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 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)'s Porter Erisman welcoming co-operation with eBay. He is quoted as saying "With the confirmation of the new venture, we [ 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, and

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's

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 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,, 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.