Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's not all bad you know

Before we all start to commit ritual self disemboweling with a butter knife, let's not forget that there is some good news out there. OK, Japanese exports may be down 49% on February 2008. That's actually pretty bad.

But, how's this for a series of feel better reports?

  1. Vietnam actually eked out a 2% increase in exports says the FT. Somewhere else, they say this was down to strong gold and rice shipments (somebody's having some fancy rice pudding).
  2. Bloomberg reports that a respected adviser to China's central bank says that the country's economy "will recover strongly in the second and third quarters as a 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) stimulus package takes effect".
  3. Normandy Madden over at Ad Age China tells us that "China's ad market grew 9% to $27.8 Billion in 2008".
So, hurrah for China. Hurrah for Vietnam. I guess Marxism with special Asian awfully capitalistic looking characteristics is the way to go. Perhaps the new musical version of Das Kapital is for me after all. It's butter knives down, little red books up and on with the dancing shoes.

Update: More in the same vein from Marketing which reports that Carat is predicting growth in China's advertising market in 2009, admittedly an anaemic 4.8% compared to 19% in 2008 and an anticipated bounceback to 7.2% in 2010. This compares to an expected fall across Asia this year of 0.8%.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Davies bows out with barely a nod to Asia

There are suprisingly few references to Asia and China in Crispin Davies' final presentation to analysts as CEO or Reed Elsevier. In fact, search for the word Asia, and only one reference comes up; in relation to Elsevier's book sales.

"China" also generates just one hit, this time in reference to exhibitions where Davies says:

Emerging markets are becoming increasingly important in our exhibitions business. In the BRIC countries, we’ve made significant progress in 2008. In China and Russia we’re market leader, with Brazil growing strongly and the Middle East.
I think there are a few in China who would dispute his claim that they're market leader there, but it is certaintly a sign of the progress they've made in recent years that he's even willing to make the claim.

I was interested to see his comment that:

There is no question in times like this that having the leading show is a real advantage, with this sort of flight to quality and we’ve seen that, and we’re also getting strong feedback from customers in terms ROI. Customers are getting increasingly sophisticated in terms of measuring.
That is matching what I've been hearing from the organisers of the top shows. And, the comment on ROI and measurement ties in with a white paper recently released by BPA Worlwide which is worth a read.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tootoo dances off stage

I'm not sure what possesses perfectly good Chinese B2B online sites to choose names which sound completely half-witted in English, but quite a few of them have. Ninetowns is an interesting business with various arrows in its quiver. The completely daft-sounding is not going to be one any longer according to this PR Newswire press release.

Competing with the market leaders such as Alibaba, Global Sources and is not, of course, easy. Our most recent ranking of B2B media sites in the region showed that had slipped a further two places from 18 in February to 20 in March.

This sentence in the press release is very telling: "the discontinuation of the B2B business is not expected to have a material financial impact on Ninetowns' other business solutions". Ouch! Nice idea, but not much in the way of revenues.

Another one bites the dust.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blaming bad ideas on the recession

For a variety of reasons which would bore the pants of most of you, a jewellery exhibition in Delhi was probably a bad idea in the first place. However, as one of Tony Blair's PR flaks once told the world too publicly, a major disaster is a great opportunity to bury bad news.

So, no suprise then that Reed Exhibitions is blaming a downturn in India's jewellery business on its decision to pull the plug on its JCK India project. Rumours are rumbling around that Reed is quitting India completely. It's recent withdrawal from the RBI JV with Infomedia has fuelled the fire. However, we're inclined to believe the contentsutra piece that says that the exhibitions team is just pulling out of Delhi for now.

Perhaps they'd over-egged the infrastructure, but it seems odd timing. India is going to suffer in this downturn, but much less than most places. How badly is Reed hurting?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

China confidentially

An interesting move by the FT to launch its new China Confidential subscription-based website/newsletter in these trying times. You can get it free for 14 days before handing over any dosh. Editor James Kynge comments that "Through this website and newsletter, we aim over the next weeks, months and years to track and predict the meaningful trends that make China such a riveting phenomenon. We hope to bring to our readership of investors and business people every two weeks a collection of telling insights that identify the real trajectory of the Chinese economy, and its key constituent parts".

I noticed that my old friend Duncan Clark, the telecoms guru from BDA in Beijing, is given a column in which he talks about 3G in China and opines that "3G offers the potential to fuse China's love affair with the mobile phone with its growing addiction to the internet". You can also get access to an interesting BDA 'China Analyst Note' on the online advertising. That basic line is that "While growth is slowing from last year, we believe China’s online advertising market will still grow at a relatively impressive clip of 20% or so in 2009. More internet users and usage, continuing national economic growth, the growing influence of online media and the cost advantages of online vs. offline ads are all fuelling the sector’s development".

There appears to be no connection with the China Confidential blog which has been running since 2005. Competitors presumably include the China Economic Review.

Unless I'm being unusually thick (which is entirely possible), the FT appears to be rather coy about how much it will charge for this so-called "premium investment intelligence". With all the *ankers either leaving town or wondering how they're going to scrape by on the basic US$500,000 and no bonus (poor dears), we're not sure about their timing. But, you can't fault them for their chutzpah in trying in these conditions.

Update: I meant to link to Thomas Crampton's posting on this as he, as is so often the case, pointed me towards this new service. Even if Twitter did "out" him, he'll be a great addition to the Ogilvy team.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bumping along the bottom

I am not an economist, which probably qualifies me very well to speculate on the outcome of the current crisis. After all, the so-called experts have generally proven themselves worthy of senior positions in the weather bureau, and not much else.

There has been much discussion of whether our current recession is "U', "V" or "J"-shaped. I am sure there are other variants (e.g. "flat-line", patient dead or the "L-shaped recession"). Well, I offer you our own BSG Asia B2B Media index which tracks the stocks of Asian listed companies in the sector we track. If this is a proxy for the economy, it looks like the bottom of a "U" to me. So, the only point on which to speculate now then is when it will come back.

We'll go with China's premier Wen Jiabao on that one and predict some time next year. This isn't just because we think he's a marvellous man (we don't) or a brilliant economist (although I suspect he employs some). It ties in directly with the views of the exhibition industry worldwide. UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry recently published the results of the first of what will be a series of global 'barometer' studies, gauging the mood of the industry. Most of the respondents don't expect any recovery this year, but more than 80% of them expect to see it by 2010 or early 2011 at the latest.

We shall see.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Where is it hurting?

Our friends at Media Partners Asia do a lot of good and solid research into what's happening in the region. They publish some of it in their Asia Media Journal which is now available online. There are always a number of things that catch the eye there, even to B2B specialists like us.

We were particularly interested to see this piece on their projections for advertising sales in 2009: the headline number is a 1.1% decrease around the region. This, they say, is "the first decline the region will have experienced since the 1998 financial crisis".

What we really found interesting, though, was the country table included in the article. I hope they don't mind me reproducing it here, because it's really worth a look:

As you can see, this shows Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan hit the hardest but many markets actually recording growth including: China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. China remains the champ in MPA's projections although 9% growth there may feel pretty sluggish to the industry after 20%+ increases in spending in 2008.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

It all comes together...

Gary Trudeau may be sticking it to the twitterati in his current Doonesbury strips, but, in the interests of learning what all this fuss is about, I have signed up. All in the interests of research you understand...nothing to do with fiddling while I should be working. Nothing at all....honestl....well, you know how it is.

Anyway, having added the Twitter app to my Facebook page (the students I talked to earlier the week looked incredulous at this....they obviously thought I was far too old for this kind of stuff), the following combination of Web 2.0 giants combined forces with an Alibaba ad. So, if you didn't think this was all relevant to your B2B business before, think again. It is...

Unlike the Doonesbury hero, Roland Hedley, I promise not to discuss my underwear in my twitter posts, but do keep an eye on it. It's reaching the mainstream...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Crisis, what crisis?

United Business Media has just reported pretty decent results for 2008 with continuing revenues up 10.7% and earnings per share up 6.7%. Of course, we won't be ungenerous and mention that you get a lot more pounds for your dollars from your US and Asian businesses these days.


The point we did want to make was that the Asian results in particular are very impressive. Revenues up 13% year-on-year and profits up 23.8%. That will, of course, make the hurdles the boys at CMP Asia have been set even higher to jump over this year. Good luck guys!