Saturday, October 29, 2005 turns up the heat on eBay

The sneering and snorting about "free stuff" from its B2B rivals has been somewhat muted in recent months as the scale of's conquest of the China online sourcing market becomes clear....underlined by its massive deal with Yahoo.

Given the extent to which eBay has become a centre for small business activity, it seems reasonable to turn our attention to what Jack Ma and Co. are doing with their auction site, Having closed the Yahoo deal this week, they immediately announced an injection of Rmb1 billion (US$125 million) into Taobao and, more importantly, confirmed that it will remain free for a least three more years.

They are already making strong headway: ranks at #28 and its measures suggest an audience almost 12 million users. ranks #52 and appears to generate an audience of around 7.5 million. The battle isn't over but it is increasingly well funded.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Cross-Cultural Challenges

An interesting post today from Matt McAlister, VP and General Manager, Online at IDG's InfoWorld regarding the different expectations of users in Asia and the US for web design. As Matt says:

In the translation they found some key differences in what motivates someone to participate online. The problem is not just about translating terminology in the user interface but also about interpreting interaction design models.

We are working with a number of clients who are moving product from the US and Europe to Asia. These cultural issues throw up all sorts of challenges which go well beyond the technicalities of translation or different character sets. Matt's post is particularly interesting as it deals with taking an Asian model to the US; most people's experience points in the other direction at this stage.

Cybermedia shows strong growth

I have liked what I see at Pradeep Gupta's Cybermedia for some time. The newly-listed IT publisher is one of the most credible and professional B2B media outfits in India. It has just reported strong Q2 performance with half year revenues up 38% at Rs238 million (US$5.3 million). Net profit was up even more strongly at Rs25 million (US$558,000), up 61%.

These B2B businesses in India are still small by international standards but, at these rates of growth, that won't be the case for long.

Thanks to Cybermedia as well for presenting its figures in (for we westerners at least) simple "millions". The mental gymnastics required to convert lakhs and crores into our more conventional measures is a challenge which is obviously now reserved for the local journalists producing articles like this who have to convert it back the other way!

Update: more Cybermedia news regarding a proposed internal restructuring in this post at ContentSutra.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dilbert Blogs

Best news of the week (and quite irrelevant to the subject of this blog) by far is that Scott Adams, the irreverent genius behind Dilbert has started a blog. Now we can fritter away time and lift our spirits on both his cartoons and his postings.

Venetian Macau previews show calendar

In an early press release, the Venetian Macau has announced a calendar of over 20 exhibitions in industries as diverse as police and security, jewelry, hospitality, leather goods, real estate, automotive parts and accessories, high-end consumer goods, luxury boats, and investment forums. Committed organisers include China International Exhibition Center Group Corporation from Beijing; Koelnmesse and Messe Frankfurt from Germany; VNU Expositions Asia from the Netherlands; Australasian Gaming Machine Manufacturers Association from Australia; Reed Exhibitions Worldwide; CMP Asia headquartered in Hong Kong; and China Promotion, Coastal
International Exhibition and Adsale Exhibition Services Ltd. from Hong Kong.

This comes at the end of an intense period of personal lobbying of organisers by the Venetian's main shareholder, Comdex founder Sheldon Adelson. The new 80,000 sq. metre exhibition centre at the Venetian Macau is due to open in late 2007.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

McGraw on China and India

Another US media mogul has been pontificating on opportunities in China and India. Last week, we reported on Time Warner's Richard Parson's comments on the matter in Hong Kong. This week, we find The China Stock Blog giving some air time to McGraw Hill CEO Terry McGraw's comments on the varying opportunities in the two markets.

"India is a very exciting market because of the political changes that have taken place about 12 months ago" he tells us. While, on China, he suggests" the five-year time frame I think we’re going to see in China continued stunning growth…..".

Monday, October 24, 2005

Baidu & China bank collaborate on payment

We're back from Moscow and catching up on the news. The Marbridge Weekly newsletter picks up on an interesting deal between stock market darling (at least for those who sold early enough) and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China regarding on-line payment solutions.

Says the e-newsletter:

Under the agreement, Baidu's customers can log on to ICBC's online payment platform to pay for Baidu services, such as movie downloads and web-based message sending

It continues:

Alibaba PR director Wang Shuai noted that with the establishment of the online payment platform, its possible Baidu could move to more fully enter the e-commerce market. In fact Baidu is only one step away from becoming a real e-commerce provider, lacking only operation of a dedicated shopping website. In response Baidu spokesman Liang Dong claimed Baidu has no plan for the development of B2B or C2C services, and will continue to focus on Chinese online search services.

Whatever the trust about Baidu's, the issue of online payment solutions will be at the heart of the development of e-commerce in both the B2B and B2C arena in China. We have written about this several times, most recently in relation to Global Payments.

Strakosch on Asia

The folk at Jordman Edmiston, the media investment bank, have been having a busy year with all the B2B M&A in the US. Their news updates are often quite interesting and we were interested to see this interview with Greg Strakosch. TechTarget has featured in a lot of my discussions with clients this year and the company's CEO has some interesting insights into the position Asia will play in their future.

A couple of highlights here:

The dynamics in Asia are actually more similar to the U.S. than they are different. In regards to audiences conducting research online, this is true across the global Internet. Advertisers in Asia are interested in generating strong ROIs on their ad spend, so content providers are under the same pressures in all countries. Since these two major trends exist both in Asia and the U.S., the same types of market opportunities are also available in both places.


Our expansion into Asia is a new effort for us, so the partnerships that we have forged there are less than a year old. We have just partnered with Softbank in Japan, and this effort will launch later this year. So, the financial impact to TechTarget won't be very meaningful in 2005. However, five years from now, we believe the impact of these efforts is going to be substantial, since such a great proportion of the IT market is outside the U.S.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Reed loses Singapore air show

Big news in the Asian exhibitions industry with a Reuters report that Reed has failed to renew its contract with the Singapore government to manage Asian Aerospace, the largest air show in Asia.

The report says:

Singapore will run an airshow on its own from 2008 onwards after it failed to reach a deal with the existing organisers.

It goes on to say:

The last show on the current site near the city-state's Changi airport -- run by Reed Exhibitions and Singapore defence and aircraft maintenance firm Singapore Technologies Engineering -- will take place in February next year.

ChannelNewsAsia, Singapore's own cable news TV station, says that the new fair will be called the Changi International Airshow. It adds that Reed is apparently looking to keep the Asian Aerospace name alive and find a new venue for the show. Langkawi and somewhere in Thailand would presumably be high on their list.

This is always a risk with any management contract but leaves Reed's south-east Asian portfolio looking awfully thin outside Thailand.

More insights also here including a statement from Reed Exhibitions chairman Mike Rushbridge.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Parsons tips his hat to India

Speaking in Hong Kong today at an American Chamber of Commerce lunch, Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons indicated, as we have suggested in several recent articles, that India is looking more attractive than China to media companies right now. Reuters quotes him saying:

"India, I think, offers more current potential for us as it has a stronger rule-of-law culture," he said.

The obstacles in India are largely technical due to a lack of infrastructure, but there are fewer regulatory and cultural hurdles to overcome than in China, he said.

"I think gradually, gradually, they'll open up in their way," he said, referring to the Chinese market.

Speaking for myself, I don't think I'll be holding my breath waiting for that opening.

Reed into drugs

Just arrived in Bangkok (now the Sukhothai is a really nice hotel) to discover that, while in the air, Paul Conley has shown once again his close interest in international devlopments, particularly Asia. He points to a Reed Business announcement of a new magazine, Pharma Asia. This will be a nice complement to the big trade fairs deal that RBI's sister company, Reed Exhibitions, did in China a couple of months back when it acquired the big, State-owned medical fairs company, Sinopharm. Reed has not always been the best at wringing synergies out of its publishing and trade fair portfolios but the strong interest in healthcare is clear for all to see.

They're not the only ones. CMP big deal to acquire MediMedia last year (now CMP Medica) was worth around $345 million. One-third of the value of that was in Asia.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

More on

We don't want to make this into a single-company blog. However, and its founder Jack Ma continue to keep themselves far enough in front of the rest of the pack that they generate the most intersting news. Two interesting pieces today in the usually dull Shanghai Daily.

In the first, we see a report noting that the value of trades on Alibaba's eBay challenger site, have increased 41% year on year in the 3rd quarter. The company is reporting trades of Rmb2.34 billion (US$289 million) and 60% market share. Of course, it still doesn't charge for taobao activity so that 60% share generates Rmb0 for just now (except in investor dollars, of course).

Elsewhere, Rupert Hoogewerf's annual China rich list has just been published, for the seventh time. It includes 7 US$ billionaires among the 400 Chinese 'super rich' listed. The Shanghai Daily report notes that:

Jack Ma, founder of, made it to the top 100 for the first time, landing in 36th, thanks to a US$1 billion investment from Yahoo! China. Ma was also ranked the second most powerful business owner in another list released by Hoogewerf on Monday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

ABM Lite

I am starting a couple of weeks of intensive travel, taking in Taipei, Bangkok and Moscow between today and 22nd. There will be lot's of interesting things to see and report on but not so much time to blog. But bear with me, I will be around.

Rex Hammock of rexblog always includes a little picture of a Southwest Airways 737 when he's travelling. So, I'll keep up the tradition and include a plane from my favourite airline, Hong Kong's own Cathay Pacific.

Kristie and Jack

One of the unexpected benefits of a heavy business travel schedule in Asia is that you can wake up to CNN's morning news show which is co-hosted by the talented Kristie Lu Stout. She has just posted an interesting first blog from China which includes impressions of an interview with's Jack Ma.

Highlights include:

He's been deemed China's new Internet King. But Jack is staying clear of the crown. "I don't consider myself a king, but a teacher," said Jack. "I am China's Chief Education Officer for the Internet." Since the Yahoo deal, Jack concedes that his life has indeed changed. He jokes that he's getting busier, getting thinner. And that a lot of strangers on the street give him a pat on the back for his dot-com coup.

The thought of Jack getting thinner is a bit of worry for anybody who has ever met him.

It seems that Kristie, a veteran of Wired magazine and Reuters in the dotcom heyday, is not a stranger to weblogs. The page includes a link to a five day blog posted earlier this year from Silicon Valley.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Indiatimes IPO plans

Exchange4media is reporting that, the Internet arm of India's largest newspaper publishers, Bennett, Coleman & Co., is considering an IPO. The company has already unloaded 5.8% of its stake in the online business to WestBridge Capital according to the report which is based on an interview with Indiatimes CEO Mahendra Swarup.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Working hard to make a name

We are always interested to watch small, new companies pulling themselves out into the limelight. The pace of growth in China offers all manner of opportunities for the entrepreneurially-minded. Alexander Glos, the CEO of I2i Media, appears to combine a good sense for those opportunities with a keen eye for publicity.

The company's new web site includes a BBC interview at CEBIT Asia in Shanghai with the CEO on its home page. As a quick look at the Press Center section shows, there has been a steady stream of announcements from I2i which describes itself as a company which "develops, produces, markets and sells b2b and b2c media opportunities throughout China, North America and Europe".

Good luck to them.

UFI Asia Seminar announced

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, has announced its first Asia Seminar, to be held in Hong Kong 21 - 22 February. More information on this at BSG's Corporate BLOG or directly from UFI.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

German publishers in India

Back in June, we noted that the German publishers association VDZ was planning to visit India. Now, we read from that they are there. Currently in Delhi, they have reportedly met:

  • India Today
  • Outlook
  • CyberMedia
  • McMillan Publishing
  • Delhi Press
  • Business World
Today they move on to Mumbai to meet:

  • Indian Express Business Publication Division
  • NextGen Publishing
  • Infomedia India
  • Indian Book Distributer (IBD)
I imagine they will find themselves enthralled by the opportunity and overwhelmed by the challenges.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Tanka poetry and B2B media

A bit of a stretch this one, but I was pleased to see Paul Conley back in action with an intriguing post and it has an Asian connection. When he said "Time for a change, time for a break" a couple of weeks back, I was worried that his postings would dry up.

Paul's post notes:

In a lovely and unexpected development, young people in Japan have taken to sending Tanka text messages via cellphone. The Tanka craze is the latest example of consumers creating new forms of media from new types of technology. I'm always delighted by such things..and often amazed by the speed at which they arrive.

It sometimes takes me a moment or two to decipher the messages that my teenage kids and my younger staff send me, but Paul is right: the current generation is communicating more in writing than for some while. It may not be traditional. It is sometimes odd. But it beats grunting.

Indian Express IPO

Exchange4Media reports that the Indian Express group's IPO plans continue to move forward. The group, which includes newspapers and business publishing activities "was close to finalising a merchant banker and aimed at coming out with the initial public offering by the end of the financial year" according to the news site, quoting Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, Indian Express.

Timing of the IPO is still somewhat uncertain although the company says it will be before the end of this financial year. The report ends with a note that the group "is coming out with a host of new general and special magazines by the year-end and holding a summit as part of its ‘India Empowered’ campaign in the third week of October".

EC21 upgrade

Meanwhile, changes over at EC21, the Korean-based Asian sourcing site which sits at #6 in our latest ranking of Asia's top B2B web sites. The site which, along with Global Sources, is the only non-Chinese site in the top 10, has added a variety of new features in a major redesign which became active today.

At the end of September, was ranked #929 in the rankings and, by our estimates, generates an audience of around 447,000 regular users. That places it just behind Global Sources (626,000) and ahead of (407,000).

Global Sources focus on transactions

An interesting press release from Global Sources which suggests that they are stepping up their focus on integrating transactions into their sourcing services. This has been on the agenda for everybody in the business since the heady days of 1998 but has taken a long time to take hold in the Asian exports sector.

The company is now talking of two channels, having earlier announced a link-up with eBay:

The first channel is part of Global Sources' strategic alliance with eBay,
which allows eBay PowerSellers around the world to buy direct from China
suppliers through auctions listed under the eBay user ID GlobalSourcesDirect.
The second is through its online store, which offers fixed-price sales at

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Google also in hot water

The big international players sometimes give the impression that they are competing for 1st prize in the China Internet kowtow contest. In imperial times, visitors to the Emperor had to prostrate themselves in front of the great man and press their foreheads to the floor three times to signify their complete subservience to the ultimate power.

Several reports, including this one from the BBC report on protests about Google's apparent insistence on towing the Zhongnanhai line on Taiwan as a renegade province. A search on Google Maps for the word Taiwan, reveals a map of the island and the phrase "Taiwan, Province on China". Hong Kong's South China Morning Post today reports "The search engine once revised the description after a protest from a pro-independence group, but changed it back just days later, apparently under pressure from the mainland".

As any publisher experienced in China will tell you, the Taiwan issue touches on the rawest of nerves in both the mainland and Taiwan. There are, however, generally-accepted alternatives which (while resented a bit on both sides) are deemed mutually acceptable for most media. "Taiwan", all by itself, is OK for all but the extremist and the sycophants. "The Republic of China" is not OK (in the mainland) while Taiwan Province offends many in Taiwan.

And make sure Taiwan appears on any maps you publish of China: my first visit to Beijing in 1985 was memorable for a two hour lecture from our publishing partners of the day on the one China issue because our cover artist (in a very stylised map of China - also a bad idea) had omitted the island. Much has changed in China over 20 years, but sensitivities on Taiwan have not. That doesn't mean, though, that we need to knuckle under to whatever we think Beijing might want us to do.

Hong Kong correspondents hit out at Yahoo

The members of Hong Kong's reknowned Foreign Correspondents' Club have hit out at Yahoo's involvement with the imprisonment of Chinese journalist Shi Tao with letters sent to founder Jerry Yang and the head of marketing in Hong Kong, Pauline Wong.

The letter to Yang goes as follows:

Mr. Jerry Yang

Chief Yahoo and Director

Yahoo! Inc.
701 First Avenue
Sunnyvale, California 94089

United States of America

Dear M
r. Yang.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, is deeply distressed by Yahoo’s compliance with requests from unknown mainland authorities to hand over information regarding the personal emails of our professional colleague, journalist Shi Tao, and we wish to express our displeasure in the strongest terms.

We note with dissatisfaction Yahoo’s attempted explanation, offered through your good offices, that it “must comply with the laws, regulations and customs” of the nation where it does business. This attempt to seek cover beneath compliance with the rule of law is as unworthy as it is unpersuasive, and in no way addresses the questions of professional ethics and corporate conscience that should arise whenever a request for the provision of personal information is made. Yahoo’s effort at self-justification actually worsens matters; not only is no particular law nor regulation cited, but the suggestion that something as indefinable as “customs” is a legitimate basis for becoming a willing accomplice to authoritarian action makes a mockery of Yahoo’s already feeble effort to appear law-abiding.

Handing over information regarding personal data to a government is not an act that Yahoo, or any responsible Internet Service Provider (ISP), should ever engage in without such material having being sought with a proper judicial warrant issued in the jurisdiction where you are legally domiciled. It is certainly not what Yahoo would do in the United States. Moreover, your firm is registered in Hong Kong, a common law jurisdiction where laws, such as the Personal (Data) Privacy Ordinance, clearly spell out the protections to privacy. If it is Yahoo’s desire to abide by local laws, the FCC suggests that it begin by complying with the laws in force where it is licensed to do business.

If it is Yahoo’s position, however, that the laws, regulations and customs of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are inferior to those of mainland China, then it should state so clearly. That way, people will understand what Yahoo’s view is on One Country-Two Systems relationship, and can select an ISP accordingly. We should add here that a number of our members, representing media organizations from around the world, are already discussing among themselves whether a boycott of Yahoo ought to be organized. Some have already given up their personal Yahoo addresses.

Indeed, if there are political pressures – beyond corporate competition and cupidity – that have driven Yahoo into an action that appears to be a surrender of conscience, then Yahoo – as well as any other ISP’s faced with the same threat – should step forward and make that fact known.

Accordingly, the FCC sincerely extends to executives of Yahoo an invitation to explain any difficulties directly to our members. We would be happy to schedule a speaking engagement. If you are willing to take up this offer, and we hope that you are, please let us know as
soon as possible so that appropriate arrangements can be made.


Ilaria Maria Sala, President

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong

Francis Moriarty, Chairman

FCC Press Freedom Committee

Monday, October 03, 2005

China stock top performers

China Stock Blog produces a weekly listing of the performance of the shares it tracks. Top 10 last week were:

1. CDC Corporation (CHINA) +12.7%
2. Tom Online (TOMO) +10.8%
3. KongZhong (KONG) +9.4%
4. Yanzhou Coal Mining (YZC) +9.1%
5. NetEase (NTES) +8.7%
6. Hurray! (HRAY) +8.4%
7. Focus Media (FMCN) +7.0%
8. Sinopec (SNP) +6.0%
9. eLong (LONG) +5.0%
10. Sina (SINA) +4.7%

Of these, by my count, at least five of the 10 are media-related while eLong is an online travel site.

Of those which fell (5 last week), Baidu was the worst performer, down 19.1%. The rest of the list look more like 'old school' tech stocks although 51Job, an online recruitment site, is obviously feeling the pressure from a number of serious competitors:

Shanda Interactive (SNDA) -0.2%
51Job (JOBS) -0.4%
Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMI) -7.8%
China Techfaith Wireless (CNTF) -9.5%
Baidu (BIDU) -19.1%

Saturday, October 01, 2005

They'll never make it in time

Our suspicions that India's B2B print sector will never make it anywhere close to critical mass before being commercially overwhelmed by much more effective online alternatives are fuelled by news that Google is gearing up its Adwords operation in the sub-continent. It looks as though a sales push with real, live sales people may be at the heart of the launch strategy.

ContentSutra posts an Indiatimes article which reports "Search giant Google has started visiting Indian campuses to recruit staff for their fledgling sales office in Hyderabad...Google is ramping up their sales operations in India and is finally looking at the country as a market...".