Thursday, May 31, 2007

Record month

Readership of this blog has been increasingly pretty steadily since we started. This month, the first of our third year of blogging I am amazed to see has, however, been particularly striking with a 38% increase month-on-month from April to May. You're still a pretty select crowd and the Google Adwords revenues will buy us one good lunch if we're lucky.

However, with May 2007 up 260% vs. May 2006, there's clearly something here which is interesting you all.

So, thanks for that. It was indeed a merry month of May for this blog. Let's hope for a truly sunny June!

Choosing partners

A couple of interesting pieces catch our eye today and give rise to thoughts about the different partnering options which are emerging in B2B online. China Economic Net talks about Alibaba's tie-up with China Commercial Bank. The deal, it notes, means that "a green passage will be opened on, allowing quality customers to apply bank loans and financing projects through the website. And the credit score of domestic e-commerce enterprises on the website will become one of the bases for their loans in CCB".

We have to assume that the likes of D&B will be looking very carefully at the emergence of credit ratings acceptable to banks from non-traditional sources such as Alibaba.

Meanwhile, over in India, reports on the Uttar Pradesh Post Office becoming an e-commerce provider. "Goods can be ordered online, by money order or directly from post offices", it says, adding "More at the Times of India". On the topic of partnering, what caught our eye was the comment that "The post office is open to tie-ups with private vendors. They’ve also tied up with Varanasi’s Kashi Vishwanath temple to allow devotees to order vibhuti packages for Rs. 60".

The post office may not be everybody's favourite institution in many countries. However, the ubiquity of its branches and use in many countries of post office savings banks as the primary financial institution in remote and under-developed areas makes it potentially a very valuable business partner.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

CRM-lite from QQ

We last wrote about QQ in February when we reported on its staggering 572.3 million registered users. I was really interested then to read the China Web 2.0 Review post today about QQ's decision to launch an instant messaging-based CRM service.

Apparently, small businesses in China have already been using QQ to maintain contact with their customers but have been running about scalability issues in a service designed primarily for personal communications. This has some echoes of the way in which small businesses in the 1990s turned to mobile telephones to run their businesses at a time when access to land lines was still much more restricted for anything but large, State-owned organisations. A whole sub-culture of mobile telephone-based business practises emerged as a result. Here we now see the same thing happening online. Fascinating.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Quality Control" in Macau

I have been pointed towards the Destination Macau web site and an interesting piece they have posted on the Guangdong government's decision to tighten controls on independent travellers to Macau. The public response from Macau is that they welcome efforts to tighten up on illegal workers and problem gamblers.

It quotes Anthony Williams, Associate Director, Hospitality Property Management at Shun Tak, saying that:

he personally sees the move as a positive step for Macau. “Overall, I think a controlled slow down will be good for Macau as there is a danger or rapid growth outstripping the ability of the infrastructure to keep pace, which would be problematic and damaging to Macau’s reputation, and take a long time to recover from.”
We're now about one month away from the soft opening of the Venetian (this picture is the April web cam shot). I wonder what they think about all this?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Passing on the Digg-fad

China Web 2.0 Review talks today about the fact that "Digg, as a community driven social news model, has been copied by many startups globally, but it has never reach its tipping point in China". Tangos speculates that this is "partly because traditional news portal website still dominate online news market".

He then goes on to talk about "Netease’s recent initiative to incorporate digg model in some of its news content". We'll see. Maybe news readers in China have just decided to pass this slightly silly fad by. Letting the great unwashed choose the news stories we pay attention to will, in my opinion, pass quite soon and we will revert to the more traditional system of the lesser unwashed in professional newsrooms doing the job.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Shanghai bound

Off to Shanghai this evening for a quick visit. I'll be speaking at a conference on the events industry (to which, for some strange reason, I can't link you) and meeting a few friends and other business contacts. Back in HK Tuesdsay.

I hope the band of thunderstorms which has been passing over Hong Kong this weekend is well and truly gone by then.

IT events take different forms

I am once obliged to Chang, the Korean blogger who is currently based in Japan. His Web 2.0 Asia blog reports on his attendance at the New Industry Leaders Summit (NILS) event in Sapporo. He also posts here and here. I am not as familiar as I should be with details of the events and B2B media/information scene in Japan. As Chang points out, it's not always easy for foreigners to get a real inside feel at these events: was rather clear that the participants were divided into two groups, the Japanese group and non-Japanese group (the latter being the minority and kinda forming a league of their own). I know NILS is first and foremost a Japanese industry gathering, but I still wish the next NILS would be more international, or at least more pan-Asian with more participants from Korea, China, Singapore, and India.
The event doesn't seem to have an easily accessible web site (I certainly couldn't find one) and you have to rely on outside bloggers to find out about it. Ross Mayfield attended last year and blogged on it here.

Meanwhile, it's not all open access in Beijing either. Fons Tuinstra points us to a story on CNET about a reporter showing up to the China Beijing International High Tech Expo only to find some unanticipated challenges:

I made it in and could stay, they said. Unfortunately, the interpreters never showed up. The conference organizers had canceled them.

The event, the reporter says, "is the Chinese government's showcase for the country's technological achievements". Hmmm. Hurry along with those automated translation services guys....and I'll bet there was no Scarlett Johanssen around to amuse him at the bar either.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Focusing on mobile

Well, the gossip and excitement of the stories we've been posting in the past couple of days has been generating record traffic. Thank you. Don't forget to click on those Google ads. Some expensive lunches are looming.

My last post on the mobile world was not a positive one when I bemoaned the news of China Mobile's availability on the summit of Everest. Today, however, I loop back to a familiar theme of business and media opportunities afforded by data services on the increasingly ubiquitous mobile phone in Asia.

Firstly, I read with interest the post on Web 2.0 Asia about Docomo's belated discovery of Web 2.0 in Japan. He talks of the way in which Softbank Mobile has woken up what was looking like an increasingly dozy Docomo:

For Docomo, the obvious pain in the neck is the fast-rising Softbank Mobile, which had long been regarded as the distant 3rd player (from its Vodafone KK years) but is now looking more like a real contender with its superb bang-for-the-buck packages. Many are surprised by how quickly Softbank Mobile has risen, but if you take a look at the programs offered by the Japanese carriers, you'd be surprised that so many people have NOT yet moved to Softbank Mobile. If you become a new SB Mobile subscriber, you can get a nice voice+data plan and a decent free handset at under $20 per month (based on a 2 year contract). That's of course in addition to the unlimited free calls with other SB Mobile users. That's ridiculously cheap, don't you think? Can you get this value in China?
Then, down in Singapore, but with a focus on China, Sun Business Network, finally rid of Bruno Wu, has made a new investment in China acquiring Delta Digital Limited for US$4.5 million. This involves a deal with Beijing Shi Tong Tian Xia Information Technology Co., Ltd (STTX) which has established partnerships with Xinhua News Agency, and Beijing Youth Daily to provide “push” News Services in China. STTX reportedlly wants to expand this type of service across SE Asia which is, presumably, where Sun Business comes in.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Singapore deal?

This may be more worthy of Guy Kawasaki's new Truemors web site, but the market tom toms are beating over a possible Singapore exhibition industry acquisition. Some will surprised by it if it's true although many have looked at this business. $6 million is the reported price. E-mail me on paul at bsgasia dot com if you think you know what I'm talking about....

XFML update

We'll let the picture and Reuters do the talking here:

NEW YORK, May 22 (Reuters) - An investor filed a lawsuit on Tuesday accusing China-based Xinhua Finance Media Ltd. (XFML.O: Quote, Profile , Research) of misrepresenting material facts about itself.

The lawsuit, brought by Israel Bollag in the Southern District of New York, also names the underwriters of the company's March initial public offering, J.P. Morgan Securities Inc. (JPM.N: Quote, Profile , Research), UBS AG (UBSN.VX: Quote, Profile , Research), CIBC World Markets Corp. (CM.TO: Quote, Profile , Research) and WR Hambrecht & Co., its chief executive officer, Fredy Bush, and its former chief financial officer, Shelly Singhal.

The lawsuit seeks class action status.

To learn more about the fine photo of a Lappet-Faced Vulture, click on the picture.

Thoughts on Global Sources

I will leave my colleagues to give BSG's subscribers a proper analysis of Global Sources Q1 results, just announced yesterday. However, I have been browsing through the transcript of the analyst conference call and a couple of things caught my eye:

  1. The company appears to be readying a B2C spin-off of its Chief Executive China title. CFO Eddie Heng was the first to mention this when he commented, "Our Elegant Living magazine and website is scheduled to launch in September". We were later told "the editorial mission of Elegant Living is to advance the quality of life for China’s affluence business executive". Presumably this is a Chinese equivalent of the FT's "How to Spend It" glossy.
  2. Suzanne Wang is clearly one of the rising stars in the Global Sources corporate firmament. She was for a while General Manager, Mergers and Acquisitions, a title which has now morphed to General Manager of Corporate Investments. What caught my eye was that she was in the conference call yesterday, a very exclusive 'hot seat' in the Global Sources world. CEO Merle Hinrichs' "spring cold" meant that she was called upon to deliver some of his presentation, a sign of great trust from a boss who, by all accounts, is not easily impressed.
  3. Merle Hinrichs' response to a question about's proposed IPO is well worth a read. He is magnanimous in his initial response when he says "we’re delighted to hear that Alibaba was planning to do this IPO. It is definitely going to increase the general awareness of China B2B media business. It’s also going to establish another comparable for Global Sources investors and it certainly will give us better visibility on their financials". He then proceeds to launch a series of well-targeted Scud missiles, raising a series of questions about long-term viability of his main competitor in the China B2B online world.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The laywers size up XFML

In another nasty turn for Xinhua Finance Media, the Class Action Newsline reports that New Orleans lawyers Kahn Gauthier Swick has initiated an investigation into Xinhua Finance Media Ltd. "to determine whether it has violated federal securities laws". The KGS press releases reports on former XFML CFO at the time of its IPO, Shelly Singhal and the resignation of Xinhua Proxy advisor Glass Lewis & Co.'s head of research, Lynn E. Turner on 18th May.

The rationale for the "investigation" is that "shares of Xinhua have fallen from a high of $12.75 per share on May 7, 2007 to an intraday low of $8.31 per share today in the wake of news". It concludes "If you are a Xinhua shareholder or purchased shares in its IPO or shortly thereafter, and have information that might assist in our investigation, or would like to discuss your legal rights, you may e-mail or call KGS".

I wonder if the Xinhua Finance team has any regrets about taking the XFML subsidiary to NASDAQ? It's listed in Tokyo. Those Japanese lawyers are much less aggressive.

Bring, bring...guess where I am?

Without question the most depressing story of the day is the BBC news report of a mountaineer who successfully made a mobile phone call from the summit of Mount Everest!! There is no escaping the damned things. They're threatened on planes any day now - yet another good reason to maintain my vow never to fly on Ryanair - and now on top of the world's tallest mountain. Aaaargh!

The Asia media connection to this other than a dyspeptic blogger in Hong Kong?

The calls were made possible when China set up a mobile base station with a line of sight to the north ridge.

Monday, May 21, 2007

XMFL challenges

Seeking Alpha gets down and dirty with gossip about Xinhua Finance Media and the 18% decline in its stock price last week. We have no idea how much of this stuff is true, but it seems that all is not entirely well in the house that Fredy built.

In case you don't make it down to the final para and to be fair to the Xinhua Finance folk, read this:

The news coming over the weekend look bad at first glance but I'm not so sure the impact is as bad as suggested by the decline in XFML's stock price. Also, it looks like a rather large short line was put out over the last week. Trading around 16x 08 EPS, the stock's not exactly expensive.

I would put XFML on my bounce play radar today.

I think I should get a "bounce play radar". It sounds very cool....or at least cool if you hang around on the periphery of the financial services industry.

Update: I see that Ms. Bush has made a statement on all this:

SHANGHAI, May 21, 2007 –In response to the media coverage over the weekend, Xinhua Finance Chief Executive Fredy Bush issued the following statement:

Xinhua Finance Media listed on NASDAQ after complying fully with all disclosure and due diligence processes required in the United States. Furthermore, the Company engaged the most qualified independent advisers available to oversee this process. We have an internal committee co-chaired by John McLean, General Counsel of Xinhua Finance and Kevin Cameron, President and co-founder of Glass Lewis, who continually review the Group's corporate governance to make recommendations to the independent Corporate Governance Board Committee of Xinhua Finance Media and the Board of Xinhua Finance Limited. I look forward to keeping investors and followers informed of our progress and these ongoing initiatives.
Make of that what you will!

China business media

I wouldn't normally direct you to one of the many blogs written in China by students studying Chinese (most of them, it seems, American). They tend to be wide-eyed, naïve and of limited value to those doing business.

However, one Princeton student blogging as Cha Shao Bao (OK, "barbequed pork dumpling" may not be the most sophisticated title but bear with me), recently posted notes on a briefing on business media from China Economic Review editor Art Kroeber who is usually worth listening to. The piece is titled "The Nature of China's Business Media" and talks particularly about Caijing (财经).

It ends with the following "problems":

1) One thing that has become a big issue recently extortion and bribery between businesses and the business press. In the 90s businesses would bribe journalists to write laudatory stories. Now, however, the press has such an influence on businesses stock prices that there’s the problem where journalists are extorting money from businesses. Reporters threaten to release exposure stories or even false stories unless they receive money.

2) The prices in the stock market have no relation to the quality of the companies. The business press could help find out a company’s real worth by looking into its figures, but China has such huge regulatory problems and poor accounting standards that there’s very little we (the business press) can do. The business press acts as a filter, guiding the public to look at what’s important about a company’s numbers, but if there’s no regulatory structure that forces the companies to put what is important into the public domain, the press can’t do much.

UPDATE: Caijing magazine’s latest issue was delayed by several days because the Chinese government ordered that two of its stories be pulled shortly before it went to press. See Why Caijing Was Late and Privatization is Prickly by Jonathan Ansfield.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tax and misery

For some weekend contemplation, thanks to the quirky PanAsianBiz blog for pointing us to this excellent chart which links tax burden to misery (click on it to see it bigger, the details are really interesting). Pity the French and the Belgians. China ranks at number three although the official tax burden and the amount actually paid there are far from being the same thing:

India ranks much further down the chart than I would have expected where Hong Kong and Singapore proudly prop up the best spots at the bottom of the tax misery table.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A letter from the CEO

If memory serves me correctly, Global Sources CEO Merle Hinrichs hails originally from Nebraska. Taking a leaf from that other famous Nebraskan investor, otherwise known as the Sage of Omaha, he has produced a letter to shareholders. It may lack the folksy style of Buffett's missives but is, for those of us who follow B2B in Asia, perhaps of more immediate interest.

On B2B trends, he notes;

We are now witnessing several behavior changes related to media use, formats and, accordingly, marketing and advertising. Here are some of the areas that we are watching as both challenges and opportunities:
New media innovations including podcasts, RSS feeds, blogs, social networking and video.
Pay for performance, improved targeting, ROI measurement, search, and Web 2.0-type technologies that facilitate user-generated content and content aggregation.
Potential non-traditional competitors including those with new business models and cost structures.
Customers that increasingly require greater market specialization and personalization.

He goes on to outline a four point business strategy built around:

  1. Market penetration.
  2. New product development.
  3. Expansion into the domestic Chinese B2B market.
  4. Acquisitions and alliances

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

WAP and woof in China

I was going to write this morning about the SuperDoggie web site. China Web 2.0 Review has a good piece about this record label for the pets of the emerging Chinese middle class. Is this reborn with Chinese characteristics (and thus a signal of the end of the Web 2.0 China boom) or (more likely) an online equivalent of the pet vanity magazines which thrive in the US and elsewhere. More probably the latter and, therefore, a license to print money.

No, what I will write about is another China Web 2.0 piece this morning about WAP and China. I'm not sure whether to think that 39 million WAP users is a good thing or disappointing. It's a big-ish number. But there are over 450 million mobile users in China. So, fewer than 10% of them are interested in mobile data. Highlights of the piece include:

  • Most of the WAP users (over 60%) live in east of China, the concentration rate of WAP users are higher than that of internet users and mobile subscribers.
  • About 9.7 million, or about one forth of total WAP users, live in Guangdong Province.
  • 57% users will use WAP at least once a week.
  • 26% users pay RMB 11-20 yuan per month for WAP usage, 23% users pay 21-50 yuan and 20% users pay 6-10 yuan.
Hmm. Food for thought. Not pet food, though.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The anti-Rupert campaign moves to Beijing

Danwei reports that the China-based reporting staff of the Wall Street Journal has pitched into the anti-Rupert campaign with a letter to Bancroft family members opposing his bid for Dow Jones. Is this a case of rightists mounting an anti-rightist campaign? How confusing.

They had better hope that he doesn't win. Otherwise the FCCs in Beijing and Shanghai will be losing six members.

Update: another China connection in this follow-up post from Danwei. London Times editor Robert Thomson was in Beijing in the late '80s running, if memory serves me rightly, the FT bureau and I remember very being impressed with him when we met. He gives a pretty sharp retort to the Murdoch bashers here, vigorously defending his paper's record on China.

The word they dare not speak..."ownership"

No sense of any real debate in Beijing this week of the fundamental issues holding back international participation in the media industry here. The China Daily, in all its Orwellian glory, runs a front page lead on magazine publishing replete with Sino-Newspeak.

Periodical market to open wider

...the headline screams. "Hooray" say the happy publishers. Then,

"Foreign publishers' jointly-funded projects in China enjoy the same legal protection and policy treatment as their Chinese counterparts," said Liu Binjie, minister of the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP).

"I should hope so too. You're a member of the WTO" say the marginally less excited publishers.

More foreign participation is expected in periodical exports, copyright trade, copyright protection and magazine printing, services and technology based on the commitments the country made while joining the World Trade Organization, Liu said.

"Same old, same old" say the now somewhat disappointed publishers. "Copyright trade" is GAPP Sino-Newspeak for "you can't own your own titles in China. You have to license them to us".

The article then drifts off into some dull stats on the number of magazines in China and talks about how there are 2,200 foreign-invested printers in the country. As though publishers would be too excited about that when they continue to be generally obsessed with how to capture electronic revenues before the print ones dwindle too far.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Embrace change in Beijing

The FIPP team is posting newsy updates on the progress of the Congress in Beijing. Day 1 speakers from Asia included:

  • Liu Danhui, Vice President, Rayli Group, China;
  • Yu Guoding, President, Business Weekly Media Group, Taiwan;
  • Hugo Shong, Executive Vice President, International Data Group (IDG), USA;
  • Li Ying, Vice President and Chairman, CCID, China;
  • Pradeep Gupta, Chief Managing Director and Publisher, CyberMedia, India.
Shong's boss, Pat McGovern reportedly told delegates:

“An ancient Chinese proverb says ‘Change creates threats but also opens the doors to new opportunity.’ In my 50 years of publishing, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more exciting time. Good luck dealing with the threat and making it a great opportunity for you.”

Clear-ish skies and Asian blogging

It's strange to report that the skies today in Beijing are blue(-ish) and the air is substantially clearer than the filth we were breathing in Hong Kong when I left this morning. Even stranger to hear from another Hong Kong-based friend who has just landed in Mumbai and found the same thing. Asia's World City needs either to pull up its environmental socks or on its gas mask.

With that off my chest (literally...splutter), we turn to blogging. We've written several times (most recently here) about the reports from Edelman and Technorati talking about trend-setting blogging in Asia. Now Hugo E. Martin reports on a Brand Republic piece which, when talking of blogging trends, notes:

  • Asian markets are driving adoption, with China and South Korea leading the way in actively creating content and socialising online ...
  • 72.3 % of blog readers in China also post online
Oh, and this is my first trip to China in which blogs are not all blocked. I'm sure I could include some words which fall foul of the great fire wall minders. But I can see mine, Hugo's and others with no problem today. One day they might unblock the BBC too. Then the air will really begin to have become clearer.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Off to Beijing and Indian thoughts

I'm off to the airport again tomorrow for a trip to Beijing. The world's publishers are gathering for FIPP's biennial World Magazine Congress. There will be quite a crowd there.

My mind, though, continues to turn towards India. China is a tough market in which to operate either legally or profitably and the lack of either of those basics makes it relatively less attractive than it should be for many publishers.

The Indian market is lively and I continue to see a lot that is of interest:

  • Over at, there is news of Indian Express having launched a new classifieds site, Express Classifieds. Blogger Nikhil Pahwa doesn't seem unduly impressed but does give a good overview of the vibrant classifieds sector in India.
  • Fellow international B2B blogger Hugo E. Martin, kindly citing an earlier post of mine, gives a good, quick summary of basic market data.
  • One of the fastest-growing and best respected technology and B2B publishers in the country, Cybermedia, has just announced three new senior positions to head up the Group's three divisions, Print Publishing, Online and Life Sciences, and the CyberMedia Services group
We look forward to hearing what China news emerges from around the FIPP event. We were interested to see that, after the Congress in Beijing in the first part of the week, they have been persuaded that a trip to Shanghai at the end of the week would be interesting. No doubt it will.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Changes at CMP

The sound you can hear across Asia this morning is of CVs being polished. United Business Media made a surprise announcement that Peter Sutton, CEO of CMP Asia, is stepping down after 7 years in the job. Officially, he's stepping up to the new role of non-executive President. But, the search is on, inside and out CMP for a successor to Peter in the driving seat.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Shadow and the ball valve

In my opinion, successful B2B marketing online is all about targeting. It is a bit mystifying then, that the lovely Shadow from Shunde should have picked my personal indulgence blog on sailing to try to redirect me to her sites. One of them is an odd personal one. The other promotes ball valves.

A word to the wise Shadow; marine toilets have many peculiar components, but ball valves are not among them. It's even odder that, amidst the plumbing news, Shadow shares with us her dream: "I want to openting a hair salon.give everyone set a beautiful hair". Well, why not eh?

Japan Mobile

I was sitting with my colleagues this morning and we were discussing Japan. We're writing a new report on the B2B media market in that country for our subscriber service. We got onto the topic of mobile and the prevalence of data services offered in Japan over handsets. We've blogged on this before, most recently here.

Well, today Digital World Tokyo points to a Sydney Morning Herald article which looks at why PC usage is falling in Japan. The Tokyo blogger comments:

There's no great mystery behind the reason why the proportion of Japanese people in their 20s using a PC to get online dropped from almost a quarter in 2000 to just 11.9% last year – put simply, the lure of the mobile phone is to blame.

The increasing availability of mobile versions of popular sites like Yahoo (Japan's search engine of choice) and Mixi (a social-networking site without peer), combined with the fact that all mobiles have email addresses, means that there's very little need for most people to learn how to use a computer for everyday use. Throw in the alien nature of the QWERTY keyboard and Japan has a surprisingly small PC user base.

India is flavour of the day

It's not just because I've just been there and have it in my mind: almost everything I've opened this morning has had something about India. This includes, with a publishing focus:

  • Crain's B2B online reports from ABM's Spring Meeting in Naples, Florida. Chandu Nair, the president of Scope e-Knowledge Center, reportedly told attendees that “ABM members have a big role to play” in developing business content in India. The industry is poised for growth.”
  • Meanwhile, over at FIPP, as they gear up for next week's World Magazine Congress in Beijing, the World Magazine Update newsletter points to a story on their website regarding exchange4media's plans "to provide comprehensive information on the Indian magazine industry including resources, players, their standing in the industry, and the nature of advertising done in various magazine products". The report, to be titled ‘Ready Reckoner’ will, the FIPP story says, be released along with the May 2007 issue of Pitch, an e4m publication.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

China-India ties blossom in F2F

One of the more interesting trends we've been noticing in face-to-face of late is the emergence of China as the next big exporter of events. No surprise, you may say; they've cleaned up in exporting everything from sports shoes to alarm clocks. So, why not own the exhibitions at which they sell these things? Food for thought for the traditional giants of the exhibitions industry.

The latest such initiative to come across the BSG radar screen is a note on Bhupesh Trivedi's excellent Indian Media Observer. The post reports:

China National Machinery & Equipment Import & Export Corporation (CMEC), in collaboration with India’s Worldex GEC, is holding an engineering exposition, “International Machinery & Equipment Exhibition”
It goes on to to note that this Mumbai event will be a "China-only" show.

Expect to see more of these events in India, elsewhere in Asia and even in other parts of the world. The textiles division of CCPIT has already been running its own show in New York for a couple of years.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Profitable IT shows down under

Maybe it's something to do with water turning the wrong way as it goes down the sink, but there seem to be contrary trends at work in Australia where IT fairs are concerned. TSMI's Trade Show Marketing Report passes on the news that CeBIT Australia has turned a profit after five years. They laud the patience of owners Hannover Fairs.

The IT section of the Australian quotes Managing Director Jackie Taranto saying "This year was the biggest yet, and, yes, we made a small profit". I had the pleasure of working with Jackie about 10 years ago when we were launching fairs in Australia for Miller Freeman and APN News & Media. Glad to see she's doing well.

TSMI wonders whether this marks the potential for a comeback of Comdex. Given that United Business Media CEO David Levin told SISO members in Miami last month that he may have overpaid for the name when he bought the remnants of MediaLive last year, I doubt it. What value did they give to Comdex? $1.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Top tags

I have been tagging these posts within Blogger for a while now. It allows you with one click to get a list of related stories. It also allows some interesting analysis of what's on my mind and what's catching my eye.

As this graph shows (click to make it bigger) and, perhaps inevitably as I sit in Hong Kong, China dominates:
The Internet grabs second place followed by India in third.

E-mail me if you can't read it properly (paul at bsgasia dot com) and I'll send you a clearer copy.

India web trends

Two pieces caught my eye today. I can't decide whether they're related in any way and will leave you to decide:

The first talks of the new blog launched by Sanjeev Bikhchandani, founder and CEO of India's largest Internet company, Naukri. Blogger Sahad notes that there are relatively few hi-tech blogger CEOs in India although he does note Rediff’s Ajit Balakrishnan (his blog) and former Infoscion and Gridstone Research founder Basab Pradhan (his blog). He asks readers to contribute more links.

The second piece talks about a makeover at the Indiatimes site and removal of subscription requirements at the Hindustan Times/Dow Jones livemint site. He asks "was the change necessitated by lack of uptake? Or do they think they’ve collected sufficient user data"? Good questions.

What's the connection? Newspaper sites struggle to keep up with interest in Web 2.0 models? Not exactly...suggestions on a postcard please.

More on the Ali-IPO

The rumblings of Alibaba's proposed IPO of its B2B division continue to roll. It's becoming clearer that, as Taobao is still a revenue-free-zone and Yahoo! China remains, to put it politely, troubled, they will not be included. David Wei's role in the Group becomes clearer: he's to front up a smooth IPO.

This piece at the China Tech Stories blog gives some nice background on the group as well as some opinions on the current "third phase" of Alibaba's development; beating Baidu with the Yahoo! brand. Blogger Maoxianjia's judgement is harsh:

Soon after the merger with Yahoo.China, [founder Jack] Ma announced that Yahoo.China will surpass Baidu to become the largest Chinese search engine. He redesigned Yahoo Chinese site by imitating Baidu the way Baidu imitated Google. The "sou"(bad idea in Chinese) idea has been a disaster. Yahoo.China is on the way to disappearance.
That may be over-stating the case and I wouldn't underestimate the capacity of Jack Ma and his team. However, they're clearly grappling with a very tough case when it comes to finding a niche for Yahoo! in China. And how the mighty are fallen when we're talking niches for Yahoo! They couldn't find a more suitable partner than that other tired titan, Microsoft.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ninetowns gets more interesting still

We were just blogging about Ninetowns the other day. After going quiet on us for quite a while, they're stepping up the pace. This summary from its new release:

Ninetowns Forms Strategic Partnership with Thomas Publishing Company — Ninetowns Internet Technology Group Company Limited , China's leading provider of online solutions for international trade, today announces that it has entered into a strategic partnership with Thomas Publishing Company, LLC's subsidiary Thomas Industrial Network, Inc. ('Thomas'), developer of catalog publishing solutions for industrial manufacturers, service providers, and distributors. Following Ninetowns' recent vertical search engine acquisition, this new partnership with Thomas is another synergistic step in the development of Ninetowns' business-to-business ('B2B') vertical search strategy, and enhancement of our position to become the leading B2B search and service provider in the international trade marketplace.

Rural mCommerce

Although China's booming cities are the focus of so much development and attention, some 60% of the population still lives in the much less accessible countryside. For traditional specialist media operations to target them is almost impossible and certainly uneconomic.

Even if they can be targeted by online media, the extention of that into e-commerce is again unrealistic. Most of even the more affluent (a highly relative term in this case) consumers and business people in these areas have very limited payment options. McKinsey addresses the mobile payment solutions opportunity in an interesting article (free registration required).

It says:

McKinsey research shows that the mainland’s existing mobile Short Message Service network could be quickly and cheaply deployed to provide an SMS-based payment system in rural areas. Because the most expensive parts of the infrastructure—the mobile network and millions of mobile phones—are already in place, we estimate that the cost of this solution would range from less than $40 million to $60 million.
This is a not a new idea and the system, McKinsey says is well established in the Philippines:

The experience of the Philippines, where SMS-based payment systems have been widely adopted for some time, augurs well for China: Philippine consumers are rapidly catching on to new “mobile-wallet” systems. China is similarly well positioned to introduce such a service. Up to 15 percent of China’s rural population already subscribes to a mobile-phone network; we expect penetration to reach 22 percent by 2010 and 40 percent by 2016. Around 75 percent of current mobile subscribers use SMS, suggesting that there would be few technological obstacles to the adoption of mobile payments.

"The cheque is the text" doesn't sound like quite the same sort of excuse does it?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Page 3 girls for the Wall Street Journal?

There must be more than a few contemplating the implications of the Dirty Digger's $60 a share bid for Dow Jones. We were only talking about him and his tasteful London tabloids just the other day.

Not the least interesting aspect would be the return of a Murdoch-owned paper to Hong Kong. His tenure as Digger-in-chief at the South China Morning Post in the last 80s and early 90s was brought to an end by Hong Kong's cross-media ownership laws and his acquisition of Star TV. The Wall Street Journal's newly comfortably-sized Asia edition has been published out of Hong Kong for 20+ years now.

We wonder how the 'new' look Far Eastern Economic Review would fare under Murdoch leadership. Editor Hugo Restall will presumably be hoping that he doesn't notice that it's still there. Altogether too worthy for Rupert, surely. Mind you perhaps the terribly hip and trendy "Traveller's Tales Blog" could be ported across to the new MySpace China which, China's media ownership laws being what they are is of course entirely independent of News Corp., Wendi Deng's presence on the Board notwithstanding...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Well, I've spent the morning in Mumbai discussing some very exciting B2B online businesses and time after time, our friends in Hangzhou come up as the key comparator.

Interesting, then, to see the Wall Street Journal report (may need subscription) in its May Day special that:

Alibaba Group's plans to take its business-to-business unit public highlights the growing international ambitions of one of China's most prominent Internet companies.

Alibaba, 40% owned by Yahoo Inc., plans to list the B2B operation on either the Nasdaq Stock Market or the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, people familiar with the plan said. The unit, the company's biggest source of revenue, uses the Internet to help match manufacturers in China and elsewhere with potential buyers of their products.

The Journal goes on to suggest that Goldman and Morgan Stanley have been selected to lead the listing which it says could raise $800 million. I guess that depends on how much they plan to float but looks a touch low given the $1 billion that Yahoo! spent for its 40% stake.

Update: Thanks to colleague Mark Cochrane for pointing me also the the Forbes piece on this. Not sure which article came first but they're obviously drawing from largely the same sources. Interesting to note the bit about the Nippolibaba initiative in Japan.

Alibaba recently announced plans to set up a Japanese unit in the third quarter. It has already hired about 20 Japanese to revamp a Japan-focused Web site it set up five years ago in an unsuccessful effort to make inroads in the B2B market there. By establishing a local unit, aims to better target small and midsize businesses.

This is following in Baidu's footsteps and looks set to become an important line extension for the Chinese web giants.