Sunday, August 27, 2006

WSJ in India - what happened to the other deal?

A couple of years ago, when India first started cracking open the door of its previously tightly closed media market, there was much excitement when the Wall Street Journal announced that it would publish an Indian edition together with the Times of India group. That seems to have been conveniently forgotten in the latest round of excitement in the Subcontinent generated by its announcement of a tie-up with the HT Media Group.

This isn't exactly an Indian edition but revolves around providing WSJ content to HT Group's proposed new business paper. HT's flagship is the Hindustan Times, founded by Mahatma Gandhi in 1924.

So, Mr. Crovitz, what happened to plan A?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

...thought so

Unless you're a subscriber, you can't link to the South China Morning Post article which appeared this morning on the NewspaperDirect/Easiprint story as it remains behind their firewall. However, as predicted, it appears that GAPP did not really know about the deal and doesn't approve of it. The article quotes GAPP's deputy director Yu Yongzhan saying that "that the administration had studied the possibility of allowing foreign newspapers to print on the mainland, but had decided against it at present".

Commenting specifically on the Easiprint story, he apparently said ""This report is false. "The Founder Group is a very influential company, and would not do anything to violate the law." Easiprint is a subsidiary of the $3 billion Founder Group.

Apparently NewspaperDirect is not aware of all this and says it is already printing in Beijing and Shanghai. Not for long, we reckon.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Bokee Bank

This is worth blogging just for the name. Several people have picked up on this news but we think that China Web 2.0 Review was the first. So, we'll link to their piece about the Chinese blog consolidator Bokee's announcement that it is starting a revenue sharing plan to be called Bokee Bank.

Following in the footsteps of Alibaba.coms's Alipay solution, it will be interesting to see how far the Chinese web sector can go in developing alternatives to China's stuffy, bureaucratic and barely solvent official banks.

NewspaperDirect into China

Maybe its something to do with their British Columbia roots and a familiarity with salmon swimming upstream against the current, but we were a bit surprised to see the August 8 (8/8 - very lucky day in Chinese numerology) announcement that NewspaperDirect has signed an agreement to facilitate printing foreign newspapers in China. The announcement notes that "Both companies see the agreement as an important step in opening the country to foreign media, especially in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics."

Nobody seems to have told the Communist Party about this policy and, as we have reported numerous times (most recently here), things are getting tougher in China for most publishers. We shall follow this one with interest.

NewspaperDirect's Chinese partner is the Founder Group's Easiprint chain of over 200 franchised print shops. Apparently "they will be authorized to print any of the titles published by NewspaperDirect's publishing partners. These titles include The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune (USA), The Times, The Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph (UK), Le Monde, Le Figaro (France), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), Neue Zurcher Zeitung (Switzerland), Mainichi Shimbun (Japan), The Globe and Mail and National Post (Canada)". I wonder if anybody mentioned this to GAPP?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Web stats

We've had our knuckles firmly rapped a few times by a major Asian B2B internet, publishing and exhibitions company which will remain nameless (you know who you are ****) about our use of statistics to calculate relative web traffic numbers. We recognise that it's a far from perfect option but reckoned it was least bad and better than nothing. Nameless company disagreed, not least because these stats made it look worse than its competitors. There was a suggestion that various sites in China were encouraging friends, family, staff and, possibly, the local butcher to install toolbars to boost rankings. Who knows?

Anyway, I was interested to see Heather Green over at BusinessWeek posting a piece titled Traffic Statistics Online and the Importance of Triangulating. We certainly agree with her final point: "it all comes down to triangulating different stats and talking to companies". When it comes to dealing with dodgy data (and there's plenty of that in China), this is really a golden rule.

The only reasonably solid counting systems (involving real research) tend not to be international and even those which cover just the US generate heated debate. So, what hope of really good comparative data on Asian B2B sites? Any good suggestions gratefully received. Heck, we might even pay you if they're worthwhile.

Update: no sooner do you think you've had a good, original idea for a post than you discover somebody else did it 12 hours ago. So, chastened, I'll publish this link to Fons Tuinstra's coverage of the same issue at his China Herald blog.

Business Media China gets on the train

Given the focus of our blog, you won't be surprised to know that we watch a company called Business Media China with interest. You may be more surprised (if you don't know it) to find that it's listed in Frankfurt (Ticker: DET). It runs a number of trade fairs, having acquired the Guangzhou Zhenwei business a while back. Originally created by Mesago, the company did a reverse takeover of Frankfurt-listed CNV AG a couple of years ago and re-named it BMC a year ago. It's now also focused on publishing and outdoor advertising.

Although judging from the company's web site, this is relatively old news, both the People's Daily and Shanghai Daily run a story today which outlines how BMC has broken the previously domestic monopoly on railway station advertising. Not exactly B2B, but it's interesting to see how this company is developing.

eBay for business in India

Back at the end of July, we commented on the number of people in India using eBay as their main source of income. This Asia Times article comments further by noting that the online auction house "is rewriting the concept of entrepreneurship in India". It quotes Gautam Thakar, country manager of eBay India, saying that "38% of the current eBay India sellers have quit their jobs to sell on eBay".

Meg Whitman is quoted in the piece saying "Internet entrepreneurship in India is coming of age. She said China, India and Latin America are the three emerging markets eBay is focused on, of which India and China are huge markets with tremendous potential. eBay has to win these markets so that in five years, or maybe even 10, India and China could command a significant portion of eBay's overall business". If the article is not a product of eBay's PR department, it sounds as though they may be having more success in India than they are in in China where Alibaba's Taobao is giving them more than a good run for their money.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

China Finance looks to acquisitions

China Finance Online is not one of the strongest listed Chinese B2B companies (it's listed on NASDAQ as JRJC). It ranks #24 in our list of 33 listed Asian B2B media stocks in terms of price performance year to date - down 13.4% at US$5.55. It is a very small company and has struggled to find a growth strategy.

We were interested, therefore, to see the announcement of its $8 million acquisition of Stockstar Information Technology. The press release describes Stockstar as "one of the leading finance and securities websites in China". China Finance describes itself as "a leading Chinese online financial information and listed company data provider". Hmmm. Sounds as they just bought a twin. I suppose it will probably boost something. Worth a closer look perhaps.

Outsell Acquires EPS

See our corporate blog for news of Outsell's acquisition of our London partner, EPS. Congratulations to all. It sounds like an exciting deal.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Back to more China publishing problems

Back from a great trip to New Mexico and California to all sorts of news. Top of the list this morning is that Time Inc's efforts to launch Sports Illustrated in China in collaboration with the Hong Kong-listed SEEC Media may have fallen foul of tougher implementation of publishing regulations in Beijing. The IHT carries quite a good piece on this. The Wall Street Journal one is better but is behind their firewall.

The publishing regulator, GAPP, seems to be going out of its way to plug all the loopholes and make it clear that back-door market entry strategies that once worked in the PRC are now verboten.

No word on any impact of this problem for Sports Illustrated on the Chinese edition of PC magazine that SEEC is publishing with Ziff.

SEEC Media is the commercial arm of the publisher of China's leading crusading business title Caijing.