close for comfort

The announcement of a 'new' B2B online directory system called The Global Source Directory seems on the unimaginative end when it comes to naming. The press release announcing this launch quotes Jack Ma of Alibaba.com as "not worried" but - surprise, surprise - does not mention that other Hong Kong-based, NASDAQ-listed giant of the B2B web business. Click here if you're new to the world of China B2B and don't know what I'm talking about.

If I were a lawyer involved with these businesses, I think I'd be calling in the office pencil-sharpener right about now! [One friend of mine did work for a New York law firm once that actually employed somebody whose job was to sharpen the pencils].

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Join the crowd

We continuously read excited pieces about what will happen when "xyz.com" comes to China. From outside, there is a naive belief that the big international on-line brands are bound to do better than the local upstarts. This has often proven not to be the case (vis Google/Baidu and Taobao/Ebay). I noted, with interest, then this posting on the Danwei blog listing all the major video services already available within China. These include:

Tudou
Rox
6 Rooms
Pomoho
56.com
Yuqoo
OmyTVs
Wangyou
Mofile

Qing Yule
Mop.com

UUme.com
Yijian
Mojiti
Biku
OuOu
5 Show
Mantou TV
MySee
VVLogger.com

Look at the Danwei post for a neat description of each one. But, boy, it looks crowded out there.

Update: Nice post here on China Web 2.0 Review with details of recent upgrades to Tudou which is apparently the original Chinese web-based video sharing service.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Postman Jack

I was interested yesterday to see news of a tie-up between China's old and new worlds: Alibaba.com and the Chinese post office, China Post. The People's Daily quotes Alibaba founder Jack Ma saying that "the cooperation would help solve the problem of delivery that bottlenecks the country's burgeoning e-commerce". It says that the post office will develop a special Express Mail Service (EMS) which will be 40% cheaper than regular EMS and will be directly linked to Taobao.com (Alibaba's auction site) and the Alipay online payment system. We assume that, once the proposed 'test drive' in Hangzhou is completed and the service rolls out nationally, it would ultimately be opened up to other e-commerce providers.

But, round 1 to Alibaba.

Unlike post offices in some developed countries, the China Post actually has quite a good reputation in China for slow but reliable delivery of everything from magazine subscriptions to good, old-fashioned letters. It's current EMS system is pretty efficient but is regarded as too expensive for the low-priced items typically traded on auction sites like Taobao.com.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Social bookmarking in China

I'm not personally convinced that so-called social bookmarking is anything other than a nerds' delight and flavour of the month. Perhaps I'm too old to appreciate what makes it work (if it really does).

Anyway, it obviously remains flavour of the month and I was interested to see this piece on the China Web 2.0 Review blog about Baidu's plans to launch its own site cang.baidu.com. We wish them well with it.

I was most interested to note this insight in the piece:

There are many social bookmarking sites in China, the most popular so far is 365key.com. The market is crowded, and in a survey among Chinese active bloggers, their favorite social bookmarking service is del.icio.us.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Lam calls for HKCEC Phase IV

At a reception marking 18 years of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, Fred Lam, the Executive Director of its owners, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, put down a marker calling for industry support for a further phase of development at the venue after the current, Phase III works are completed. He suggested that, in order for Hong Kong to remain competitive against its neighbours such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen, it needed more downtown space than even the current extension (we reported here on its controversial approval last year).

This call will, no doubt, greeted with some 'interest' by the management team at AsiaWorld-Expo located out at the Hong Kong Airport. It will also be watched closely by Hong Kong's increasingly vociferous environmental hawks who are policing with some ferocity the new policy of no more reclamations in Hong Kong harbour. The nearby bus station must be, one assumes, the site that Lam is still eyeing for Phase IV.

The reception was staged as the final event in Atrium 1 on the footbridge linking the Phase 1 and Phase 2 sections of the HKCEC. That section of the venue will shortly be closed to accommodate the extensions of Halls 1, 2 and 3 which comprise Phase III.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wei doing it himself at Alibaba?

There have been a number of items around the Internet over the past few days, as yet unconfirmed, suggesting that David Wei, former head of British DIY retail chain B&Q's China Division is to join Alibaba.com as head of its B2B division. Reuters reports the news here.

In all the excitement over Yahoo! China and taobao.com's successful run against eBay, the B2B core of Alibaba does appear from the outside to have been treading water over the past 12 months. A senior executive of Wei's stature would presumably be tasked with driving it forward again.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Adwords gets stranger

I complained a few weeks back about some dodgy China dating ads that Google was throwing up on to my site. Well, now they've surpassed themselves with bizarre-ness. Whatever is behind this ad (don't click, it's a screen shot. I'm sure they don't deserve your traffic), I can't even begin to imagine what contextual bouillabaise generated this link.

There's nothing odd, of course, about the China Sourcing Fair. But come on; "Next Pope is John Paul II"? Where on earth did that come from?

India’s First Internet Stock Naukri To List Tomorrow [Re-post from ContentSutra]

India’s First Internet Stock Naukri To List Tomorrow: "India’s first pure play internet stock - InfoEdge Ltd - will be listing tomorrow as its founder Sanjeev Bikhchandani rings the opening bell at the Bombay Stock Exchange. The listing price is Rs 320, the higher end of the band (Rs 290-320). The IPO of the owners of portals like Naukri.com, Jeevansathi.com and 99acres.com was oversubscribed 55 times. At the higher end of the band, the company will be raising Rs 174 crore.

The issue would constitute 19.50 per cent of the fully-diluted post issue paid-up capital of the company. The market cap at Rs 320 a share will be about Rs 900 crore. It’s a big day for Sanjeev Bikhchandani, CEO and founder of InfoEdge, who owns 43.23 per cent stake in the company.

ICICI Securities and Citigroup Global Markets India were the lead managers for the issue, while Intime Spectrum Registry was the registrar.

Related:

-Naukri IPO Oversubscribed 55 Times

Firefox users approaching 30%

I posted first on this on October 25 as I was intrigued by what I thought was the relatively high proportion of Firefox users coming to this blog. In less than a month, that 22% has risen to 28%. IE7 users are up 1% to 3% while IE6 users are down from 72% to 65%. Sadly, Apple's Safari seems to have fallen off the user list.

Making it easy to infringe

Anybody reading our post back in July about protecting the interests of web sites which provide links to pirated material, will not be surprised to see the decision regarding baidu.com which has generated some steam in the general media this weekend. According to the BBC, the Chinese court decision provides all search engines with the easiest of get-outs: "the ruling said the service did not constitute an infringement as the music was downloaded from webservers of third parties".

The IHT quotes Baidu saying ""If the music companies had won, the whole search engine sector would have ground to a halt". A similar excuse was used by the British in China to defend their opium trade and justify a war 165 years ago.

If you want to get a sense of how easy this all is, go to a page such as this one which lists the sources for the number 1 song in Baidu's current top 100. Click on song name and a little window like the one pictured will pop up to direct you right to the source of the pirated songs.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Breathless at the Beijing Auto Show

Given the state of the air in Beijing (and Hong Kong is even worse these days), it is something of a cruel joke to use the phrase "breathless" in relation to cars in China. The country is set to overtake Japan to become the world's 2nd largest car market and the opening of last week's Beijing Auto Show seems to have generated a lot of excited and, dare I say, breathless commentary.

The China Rises blog includes two very excited posts including one which begins:

The annual auto show in China is one of the major automotive exhibits in the world today, up there with Detroit, Frankfurt and Tokyo.

Tim Johnson, the blog's author follows up with a second post which includes some fun pictures (his, so I'll not repost them here) of Maserati, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce and Porsche exhibits at the fair.

Tom Walsh of the Detroit Free Press suggests "With its deafening music, raffle drawings, flying acrobats and dance acts, and Disneyesque costumed donkeys, roosters, penguins and oranges strolling around, plus all the copycat cars and names, the atmosphere is more carnival than world-class business event". He goes, on though, to say "But Auto China 2006 is no more a pretender than its host country, China".

People are paying this event pretty serious attention and a variety of international auto industry B2B media are congregating around it. Crain's Automotive News has been organising a major conference in Beijing and recently launched the latest in the company's series of China e-newsletters (see here for previous posts on what they're up to) in the auto sector.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mobile advertising

We're just finishing up a report for our partners at EPS in London on mobile content in Asia. With 400+ million mobile telephone users in China alone, it's a big topic and one of importance to all types of media company.

I noted, then, with interest a piece on the Digital World Tokyo site about Google extending its experiment with mobile advertising into China, India and Australia. The piece says that its been doing this in the US, UK, Germany and Japan since August. It talks also of the obvious "click-to-call" options which are so easily activated in this format as shown in the picture here.

Something here about it from Google itself.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Free wi-fi in Singapore

Asia's pocket-sized mega trading economies, Hong Kong and Singapore clearly lend themselves to a variety of tech experiments. Hong Kong was the first place in the world to install 100% fibre in its telecoms network. Singapore, taking advantage of its less densely-packed concrete and steel towers and lack of mountains, looks set to win the race to install a free city wi-fi network in Asia. See this Tokyo Digital Times piece for more details.

India travel sector busy

Indian Express appears to be moving fast to build new partnerships in its online businesses. Just over week after we reported on its deal with TechTarget, they're back in the news with another deal, this time travel related. The same brief report talks about activity in the online travel sector at Mumbai-across-town-rivals indiatimes.com.

Meanwhile, over at eBay India, yet another deal was announced in this segment with Cultuzz Digital Media agreeing to supply travel-related services. These are designed to strengthen eBay India's Travel, Tickets & Vouchers section.

We noted just a couple of weeks ago an item reminding us that up to 75% of Indian e-commerce relates to travel.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Biggest VC funding in Chinese blog co

China Web 2.0 Review reports on a $3 - 5 million Series-A funding of Blogbus. The piece suggests that this is the "this is the largest series A funding among Chinese BSPs (blog service provider)".

The piece also reports on a Rmb120 million (US$15 million) investment in classified provider Sosoko (is this a CSP?).

Private equity and German trade fairs?

Just spent the weekend working with clients in Bangkok. Colleague Wolfgang Schelkes of Fair Relations in Germany was there too. In a presentation on the trade fair industry in Europe, he raised a topic I hadn't heard before (I've obviously had my head buried too deeply in Asian matters); the possible privatisation of some of the large German trade fair companies, now almost all owned by city governments.

Many other German government activities have gone this way, but Wolfgang suggests that this may be too difficult for trade fairs because of (a) the complex local politics involved and (b) the size of the required investments. On (a) I am in no position to judge, but I imagine that would be pretty hard. On (b), though, even the largest of the Messe would be a chicken feed investment for one of the big private equity funds now prowling the B2B media world. If KKR can offer $51 billion for Vivendi, then surely even Deutsche Messe AG in Hanover, along with Cologne, Frankfurt, Duessledorf and Munich could all be bought in a single deal by one of these funds without too much of a stretch....

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thoughts from Beijing

At the airport in Beijing en route to Bangkok after a busy week at the UFI Congress. Somewhere over 400 gathered from around the world for the event. Programme highlights for me included tremendous presentations on economic and business development in China from Prof. Fan Gang , Director of the National Institute of Economic Research at the China Reform Foundation and from Dong Tao, Chief Economist for Asia of Credit Suisse. They talked of the tremendous demographic pressures at play in both India and China. Prof. Fan suggested that, having created 200 - 250 million industrial jobs in the last 20 years, China needs to create another 200 million in the coming 10 - 20 years to create full employment.

Dong Tao pointed out that China's population peaks in 2017 after which the effect of the one-child policy will cause a massive drop-off in new entrants to the workforce. At that point, he suggested, we may need to be looking for other people to knit our socks.

Prof. Werner Delfmann from Cologne deftly picked up the ball passed to him by Dong Tao and dug deeper into the issues of demographics and their likely impact on the development of the global trade fair centres. He asked what kind of impact the "World Cities" and "Gateway Cities" concepts much loved by large consulting firms, will really have on the trade fair industry.

All seemed convinced that strong future growth in Asia was still the order of the day.

The final session, as has become a tradition at this conference, included two lively sessions with two contrasting speakers from outside the industry: if you're young, hip and trendy (I fulfil none of these requirements), you probably know Jones Soda. Peter van Stolk, its idiosyncratic founder told us all to fight our own ground on our own terms (in his case, don't try to take on Coke and Pepsi, because you can't win). He also turned a few stomachs with his Turkey & Gravy soda story. It's true!

Finally, and for me telling a quite remarkable story, was Robert Swan. The man who, 20 years ago, walked both to the South Pole and then to the North Pole. That alone would be extraordinary. But he has then parlayed this experience into a global environmental and youth education programme which is worthy of our support. Although the slogan belongs to somebody else, he basic message was "Just Do It"!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tech Target to India

I read with particular interest the news of Tech Target's Indian deal - their fifth of the year. They will be partnering with Indian Express. I worked closed with Indian Express's Business Publications Division in the late 1990s as Miller Freeman was expanding its presence in India and wish them all well in their endeavours.

This will be a much-needed boost for the Express team as they gear up for the next round of battle with listed Cybermedia, IDG's new India operations and local Mumbai rivals Jasubhai and Infomedia. The IT media field has been fiercely competitive over the past decade as local and international brands have jostled for space in a market characterised still by very low prices but with tremendous growth.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Reed Business Information secretly relocates to Australia

This may come as surprise to the Anglo-Dutch management of Reed Elsevier, but we know that everything on the Internet is true and that's what it says at this agencyfaqs.com posting about the Reed/Infomedia JV's Hotfrog launch in India.

There's more on the hotfrog.in deal here at contentsutra.com along with another piece here about Reed/Infomedia's snagging Suresh Ramakrishnan from Jasubhai Digital Media. Let's hope he doesn't start singing Waltzing Matilda at Board meetings by mistake.

Of smog, cheap factory workers and limited growth models

One of the odder press release editorials we have seen recently comes from a Portland, OR-based company called China Grabber. The company describes China as "a planet of factories, smog and cheap factory workers. And, oh yea, trade companies that have websites".

It then goes on to suggest that the existing sourcing sites have "limited growth models of sourcing sites". Try telling that to Merle Hinrichs and Jack Ma.

China Grabber concedes that it presents a limited product range but believes that its secret weapon is online payment. They may not have heard of the Global Sources Direct product which links them into e-Bay for the types of transactions where completion online is desired or desirable - not that many in the current B2B environment it turns out.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Up in India, down in China

What is? Print advertising, we hear.

While Hugo Martin reports from Germany relates that "Readership and Ad Revenues are Booming" in India, Dutch writer Fons Tuinstra tells us that "Last year for the first time in two decades, revenue from advertisements did not grow anymore. The realization that print media have a hard time now online ventures tend to be faster, more engaging than the traditional ink on dead trees, is for the first time also hitting China".

The question we have is whether things are developing differently in India or simply with some delay over China and the rest of the world. It could be either. I am not convinced of the future for print media in China. For India, the jury is out.

Economist promiscuous in India?

Promiscuity is not a charge too regularly levied at the worthy 163 year old 'newspaper' The Economist. That does, however, seem to be the underlying issue in this contentsutra posting about its new deal content-sharing deal with Indian Express. Apparently, they're doing it with everybody.

The next billion

Back in Hong Kong for a few days after a long flight back from Rhodes via Athens and Rome. The gods were obviously smiling as my suitcase arrived back with me despite two tight transfers.

Catching up on news and other blogs, I was intrigued with this piece on the China Stock Blog which quotes Intel chairman Craig Barratt on a trip to China saying "There are about a billion Internet users. The next billion aren't going to be city dwellers." He talked more about how affordable technology needed to be a key focus for opening up these new markets to technology.

In a similar vein, contentsutra.com asks Can India’s Largest Vegetable Market Really Go Online? It touches on some of the cultural issues that have to be addressed even if technical and pricing constraints can be resolved: "a large number of transactions are not billed, and traders would prefer things to remain that way", it says.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Busy week in Hangzhou

It's been a busy week at Alibaba.com. Earlier in the week, it was widely reported that the company was investing in classified site koubei.com. The amounts of the investment and percentage of the company acquired were not confirmed although rumours in the mainland consistently mentioned a figure of around $6 million for the company. Koubei, like Alibaba, is located in the scenic Zhejiang city of Hangzhou.


Elsewere, Alibaba.com founder Jack Ma is reported to have told a Singapore conference that Yahoo! China will go all Web 2.0-ey and base itself much more on user generated content. We get the sense that early enthusiasm in the wake of the Yahoolibaba deal for Yahoo! as a Google-busting search engine has been dented and that Jack and boys are a seeking a new way forward for their big brand.

This may not be unrelated to their realisation that baidu.com is going to be hard to beat. It has just announced Q3 earnings up 900%. Even that hasn't satisfied some who were reported to be disappointed with Baidu's results. There are even suggestions that the company is now 'in play' although others vigourously discount this rumour.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Price of PPP may be too high

For me, the most interesting session at the ICCA Congress today in Rhodes was an afternoon panel led by the leading venue architect Larry Ottmanns of Leo Daly. He has been involved in Phase 2 of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre and is closely involved in the 5,000 seat convention centre extension in Melbourne. He was joined by Leigh Harry from Melbourne, Peter Brokenshire from Kuala Lumpur and Steve Piper from Brighton.
 
Public Private Partnerships are flavour of the month among government developers of infrastructure. But, for me at least, the unexpected general conclusion of the session was the price may be too high to pay. The panelists spoke of compromised designs and, in some cases, build standards and of what Ottmans described as the mismatch in the objectives of P1 and P2 in the PPP equation.
 
Unless the provision to goverment of a convention centre is regarded as "stamp duty" on a larger property project, as it was described by one delegate representing a new mega investment in Hyderbad, India funded by Dubai, then it was hard to find any example of where the private sector has been willing or able to put up more than 15% of the project value. In those cases, we all wondered whether the price of compromise was worth the 15%.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Congress world fret over competition

I'm in Rhodes, Greece for the annual convention of ICCA, the convention industry association. They're tickled to have attracted over 800 delegates. Strong delegations here from Korea and Thailand. I'm surprised that nobody from Macau made it given that the Venetian's opening date is now just 12 months away.

Leigh Harry of the Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre is taking over as the organisation's new President while Pattaya Thailand will host its 2007 Congress, so plenty of Asia/Pacific interest. I'm talking on the region on Wednesday afternoon.

In an interesting session this afternoon led by a Dutch magician (those wacky Congress guys!), the delegates voted on the issues of most concern to them. Top of the list for all parts of the world were the proliferation of facilities and competition. There was me thinking that was just Asia.

Last nights opening reception was hosted in the Palace of the Grand Master (all very Da Vinci Code), pictured here.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

What Jack is not going to do

I've become a great fan a limited number of podcasts. I particularly like Stanford's Draper Fisher Jurvetson-sponsored Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar series (available from iTunes). They're about an hour long and help to pass long flights in an interesting way. Yesterday, I was listening to KLA-Tencor's Rick Wallace who commented "The essence of strategy is what you are not going to do".

So, this report of Yahoolibaba Jack Ma's speech in Shanghai last week caught my eye. It seems as though Jack did his usual job of charming the crowd. I was particularly interested to note the following:

- He will never enter the online gaming business because he thinks it's bad for kids;

- His vision for Alibaba is to help create a million jobs for Chinese people;

- He decided to buy Yahoo because he thinks that search will become critical to the future development of online commerce websites such as Alibaba, Taobao and eBay;

- During the Q&A, an audience member asked him what he felt about online dating sites; he said that Alibaba could possibly enter that business because it fulfilled a real need and could make people happy.


For Chinese readers, it also points to Jack's own blog.

Update: the same conference, with flattering references to Jack, is also blogged by Shaun Rein here.

Entrepreneurs Song List

A bit of weekend trivia for you: I set up my company just over 6 years ago and have really enjoyed the process. I stumbled today across Pamela Slim's "Escape from Cubicle Nation" which seems like an altogether better topic for a blog than many.

I particularly like this 'playlist' of songs for entrepreneurs. I shall enjoy trying to come up with 10 of my own. How about Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up" for starters or Mable John "Ain't Giving it Up".

India online travel

A couple of pieces on contentsutra.com suggest that a large portion of e-commerce in India currently relates to travel:

Three-fourth Of Indiatimes’ E-commerce Accounted By Travel Products: Indiatimes is the website linked to what is arguably India's most powerful newspaper company, Bennett Coleman & Co., the publishers of The Times of India.

Expedia looking for country head: The report notes that Expedia is setting up shop in India, most probably in the first quarter of 2007.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Ali-wannabes crowd in

Two interesting snips yesterday showing that there are many companies out there who would like a bit of Alibaba.com's action (and the HC360 pie perhaps). Firstly, the launch of the oddly-named Yaphon B2B alliance which claims:

Being a Chinese B2B professional organization that enjoys the most abundant trading resources and attracts the most types of industries to participate, the establishment of Yaphon B2B Alliance marks the end of separate operation of online trading by individual sites.

That last claim is pretty radical. The CCP Propaganda Department-style phrasing, though, raises some suspicions about the provenance of this initiative. It goes on to claim:

Before this, Alibaba.com occupied a big share in China's B2B e-business market. However, the establishment of ''Yaphon B2B Alliance (B2B Alliance)'' also indicates that the Chinese B2B market has begun to combine the advantageous resources and demonstrate Chinese suppliers to overseas buyers in an organized way.

I somehow doubt that Jack and the boys in Hangzhou are quaking in their boots just yet despite the way in which that first sentence seems to imply their imminent demise.

Elsewhere, the Shanghai Daily reports on MFG.com's entry into the Chinese marketplace:

THE world's leading Internet marketplace for industrial products put its Chinese site online yesterday to help its overseas members, including some on the Fortune Global 500 list, find cheap made-in-China industrial parts.

Some interesting claims on pricing and potential audience here from a typically optimistic-sounding American boss, Mitch Free, apparently new to China:

Currently there are only about 100 Chinese companies paying US$5,000 a year for its service. But it said thousands of other Chinese suppliers had registered for a free three-month trial. Most of them were small- and medium-sized companies, according to Free.


Its unified flat membership fee is cheaper than that of the international trade site of Alibaba.com, which charges between 60,000 yuan (US$7,500) to 200,000 yuan a year.

I'm not sure he's comparing like with like here and may wish to look to his surname for what Chinese suppliers really prefer to pay.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Testing for travel

I'll be travelling very heavily over the next 2 - 3 weeks (Bangkok, Rhodes, Beijiing, Bangkok, Beijing). So, I'd better start trying to file by e-mail otherwise this blog will keel over....and, as this has been a record month (by 30% or more) in terms of traffic, that would be a pity.
 

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cutting edge?

I'm not quite sure where this puts you all in the greater scheme of things, but a full 22% of your are using Firefox according to my usage stats. With 2% using Apple's Safari and another 1% on Opera (you non-comformists you), that leaves just 75% share for various iterations of IE. 2% of you are already on IE 7.x. Very brave, very brave.

Cybermedia Dice in the red

The spiffy new-look Contentsutra.com site reports that Cybermedia's JV jobs board with Dice made an operating loss of Rs14 million (a touch over $300k) for the first half of this financial year.
Cybermedia's own CIOL.com reports "an increase of 24 per cent in its total income to Rs26.30 crore (US$5.8 million) from Rs 21.28 crore recorded during the same quarter last year.

During the 2nd quarter, the company says, its Global Services JV with CMP "achieved 32,000 opt-in subscribers and eight new clients".

Last 20

I enjoy seeing where the readers to this blog come from. A snapshot of the last 20 shows:

1 Hong Kong Central District

2 Turkey Ankara

3 Turkey Eskisehir

4 United Kingdom Milton Keynes

5 United Kingdom Aberdeen, Aberdeen City

6 Italy Milano, Lombardia

7 Spain Vehinat De Esclet, Cataluna

8 United States Nashville, Tennessee

9 Hong Kong Central District

10 Ukraine Kiev, Kyyivs'ka Oblast'

11 Hong Kong Central District

12 United States San Diego, California

13 United States

14 Ukraine Kiev, Kyyivs'ka Oblast'

15 Hong Kong Central District

16 Germany Knig, Hessen

17 Hong Kong Central District

18 Hong Kong Cheung Sha Wan

19 Germany Hamburg

20 France Paris, Ile-de-France

Google, ever helpful, suggested that I must have meant to type "King Hussein" when I was searching for Knig, Hessen to find out where it is. Still none the wiser.

From China Web 2.0 Review: Search News Roundup

China Search News Roundup writes: "Jerry LiuBaidu CTO resigned: Jerry Liu, CTO of Baidu, announced today that he will resign from Baidu, which will take effective on December 19, 2006. Jerry Liu joined Baidu in January 2000, he is first employee of Baidu besides founders of Baidu. The news said that he will consider to run his own startup later.


Baidu anti-virus channel: Baidu launched an anti-virus channel recently. Baidu partners with major domestic and international anti-virus service providers, including McAfee, Trend Micro, King Duba, KV2006 and others, to provide free online virus scan service and anti-virus update service subscription service.


Yahoo China vs. Baidu: Yahoo China launched an interesting campaign to promote its search service. Yahoo China presents both the search results from Yahoo China and Baidu in the same screen for users to choose which one is the results from Yahoo. Users are allowed to input any keyword for comparison. I tried it and I have to admit that it is not easy for me to differentiate their results.


Hour41’s special search box: Hour41(IE only) is a newly launched job search engine, which has a special input box in homepage. You can enter the keyword either horizontally or vertically, but I think it is nothing but cool, and it will confuse users.



(Via China Web2.0 Review.)






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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Taking the L-train in Macau

It's hard to see too many links between Chicago and Macau. However, the People's Daily Online today reports that the government has announced a $525 million elevated light rail system which they think they can build in 48 months. The report suggests that the 22km line will include 26 stations.

Anybody who has an idea of the scale of Macau's expansion plans (and we have commented on these a number of times including here, here and here) will be aware that they are enormously ambitious. The current road infrastructure in what was a tiny and sleepy Portuguese colony for most of the past 500 years, is simply not up to what they want to do. So, it sounds as though this news comes not a moment too soon.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Google gaining slowly in Japan

I really like the Digital World Tokyo web site and noted with interest this piece about Google having, after six years, clawed its way into the Top 10 of Japanese web sites.

The piece quotes NetRatings saying:

The search engine and its associated sites attracted 17.4 million users in September, up from 12.1 million in the same period a year earlier and enough to give it tenth spot in the month's web property ranking. It sits just behind Amazon.com's site, which garnered 17.5 million users and well behind top-ranked Yahoo Japan, which 23.6 million visited during the month...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Trouble stirring online in Vietnam

With the Internet beginning to take off there, the BBC warns of fear among Internet users in Vietnam that authorities are about to clamp down on their activities. The report comments:

The internet is booming in Vietnam. Online cafes can be found in even the smallest towns.

It has given a big boost to the country's small dissident movement - allowing them to communicate with each other and with supporters abroad.

In response, the security forces have blocked access to certain websites and targeted dissidents using the net.


It all sounds eerily familiar to those who follow these things in Vietnams large neighbour to the north. It follows a report just yesterday on censorship there by the same reporter.

Back in June, Yahoo! Singapore reported (and we also posted) that there were more than 12.5 million Internet subscribers in Vietnam now. According to July 2005 estimates, there are 84.2 million people in Vietnam, so that's almost 15% of the population online - and growing fast.

More news I should have spotted

FIPP is, in my opinion, one of the more effective international organisations I have come across. So, I feel mildly less embarrassed than I might otherwise have to come across a piece in the newsletter of a London-based association of which I should have been aware.

It reports that "Singapore Press Holdings Magazines has acquired Asian IT media company Hardware Zone (HWZ) and its subsidiaries for $7.1 million". The SPHM press release describes HWZ thus "has operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, China and Australia, publishing prolific IT magazine titles , namely HWM, GameAxis Unwired and PHOTOVIDEOi, along with operating popular online portal www.hardwarezone.com which has monthly pageviews of more than 35 million".

The same FIPP page includes news of a shake-up at part of ACP Magazines in Australia as part of James Packer's restructuring of the family jewels in the wake of his Father, Kerry's death at the end of last year.

Friday, October 20, 2006

MSFT advertising services in China

There's an interesting piece on Media Partners Asia's web site about Microsoft's launch in China of its Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions (MDAS) service there. The piece quotes Microsoft's Eric Hadley general manager for Global Marketing saying “We are very committed to the advertising space. We will continue to grow the sales staff [globally], and you’ll see a greater commitment across the board in selling innovative new advertising.”.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mega Macao

Trying to steal a little of Global Sources' thunder (today was the opening of the gifts portion of the China Sourcing Fair), Kenfair has announced with some fanfare the launch of its October 2007 "Mega Macao" event. By our reckoning, this is likely to be the first major event at the new Venetian Macao (pictured here in a July web cam shot) and is a clear effort by Kenfair to capitalise on the Hong Kong/Guangzhou spring and autumn flood of buyers attending existing, major fairs. We think it may be a slightly risky-er venture than Global Source's launches at AsiaWorld-Expo but the potential for these sourcing fairs to grow in the Pearl River Delta appears almost unstoppable.

Chinabyte.com worth $50 million

In Beijing yesterday for the American Business Media CEO China meeting. An interesting group there with talks from Reed's Jim Casella, Global Sources' Merle Hinrichs, Tom Gorman of Fortune China and two ladies from the start-up team for Reed's Variety in China.

Al Furst of Asian Projects was also speaking. He suggests that he and I are the only consultants covering B2B in Asia and that when, from time to time, a third emerges, we make special arrangements in Hong Kong to eliminate them. This is, of course, entirely untrue. After all, any special arrangements would best be made in Macau.

Al also talked about chinabyte.com, the partner in China of his client TechTarget. We've obviously been asleep at the wheel again, because we had missed the June announcement that Impress Holdings from Japan had bought 19.99% of that business for $10 million back in June. Shareholders in chinabyte's parent Yesky.com are News Corp., IDG Ventures, and two Chinese industry partners.

Of the 55 Asian B2B web sites we track, chinabyte.com ranks #7 with an estimated 790,000 useres. Its techtarget.com.cn site comes in at #20 with around 96,500.

Fredy Bush - top woman of influence

We have written a few things in the past year regarding Xinhua Finance (here most recently). CEO Fredy Bush has just been selected by Hong Kong's American Chamber of Commerce as Entrepreneur of the Year in its Women of Influence Awards, jointly sponsored with the South China Morning Post newspaper.

Quoting Bush, the SCMP feature on the story says "Risk-taking was a prerequisite for entrepreneurship, she said. 'Risks are married with opportunities ... entrepreneurs are risk-takers ... I'm proud to be in the category of entrepreneur [in the Women of Influence Awards] because entrepreneurs tend to spur the economy. We employ people. I like that moniker,' she said".

Xinhua Finance's own press release on the news is here.

We write a lot about how hard it is to do business in China in our industry, so it's great to see somebody recognised for working out how to do it and for then doing it on a really substantial scale. Those challenges are exemplified by Xinhua Finance's own 10th October press release regarding legal proceedings in China over the Xinhua FTSE Index.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

B2B Mobile....at last

With all the excitement around mobile content over the past 5 years, I've been waiting for somebody to come up with a serious run at mobile B2B (see this posting from May). So, I am interested to see the story on China Tech News that two of China's more interesting media companies, Focus Media and Huicong are planning to work together to build a mobile B2B network.

I do find myself a little confused on the Huicong we're talking about. My understanding was that Huicong was the original name of the company now known as HC International). Global Sources announced a significant strategic investment in that company earlier in the year. It certainly fits the description of "one of the largest B2B service providers". There is, though, another Huicong which appears to be more B2C and is related to another organisation. I will report further on this.

Focus Media we do know (we see their screens in every almost every office lift lobby in Hong Kong and China) and reported on them when they listed last year.



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Monday, October 16, 2006

New focus for Canton Fair

The China Export Commodities Fair (better known as the Canton Fair) is the largest trade fair in Asia - by far. For 50 years, it has been held twice a year and served for much of its life as the only source of Chinese manufactured products for China traders. It was distinguished by its focus: Chinese trading companies met international buyers. Many product categories, but one-way trade.

As today's People's Daily points out, that focus is about to change (and this has been the talk of the town for those in the business for a number of weeks now):

The 50-year-old Chinese Export Commodities Fair, which used to be the only international showcase for Chinese products, changed its name to the Chinese Import and Export Commodities Fair on Sunday evening.

Adding the word "import" to its name reflects an adjustment in China's economic development mode, which has featured the expansion of exports for more than two decades, according to experts.


There may be excellent commercial reasons for this. However, the Canton Fair has always been closely linked with the political development of China as well. It is owned by the Ministry of Commerce. Today's news is not unrelated to the story from last Thursday which Bloomberg headlined as "China Posts Second-Biggest Trade Surplus on Record".

We shall watch with interest as the Canton Fair team turns its focus onto Chinese buyers and international sellers - the exact reverse of what it has been doing for the past 50 years.

Update: Playing around with these Technorati tags led me to a small sub-set of the blogging world of which I wasn't previously aware - Canton Fair blogs. Check out:

Cathy's Canton Fair blog
CantonFair.net
Onemanbandwidth (odd blog this)
ttnet.net

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Flattery

Global Sources operates one of the world's top consumer merchandise sourcing sites and, although the look and feel has evolved over the years, it has retained a distinctive style:


We were surprised, then, (actually, not that surprised) to find that the Yiwu Market an important trading centre for low-end consumer merchandise in Zhejiang Province, has adopted a remarkably similar style:


P.S. Your Sunday triva bonus: the quotation "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" comes from Charles Caleb Colton's 1820 book Lacon.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Adsense mystery

OK. What have I written that generates this ad from Google's Adsense on my blog?

Love with chinese women
Girls and women from China searching for love
www.chinesekisses.com

If this is supposed to be contextual advertising, what on earth has inspired a link to a Chinese dating service? The only thing I can conceivably think of is the Demon Wife Blog posting a few days ago which included one of those scary manga-type cartoon Japanese girls with huge eyes.

If I see noticeable uptick in the pitiful trickle of income these ads generate, I shall think the worse of you readers.

78 mags listed as approved in India

Bhupesh Trivedi's Indian Media Observer has, over the last couple of years, been a reliable source of good information on goings on in the speciality media industry in India. We were interested to note, therefore, this listing of the 78 foreign scientific/technical/speciality magazines/journals/ periodicals which have been approved since 2003 by the Indian authorities to produce local editions.

He was posting here on a long list of journals approved for Springer in August ranging from Hernia to The Journal of Headache and Pain. Cheery bedtime reading! Tucked into the middle of Springer's list of worthy journals, you'll find Media Transasia's approval for the Indian edition of Better Homes & Garden.

Wikipedia in China...good news

(Reposted verbatim from China Rises: Notes from the Middle Kingdom. The "I" here is not me, but Tim Johnson whose blog it is):

Relaxing the internet squeeze: "It’s not often that I can relate a positive development in the battle for access to information in China. But recent hours bring good news.

China has unblocked the English-language service of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. The content of Wikipedia is written and constantly edited by its users.

It is believed to be the world’s 17th most visited website.

For some reason, the internet police in China, dubbed ‘the nanny’ by British friends, have lifted censorship of Wikipedia even though it contains references to topics considered sensitive to the Chinese, such as the ‘three Ts’ -- Tibet, Taiwan and the Tiananmen Square bloodshed in 1989.

The Chinese-language site has not been unblocked.

Why did China loosen its grip? Beats me. In China, one gets accustomed to government policies that squeeze with one hand while caressing with the other. Maybe they are preparing to crack down on another part of the internet.

Some of the internet censorship is inexplicable. For example, why do they block the Philadelphia Inquirer but not the Washington Post or the New York Times?

In any case, hats off to Wikipedia, which is based in St. Petersburg, Florida, my home town.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

CEATEC slips sideways

News from the DigitlWorldTokyo blog that the largest Japanese IT show, CEATEC, has joined the big international technology shows that seem to be struggling to generate new growth and excitement.

There was, though, clearly lots of fun new techy stuff there as this piece from the Philadelphia Daily News shows. CNET also has a solid review of what was on show.

We want a bit of your $200mn!

This morning at a Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club breakfast, a Moscow-based representative of Interfax gave me his take on the recent Xinhua shenanigans regarding the rights of foreign business information providers to distribute their information in China. His view on this was that:

  1. Distribution of real-time financial information to the Chinese financial services industries is worth around $200mn a year.
  2. Reuters and Bloomberg get most of that.
  3. Xinhua would like some of it.
  4. They have cloaked their run at this $200 mn in political and ideological terminology.
  5. Their effort is doomed to failure; any potential gains for Xinhua in making inroads into that $200 mn or in giving the Party control over information flows would be massively counterbalanced by losses in the Chinese financial services sector due to delays in receiving crucial financial information.

Given Interfax's USSR roots, you sense that they know of what they speak when they talk of these double-edged swords.

Update: Set this against this piece from Fons Tuinstra and the Scotsman piece to which it refers and you wonder if the Mad Hatter's Tea Party isn't in full swing. What would possess Reuters to open a development centre in Beijing at the moment we wonder?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nature and the Booker

I was lucky enough to participate in a panel at an Amsterdam conference last month with Richard Charkin, the CEO of Macmillan. His blog provides great insights into parts of the publishing industry about which I don't know anywhere near enough. Recommended reading.

Today he is talking about the new Booker Prize winner Kiran Desai (note how this Wikipedia entry is already up-to-date. You have to love it) and developments at Macmillan's Nature Publishing Group. We wrote a bit about that back in January.

Charkin quotes Jason Wilde, the publisher of Nature Nanotechnology saying:

Not only have we launched new titles but we have also expanded our editorial operations to include Asia. The decision to have one of the editors for Nature Nanotechnology in Tokyo reflects the strengths of the Asia-Pacific region. Japan is second only to the US in terms of investment in nanotechnology research, and South Korea is ranked fifth in the world. China is also emerging as a force in nanotechnology and scientific research.

Foreign Agent

Thanks to Cherif Moujabber of Creative Expos and Conferences (and also on the list) for alerting me to TradeShow Week's "Power Pack 100" - the 100 Most Influential People in the Tradeshow Business. I am tickled to have been included on the list of 10 "Foreign Agents" along with many friends and colleagues from around the world. These include UFI colleagues Tom Beyer and Vincent Gérard as well as near neighbours Wolfram Diener over in Macau, Cliff Wallace at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre and Peter Sutton of CMP Asia. Also in Asia, I am honoured to find myself in the company of CEMS' Edward Liu and CCPIT's Wang Jinzhen.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Back to Beijing

Back in the Dragonair lounge at Hong Kong International Airport en route for Beijing. I mention this only through having looked at my travel activity in the past 12 months. For one thing, this is flight number 80 since this time last year (ouch!). The other thing is that, despite trips to Beijing at least once or twice a month in the past few months, my trips to Shanghai have slowed to a trickle.

That's not to suggest that the sun is setting on Shanghai (although there are newspaper pundits who would have us believe that), but that business development focus is now elsewhere in China. My business involves working with clients to look forward and most of them, at least in the industries in which I'm working, see Shanghai as either fully served or as too competitive. In some industries, people are also telling me that they find it too expensive while fierce price competition keeps profitability low or non-existent.

Like Hong Kong, Shanghai is a resilient place and few people have made much money in the long term by betting against it. But it will be interesting to see where the new business develops.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Mine's bigger than yours

The immaturity of the market shines through in the silly tone of this Business Standard article from India on the rivalry between online job sites Monster India and Naukri.com.

As contentsutra.com points out, "the war of words between Naukri and Monster India is not new. Both always claim to be the number one jobs portal in India."

Amongst the jumble of numbers and predictable denouncing of Alexa.com from the one whose ranking is lower (see here for our previous takes on this), there is no mention of whether anybody's making any money. Do grow up boys.

Friday, October 06, 2006

FT India plans

Exchange4media.com is reporting that the Financial Times is gearing up to launch a South Asian edition. Government approval is still be sought although a country head and business development director have been hired.

We will see how much further this gets than the IHT and Wall Street Journal plans for India. The market remains a tough one both commercially and from the regulators. Although much more open than China, there is deep-rooted bureaucratic opposition to foreign newspapers.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Blooks in Japan

I learned a lot today about blogs, blooks and Japan from a free feature at WSJ.com. It appears that the Demon Wife blog (Jitsuroku Oniyome Nikki) has spawned comics, a TV programme, a video game and now even a book or, as it was spawned by a blog, a blook.

It also seems that this is following in the foosteps of the "Train Main" or Densha Otokoa saga which has generated $11 million in 'other media' sales.

If you're ever feeling hard done by, consider just this tale from the Demon Wife blogger Kazuma: "Then there was the shopping trip when the demon wife ordered Kazuma to give blood in order to get the free-parking voucher available to blood donors."

The more you look into this stuff, the stranger it gets. But the whole topic of online media giving birth to 'old media' products is something which I find increasingly interesting. I've just written in more detail on it for EPS and, if you subscribe to their services, you should see a piece on it shortly.