Saturday, June 28, 2008

Artsy and elitist

We wrote earlier in the month about the goings on (or not, as they're off the shelves) at China's "what's on " mags directed at expats. The combined power of SEEC Media and the propaganda department's China Intercontinental Press were not enough to keep Time Out and That's Beijing out of the sinkhole of pre-Olympic bureaucratic paranoia which is dragging several important business sectors down the drain.

Well, there's an entertaining round-up of the latest developments in all this at Danwei, Jeremy Goldkorn's blog of "Chinese media, advertising, and urban life". It appears that CIP sold the rights to That's Beijing to China Electric Power Press for Rmb10 million (US$1.4 million). Goldkorn reminds us that the magazine's original founder, Mark Kitto, still has a trademark dispute with CIP over this (that's a long story but is often rolled out as a warning to those who think they can set up publishing businesses in China. Guess what guys? You can't). Electric power got a bit boring lads?

Then he launches a broadside against the newly-launched Expat Mag. "Because, you know", he says, "expatriates in Beijing and Shanghai are not exposed to enough advertising for luxury clothing brands, pens and watches. There is a clear and urgent demand amongst expatriate readers for breathy, bilingual advertorials about expensive expensive beauty products and accessories, and vacations in luxury spa resorts". Ha Ha.

Scroll down through the comments which are worth a read too. Someone posting anonymously as "xix" says "Expat Mag has no license whatsoever ... it's done by the World Events Agency, connected to the "Expat Shows" that were held this past year". Another accuses Danwei of being elitist.

Altogether more entertaining than we deserve on a Saturday morning...except, that is for the poor schmucks trying to run these magazines. They get a pretty bad rap here. Comment-er Hunxuer opines " they're just trash, advertising and personals for guys trying to bang a local girl for the night or a local girl trying to hook a hubby. I mean, for God's sake, how many times can one read about Shangri-La, Yangshuo or the mysteries of traditional Chinese soups without wanting to rip the writer's throat out???". Hear, hear.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pssst...want to buy a magazine?

As regular readers will know, we've followed the travails of the Lexicon Group in Singapore (nee Panpac, married name Sun Business Network, now divorced) for some time (see here for most recent post). Now, the company says it "is currently reviewing its magazines publishing programme (both print and online versions) and streamlining its operations with the view to
reduce cost and improve productivity, so as to cushion the impact of rising cost and
challenging market conditions".

The long-suffering boss, Ricky Ang says "we hope to complete the review and finalise
our publishing programme for the current year and beyond within the next few weeks". While talking about the potential viability (or not) of some of its websites, the company is also saying "In the pipeline, there are also plans to launch several new publications, which will be announced by the Group in due course". Very brave boys.

Current publications include Singapore Business Visitor, Smart Investor, and Port O' Call for visiting military personnel.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

18% growth in Asia's trade fair industry

We just published our annual UFI/BSG report on trade fairs in Asia. The press release is over at our corporate blog. There's information as well on the UFI web site.

India was the fastest-growing market last year up 50% although the 650,000 sq. metres of space sold by organisers was just 10% of the total in the region's largest market, China. That accounts for 51% of Asia's exhibitions industry now.

Thunderbirds are go...

For anybody of my vintage who grew up in the UK, Thunderbirds was a children's TV series featuring puppets, spaceships and derring-do adventure, spiced up with the lovely Lady Penelope are her chauffeur Parker.

For those interested in international business, however, it's a business school located at a former US air force training base in Arizona. Founded in 1946, it describes itself as "the oldest and largest graduate management school in the United States focused solely on preparing international business leaders".

What's all this got to do with Asia business media? Well, one of Thunderbird's most successful alumni is Merle Hinrichs, founder and CEO of Global Sources. Over the years, a series of eager T-bird alumni has rattled their way up in the tatty cargo lifts of Vita Tower in Aberdeen, Global Sources' HQ, to start their careers in Asian business.

What put this in my mind? Yesterday's press release on Vietnam is the answer. As companies try to diversify their sources of supply away from the increasingly expensive south China factories, Vietnam is an obvious alternative. The press release quotes GS's Sarah Benecke saying "
Buyers are always looking for new products and competitive suppliers. Vietnam has proven to be highly competitive in numerous sectors – including furniture and home décor".

And the Thunderbird connection? Andrew Vuong has just been appointed as Country Manager for Vietnam of Asian Sources Publications Limited, Global Sources' Hong Kong sales representative. Vuong has a T-bird MBA. His resume also includes periods at Positec Industrial and Smith Barney in the US.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Asia in the lead

Thanks to IDG's Colin Crawford for the heads-up that Morgan Stanley has just produced its regular technology trends review. Always plenty of interest there. I was particularly taken this time by the slides showing that Asia has moved ahead of all other regions in several key measures:

Asia in the Power Pack

Our friends at TradeShow Week have released their annual Power Pack listing of " the 100 most influential people in the tradeshow industry today". There are a number of familiar names from the Asia Pacific in the full list:

  • Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands is listed as a 'head honcho'. It notes "Everybody knows what kind of powerhouse the Sands complex in Macau has become, with tradeshow organizers elbowing each other to book space there. Then there are the plans for Singapore, for resorts in Kansas (you can look it up) and who knows what else".
  • Info Salons CEO Jo-Anne Kellaway from Australia is listed as a 'go-getter'. The report notes "After starting out by managing registration for 10 events in Sydney, Australia, Kelleway's company now is involved in more than 500 events annually, providing services to organizers in emerging markets from offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Dubai, United Arab Emirates".
  • Cliff Wallace of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre and current President of UFI. "It's a long way from Greenville, S.C., to Hong Kong. On his way from the former to the latter, Wallace has become one of the best-known facility managers in the world".
  • They worry if CMP Asia's Jime Essink is feeling "claustrophobic" focusing only on Asia. I'll bet he's not. I think he thinks he has one of the best jobs in the business.
  • The CCPIT's Wang Jinzhen also makes the list and is described as "arguably the most important Chinese government official involved with the tradeshow industry".
Modesty prevents me from highlighting the final name on the (alphabetical) list, but you can look over to our less modest corporate blog if you want to learn more.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Alimama mia! It's still free

I've been in Greece all week attending exhibition industry meetings with UFI. Once again, I've been a lazy blogger.

Catching up with e-mails and news feeds, I notice that Alibaba continues to be a disciple of Chris "Long Tail" Anderson's credo that "Free is the future of business". Alimama was always one of their dafter product names, but now we learn from Reuters that it, like most of Ali-launches, it's free.

Once again, building market share is the goal. Reuters quotes Wu Yongming, Alimama's General Manager saying, "The goal for set by [Jack Ma] is to acquire the largest share of online advertising in China within 3-5 years". The piece goes on to say that "After a 10-month trial run, has about 400,000 registered websites and records 2.8 billion daily page views".

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ning on the rise

My social networking mission continues. Back in early May I commented that I thought "Facebook remains a time sink, good for tracking the antics of family and friends. No real relevance to B2B media and information. The LinkedIn network is impressive although I'm not quite sure about the crowding of new features onto the home page. Plaxo's Pulse is coming fast up in the outside lane...". My basic opinions on those don't change much although I'm not sure if Plaxo won't run out of puff before the final furlong.

The interesting development of the last month has been the emergence of a lot more activity on several quite relevant Ning-based micro-networks. These are designed to allow special interest groups to set up their own mini-Facebooks which have a much more independent look and feel than a Facebook (or now LinkedIn) group.

So far, I'm keeping track of three:

  • Event Crowd - a UK-based network for the events industry created by Simon Burton of Exposure Event Creations. I joined in January. It was quiet for a while, but appears to be picking up now with new members I've noticed from Asia and elsewhere in Europe. There are 758 members.
  • American Business Media - this was set up a month or so ago by the association in the US and already has some 453 members.
  • Folio: mediaPRO - storming along though and very interesting is Folio magazine's new Ning site. Set up only a week or so ago, this already has 1,261 members from all over the world. It's already much more international than the magazine itself which is very US-centric. As you can see from the URL, they've hidden the Ning antecedents a bit more carefully than the other two. They have actively promoted the creation of Groups on various special interest topics. There's one on B2B with over 100 members and I set up an International group yesterday. It will be interesting to see what sort of activity is generated.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Blog of blogs

I'm not sure if that's really the right term and consultants who charge higher fees than me would probably come up with grand phrases like aggregation. However, the Asian blogs which cover our industry have been quite excited by the OpenWeb.Asia initiative. According to Kaiser Kuo, this is an initiative of Gang Lu from the Mobinode blog.

They've added a Facebook Group and seem to be planning a number of other initiatives around this grouping of blogs from China, Korea, Japan, Australia, Vietnam and Singapore. Seems like there should be some Indian input here as well guys.

Gang Lu notes "We are very happy to say that the plan for OpenWeb Asia 08′ - the first pan-Asia conference is to be announced soon". More here or, if you prefer, there: you can link this OPML file (I've not idea what that is by the way) into your RSS Reader (that I do know).

I also notice a post on the Facebook page from Preetam Rai in Thailand who announces the first BarCamp event in Cambodia. That's cool!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Generating traffic with bikinis

You have to hand it to the Alibabas. They certainly do know how to generate traffic. Our post on Tuesday about the new Alibaba News service and it's "Sweet Bikini Show" gave us our highest number of readers for some months over the past couple of days. Boys will be boys I suppose.

It appears that the home page pictures revolve around from a quite extensive gallery. Today it's the turn of sexy cars. Very sexy cars, it has to be said. I wonder if that will draw the readers to our blog pages as effectively?

Time out for Time Out

It seems it's Time Out's moment for standing in the corner, hands on head, until it feels really, really sorry and can grovel suitably to the GAPP in China. According to the London Times, the June issue of the Beijing edition of the magazine has been pulped. We have to assume they won't be considered half sorry enough until at least after the Olympics, more sign of paranoia in Beijing about what constitutes a "successful" Games.

Nothing to do with the June issue focusing on the environment, we're sure.

It seems that, despite operating under the cover of a powerful Chinese publisher such as SEEC Media, Time Out, has suffered the same fate as One Media's Rolling Stone efforts. And this despite TO Beijing being an English-language publication targeting the dwindling number of expats being allowed to stay in the country as the visa crackdown bites.

Update: thanks to one correspondent who already pointed out to me that another "what's on" mag, "That's China" has also been taken off the streets recently. This despite it being published together with China Intercontinental Press which is I gather a direct offshoot of the Propaganda Department. "Proof positive" as my correspondent says "that as far as media is involved , guanxi has its distinct limitations".

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Korea, Japan and Hong Kong in the Internet fast lane

Not a bikini in sight in the Web 2.0 Asia post on Akamai's new report on the state of the internet. Mind you that profile pic looks a touch dodgy for a male blogger named Chang.

Anyway, the jist of the piece is that Korea has the world's fastest internet connections with 64% of connection faster than 5 mbps. That world average is 16%. Japan comes in 2nd fastest (48%), followed by Hong Kong (35%). After that, the list goes Sweden, Romania, Belgium, USA, Netherlands, Nepal (the only other entry from Asia and a surprising one at that!) and Norway.

Alibaba enters the news business

We sometimes get asked whether companies like Alibaba are really media companies. We're convinced that they are and the overlap bewteen the sourcing/directory services they provide and a more traditional concept of media is clear to see in the latest Ali-innovation, News. As you can see, though, it appears that the news values are more inspired by Rupert Murdoch than the Financial Times.

Click through; the 10 second tour is quite cool. Stories appear to be mainly sourced from Reuters, China Knowledge and Alibaba's own team (see the Computex Taipei report). There's some some interesting stuff there.

So, shame on you lads for the Sweet Bikini Show page. I have examined every single picture very carefully and still can't work out what value this will be to the world's B2B traders. The fact that the pictures are all 'branded' should give us a clue, but to what I'm not sure.

I should not be a lazy blogger

I should not be a lazy blogger
I should not be a lazy blogger...

...because if I am, people stop reading this. I do have excuses, but it's been over a week and I wonder what I should write about now. Options include:

  1. The possible merger of United Business Media and Informa. At a time that Reed is set to blow its B2B business to bits, those two are, according to the Daily Telegraph, looking to join hands to form a new GBP 3 billion media giant. Don't forget, it's not all that long ago that Informa swallowed IIR.
  2. More senior management departures at the South China Morning Post.
  3. Or, how about a new joint venture in India between Germany's Burda and HT Media, the company which owns the Hindustan Times?
  4. More challenges at the Lexicon Group (born Panpac Media and then for a while Sun Business Network), still tidying up after it's adventures with Bruno Wu.
Take your pick. In the meantime, I'll return to my lines..."I should not be a lazy blogger". Sounds a bit rude actually, doesn't it?

Monday, June 02, 2008

BDA TV - pointing us in the right direction

Duncan Clark's BDA consultancy in Beijing has played an important role in pointing me in the right direction over the past 10 years or so as we've grappled with telecoms, internet and new media developments in Asia.

No surprise then that he's leading the way in what's broadly speaking our own business sector - media and telecoms consulting - with his new "BDA TV" YouTube initative. We'll see whether this is how Web 2.0 transforms our own business and it's good to see someone giving it a go.

This first piece is China Internet 101 but none the worse for that. I look forward to the next episode.

Leaving Reuters

I hope these two things are not connected. No sooner have we quoted the man, than Reuters' Asia head of media, Azhar Rafee, announces he's leaving. According to the report, "he will leave by end of June, and is planning to get into an entrepreneurial venture down the line, though he is taking a break for now".

Rafee has been based in Hong Kong. The report suggests that his job will be splits in two between "Alisa Bowen, based in London, [who] will take over the strategic aspects of his position, while current media sales head Joachim Schmaltz will take over the consumer aspects of his job".

I hope Rafee's entrepreneurial venture is something more solid sounding than the profile I just came across through my LinkedIn contacts. One chap who sounds as though he's been smoking funny cigarettes in Thailand for too long describes himself as a "yoga instructor, mangosteen trader and entrepreneur". Hmmmm.