Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Of SISO, Asia, the mojito and skiing in the desert

I very much enjoyed my first SISO CEO meeting in Miami this week. It as a great group of people including approaching 10 'alumni' of the Miller Freeman senior management team of the mid/late 1990s. As the meeting coincided with part of the spring break week, South Beach was lively and I felt at times I was the only person in my hotel who thought that the hours between 1:00 and 5:00 AM could usefully be used for sleeping. The conference venue, the Ritz Carlton, I should add, was somewhat more sedate although some street-facing rooms were sharing more of the DJ competition going on in Miami than they might have liked!

Asia came up a few times including in the opening session in which SISO Chairman Don Pazour ably moderated a great conversation with four CEOs; UBM's David Levin, Reed Exhibitions USA's Chet Burchett, Charles McCurdy of Canon and John French, the new CEO of Penton. Asian projects were used by Levin and others to illustrate exciting business innovations. There was also a good deal of interest in Asia from those attending a final afternoon break out session on international business led by Cheriff Moujabber with contributions from UFI President and CEO of Koelnmesse Jochen Witt and Montgomery's Sandy Angus. The latter gamely attended the event on crutches having broken a leg skiing although not, he noted sadly, at the bizarre ski slope which has been in the desert in Dubai!

Of mangoes and mojitos, the less said the better.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

What a tangled web

Thanks to my stealth correspondent (he prefers to fly under the radar) for this tip: adding to the increasingly complex web of relationships between the major B2B media companies in Asia, we see that IDG and CMP Technology have now hooked up on a Shanghai version of the Game Developer Conference. I'll have to map this all out one of these days but there are now direct connections in Asia between IDG, Reed, CMP, Penton, Global Sources, Cybermedia. We don't need to go anywhere near to 6 degrees of separation to link them all together.

That GDC is an interesting event. I remember hearing reports of its San Jose origins 10 years ago during my Miller Freeman days. 3,000 attendees, mainly young men with high IQs, poor social skills and strange tastes in literature, all getting together in one place. Recipe for all sorts of 'unusual' things. I wonder how Shanghai will compare.

P.S. In choosing this title, for those of you who know the second line of the quote, I wasn't intending to suggest anything bad about deception. It's just getting incredibly complicated to keep track of all these links. I need to get mapping!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

On the road

I'm heading off this evening for the SISO CEO Summit at South Beach, Miami and some meetings in San Francisco. A lot of flying this week but should be interesting travels. In Miami, I'm excited to be staying The Hotel which is in the picture here.

Sad to hear the news of Bob Krakoff's sudden passing. He did a huge amount to shape the current world of B2B media and will be much missed by his current colleagues at the Neilsen Group as well as former associates from Reed/Cahners and Advanstar.

Friday, March 23, 2007

China's Web 2.0 late followers are catching up

Like almost everybody in business, I have a love-hate relationship with McKinsey. You have to love the combination of brain power that has seen the company top the consulting charts for so long. The downside is what so often seems to be the carnage and company wrecking that accompanies their recommendations.

Anyway, on the positive side, their McKinsey Quarterly journal is often worth a read. A new article reports on a global survey on the adoption of Web 2.0 among senior managers in the executive suites of the big companies who can afford their fees. There is an Asian twist to this:

...executives from China and Latin America typically say that their companies are late followers or had invested cautiously, they now plan to invest at the same rate or even faster than companies in Europe and North America. The level of investment in each of the Web 2.0 technologies cited in this survey varies across regions, with China being a fast adopter.
The area of Web 2.0 which generated the most interest in China and India was peer to peer networks with 50% and 39% respectively either saying they are using or plan to make use of this technology. Second in China was "collective intelligence", followed by social networks. In India, equal second were social networks and blogs.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

New magazines

It takes a brave soul today to launch new magazines and I've come across two in the just the last little while.

Stepping into the void left by the demise of Asiaweek and the Far Eastern Economic Review (at least as a weekly) is Asia Weekly. We understand from a notice at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club that the new magazine is currently coming out every two weeks but expects to respect its name and go weekly from April. Highly respected China author Jasper Becker is, I gather, the man behind it.

I have a small connection with Jasper (which he probably does not recall). Back in June 1985, we both flew out to Hong Kong on the same British Caledonian Airways flight in adjacent seats to start careers in Asia as journalists. He was writing for the Journal of Commerce, I for Seatrade. He has gone to an infinitely more distinguished writing career and I wish him well with his involvement in the new magazine. Just don't sell it to an American publisher. That seems to be the kiss of death for English language news weeklies in Asia.

Given the current financial flavour of the month, a more obvious choice for a new launch is Private Equity International Asia. PEI Asia is an offshoot of a London-based of the same name (minus the "Asia" of course). We wish it well. We're not sure, though, about going for a print publication. Dan Schwartz's Asia Venture Capital Journal, now owned by Incisive Media, went e-only ages ago and it seems to work well for them. Good luck anyway!

Asia focus for the Bertelsmann billion

The Financial Times today devotes a good deal of attention to Bertelsmann's new private equity tie-up where it is reported to be injecting €500 million into a €1 billion fund together with Citigroup and Morgan Stanley's p.e. arms. The main story is behind the subscriber-only firewall here but there is summary of it on Reuters here.

What caught our eye was not the company's interest in Thomson Learning, although that's interesting enough at $5 billion. It was the Bertelsmann's suggestion that the fund would be used "to invest in media businesses, especially in Asia and the United States but also Europe". We wonder what they might look at in Asia. The FT suggests they're looking at 5 - 10 deals totalling €20 billion. There aren't many €2 billion deals to be done in Asia, let alone €4 billion.

MSNBC is carrying the FT's linked column which is headlined "Bertelsmann makes friends with locusts". This notes that, following the withdrawal of IPO plans, there had been question marks about the company's capacity to do big deals. This seems a clever way around the lack of access to capital through public markets....and the private equity star continues to rise.

WMM Singapore bound

In a surprise announcement (well, surprising to me, anyway), the magazine publishers' association FIPP has decided to move its well-established World Magazine Marketplace (WMM) from London to Singapore. The event will take place at the Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre from 10-11 December 2007.

I'm not sure whether this is an indication that Asian publishers have already become so important to international publishers or that people hope they will be. FIPP is promising more information on this soon and I look forward to hearing what they have to say.

In the meantime, it is clear that many of the publishing industry's great and good will be gathering in Beijing for FIPP's World Congress which takes place there in May.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Indian media blossoming

An interesting piece over at on the size and growth of India's media industries. gives some highlights from the annual FICCI-PWC report which says that the Indian media "industry is currenty at Rs. 43,700 crore, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 18 percent to touch Rs. 1,00,000 crore by 2011". You've got to love the lakhs and crores; you definitely know you're not in Kansas any more when you start to decipher those. Actually, I've never been in Kansas, but you do know, I'm sure, what I'm getting at....

1 lakh = 100,000
1 crore = 10,000,000

No wonder India produces so many maths wizzes. If I knew my 10 million times table, I'd probably have done altogether better in life.

The full report is apparently due to be released at the upcoming FICCI Frames media and entertainment conference which opens on 26th March. Highlights include a projected 43% CAGR for internet advertising against 13% CAGR for print.

Chinese editors can pay a high price

Mark C******d may have drawn a line under asterisk jokes by resigning his post at the SCMP (see the link in the comment if you're not sure what I'm talking about). The price paid by Chinese editors is sometimes rather higher as the BBC reminds us this morning (sorry, if you're reading this in China, the link will, of course, be blocked).

Zhang Jianhong has been jailed for six years for stepping over the lines.

Monday, March 19, 2007

World's most profitable newspaper loses its editor

Former Business Week Asia editor Mark Clifford has lasted one year at the helm of the South China Morning Post. In the fishbowl that is Hong Kong, his depature made news headlines on the main local radio station, RTHK. Rebecca MacKinnon posts wisely on it here.

Before moving to the SCMP, Mark had spent some time revitalising Hong Kong's long-time #2 English newspaper, The Standard, into a business newspaper which is well-respected although nowhere near as profitable as the Kuok family's Post.

We can at least breathe a sigh of relief that Mark has not succumbed to the 30 pieces of silver of the PR industry. Rebecca reports that he will become Executive Director of think tank the Asia Business Council.

VCs target new media in China

We posted a while back on the apparent imbalance of VC funds flowing into India and China in our industry. Thanks, then to for pointing us towards a Xinhua piece on a report which is predicting $2.5 billion in VC funding in China this year. What particularly caught our eye was the fact that the report, produced by Zero2IPO, earmarks "new media" as one of the four key areas likely to receive the most VC attention. The others were IT, telecoms and semiconductors.

Zero2IPO is based in Beijing and describes itself as a leading service provider to China's venture capital and private equity industries. It has organised 12 China Venture Capital Forums and 50 "Z-Club" events and was founded by Gavin Ni in 1999. Interesting company.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Japanese publishers need help

Last Monday, I wrote about the Web 2.0 Asia blog's postings from Japan. I also wrote about in an Insight for EPS in London. In that piece, I said that I thought this represented a major challenge for Japan's powerful but very traditional publishers. Now Chang has posted on the same topic.

His post is titled "Want to become rich? Help the Japanese print media industry embrace online". His basic point is "In this age of distributed media economy, Japanese print media industry will eventually have to embrace the power of distributed media in one way or another. And there will be a huge business opportunity coming from that transition". I couldn't agree more.

The post coincides with one from IDG's Colin Crawford who notes:

The distribution of media continues to proliferate via all forms of appliances - connected personal devices such as the game changing iPhone and other smart communication devices, personal digital devices; various forms of ultra portable PCs such as the Ultra Mobile Personal Computer (UMPC); connected entertainment devices such as the Sansa Connect and potentially, future wireless devices supporting information display via electronic paper.
Again, very much in line with my thinking and of huge significance to Asia where Japan has been at the cutting edge of mobile information for 10 years and where, as I've said before, China's 400 - 500 million mobile users represent an opportunity the surface of which B2B information providers have only just begun to scratch.

Friday, March 16, 2007

All pay for Alipay reports that, having seen off eBay into the arms of Uncle Li's Tom Group, the boys in Hangzhou will start charging users of their Alipay service from 2nd April. The post notes "Gong Meng, public relations manager at Alipay, has told local media that they will mainly charge fees from the external users of and Alibaba, but those users who have registered with both websites don't have to pay any fee". The fees, it says, will be no more than 1.5%.

Jack Ma previously scoffed at eBay's suggestion that free was not a business model. They had some trouble last summer launching a paid element into itself. But, with numbers climbing steadily at Alipay and some 300,000 businesses using it, it seems that the time has now come to turn a good idea into good money.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Vertical Yahoo! in China

Xinhua today describes Yahoo! China as "on the prowl" for acquisitions. In an effort to catch-up with Baidu and Google "We are considering merging vertical search engines into our service package as we are already set on better combining Yahoo China's service with our e-commerce resources," according to spokesman Tao Ran.

Meanwhile, Yahoo! was also in the news in Hong Kong where it was cleared by the Privacy Commissioner of breaching local laws in the case of jailed journalist Shi Tao. Shi's Yahoo! e-mails were handed over to Chinese authorities after he was arrested for allegedly "
illegally providing state secrets overseas". Rebecca MacKinnon gives good, balanced coverage of the complicated issues surrounding this on her RConversation blog.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Xinhua Finance Media disappoints?

Some slightly odd comments over at Seeking Alpha regarding Xinhua Finance Media's NASDAQ listing. "Xinhua Finance Media Limited did not turn out to be another Home Inns", says the writer. Duh! Another post on the same blog, highlights the reason for the disappointment; Xinhua Finance fell$2 from its opening price and although bouncing up and down a little, still hovers there at around $10.75.

The writer of the first post notes, quite rightly I suspect, that this is as much due to the industry in which XFML is operating as market conditions. High levels of regulation in the media industry do certainly make it a complicated business. Founded in 2005 by Fredy Bush's Tokyo-listed Xinhua Finance, the company describes itself as "a diversified media company in China. We offer broadcasting, print, production, advertising and research. XFM targets China’s growing population of well educated, high net worth individuals nationwide through TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and other distribution channels".

Not sure I'd bet against CEO Fredy Bush (pictured, right) who has built up a most impressive business in the past decade in a very tricky market. We wrote about her last in October last year when she won the Hong Kong Amcham's Woman of Influence award.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

eBay, elephants and Australia

On his Filtered blog, Australia's Mark Jones raises the "elephant in the room" issue for global e-commerce - taxation. The piece concerns " eBay's status as a Switzerland-registered company that does not issue invoices to Australian merchants with GST included". GST is Australia's national sales tax.

A story in today's Australian newspaper, which Jones says picks up on stories he has been writing, opens with the line "EBAY has handed over the personal and financial details of hundreds of its top sellers to the Australian Taxation Office". It goes on to note "At least one seller is known to have gone into liquidation this year after a related ATO probe".

Picture: Banksy

Monday, March 12, 2007

Web 2.0 Japan

There's a growing interest in Japan from a number of quarters. Companies are wondering whether the growth of web in business there may offer opportunities to break into a market which remains tough in traditional business media.

I was interested then, to see the Web 2.0 Asia blogger reporting on a trip to Japan and an interview with Masashi Kobayashi, a web entrepreneur and blogger. Do read the whole post, but the highlights were:

1. The main focus of the Japanse web service has been shifted to mobile.
2. New profit models are popping up.
3. Blogs are being tied up with vertical industries to create new values and profit models.
4. UGC (User-generated Content) is booming, but Japanese Media industry is extremely slow to the change.

I posted back in January on what I then thought was Edelman's slightly odd piece on web usage in business in Japan. It is clearly going to have to come more sharply into focus for me. I think this could be important for many business media companies.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Catching up

Well, so much for posting while I was in Korea. Not problems with the technology there, of course. Just my time management!

We had an excellent week in Seoul. The 2nd UFI Open Seminar went off really well and there was lots of good interaction between our 190 participants from 18 countries. It snowed pretty hard on the day before (Wednesday) and a bit again on Thursday but that didn't slow things down.

We had great presenters including thought-provoking insights on the way in which venue operators need to be thinking in the future from Belgium's Eric Préart of Easyfairs and Suntec Singapore's Warren Buckley. Préart offered a check list of features for his ideal venue which would essentially be an empty box with multiple highly flexible features and services allowing it to be customised to the needs of very different types of events. The NEC's Michael Watton from the UK raised a few eyebrows by describing how what was once one of the UK's dreariest public facilities now aspires to become an "entertainment brand". Buckley talked about the challenges facing venues in a constant need to reinvent themselves.

Korea has eight major exhibition venues and delegates got a chance to visit both the host of the seminar, COEX and the newest and largest KINTEX. UFI's Asia/Pacific Chapter Chairman Chen Xianjin is seen in this picture at Kintex pointing out something that obviously caught his eye to other visitors from China.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Off to Korea tomorrow...

Off to Seoul tomorrow for the UFI Open Seminar in Asia. I think we have over 180 signed up now. I'll try to post from there about who's saying what if time permits but it may be a patchy week.

It'll also be a cold week. As far as I can see, it's -2C maximum there tomorrow warming up to a balmy 8C by Friday. Call me a wimp, but that's quite cold for us here in Hong Kong.

Mini rugby and media

What's the connection? I mentioned in my Saturday post that CMP Asia had reported good results as part of United Business Media's 2006 earnings announcement. There's a good piece in the London Sunday Times which interviews UBM CEO David Levin. I've only met him once - at last year's FIPP B2B conference in London - but the word on the street is very positive and the company seems to be doing well.

The Times' Andrew Davidson describes him as "the analysts’ darling right now" noting that "in the two years since he took the top slot at UBM — formerly Lord Hollick’s acquisition vehicle — he has turned it from a hotchpotch of TV and print interests into a focused business-to-business publisher, regularly cited as one of the most impressive operators in the quoted media sector".

Oh, and the rugby connection..."Levin spends his weekends helping to coach a mini-rugby team for under 11s." Good for him. I finally hung up my whistle a couple of years ago but here's picture proof of the connection between business media in Asia and mini rugby...the winning Hong Kong University Sandy Bay under-12 team in 2005.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Healthy earnings

It's earnings season and my colleagues pulled together an interesting array of announcements in BSG's weekly newsletter published yesterday afternoon.

Highlights from 2006 announcements included:

Only tiny China Finance Online bucked the trend with a 5% decrease in revenues.

Friday, March 02, 2007

English window opens on Chinese Internet blogs

I am obliged to the China Web 2.0 Review for pointing me towards the new English version of YeeYan. The Chinese site has, apparently, been doing "a terrific job" at "translat[ing] articles, mainly blog posts, on tech, startups and internet into Chinese, to help to bridge the language gap".

One current front page post which I assume will get a good deal of attention is "US Internet companies' top 10 mistakes". This translation so far includes just the first two points which appear to be:

  1. Aiming only for elite spenders and ignoring the huge number of less wealthy users.
  2. A preference for avoiding negative press and getting forgotten in the process. It is suggested that the Chinese Internet's most successful self-publicists, Jack Ma of and Zhou Hongyi, will take the hits if it keeps their companies on the front pages.
For those who can read Chinese, all 10 points are here. The illiterate rest of us will have to wait for Yee Ding to finish posting the translations!

If you can't get enough of what western companies are doing wrong in China, there's a translation of IT Times September 2006 cover story titled "Yahoo's Fiasco in China".