亚洲中国新媒体研讨会 / Asia China New Media Conference

The Asia China New Media Conference, hosted by MalaysiaKini’s Chinese Service and  sponsored by Open Society Institute and the University of Hong Kong’s Center for Journalism and Media Studies, gathered over one hundred journalists, bloggers and academics to discuss the current state of new media in Chinese-speaking Asia as well as to discuss future areas for cooperation.  Attendees came from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore and the host country Malaysia. Continue reading

McKinsey: Riding Asia’s Digital Tigers

Interesting short piece from McKinsey on Internet in Malaysia, China and India.  In the conclusions, especially interesting is the observation:

“Content and Web services providers need to foster the growth of local and regional advertising markets to help defray the cost of content creation.”

Especially important for independent media, since government involvement in the large national advertisers in all three countries creates an implicit or explicit pressure on coverage.

Link to Report [Registration Required]

Clickz Asia: News Surges and Value

Through a friend in Hong Kong, I have started contributing a short piece for Clickz Asia.  This is the newest expansion for the Clickz network and one that I think online publishers in Asia will find valuable.

Rather than re-post the entire article, I will just re-post the title and a synopsis and a link back to Clickz.asia. Please add any comments to either this site or the Clickz site.

How to Create Value from an Online Traffic Surge

One of the facts of online news publishing is that major news events drive huge traffic spikes.  “Michael Jackson dead!”, As traffic surges into your news site coming up with techniques to capture all of the traffic value are often neglected.  This short piece summarizes a few that I have used, but please add any others that you have used or would like to deploy.

Overview of the Marketing and Product Development Process

This morning I conducted my first training with 11 members of the business team here.  We spent three hours discussing the general outlines of marketing and product development.  There was genuine interest and some very helpful comments.  Especially around expanding the presentation to be closer to 4 hours on the details and then to break the training with more team exercises on both marketing and product development.  So,
moving on to develop some team exercises for the presentation.  Any ideas?

There was also need for more on product management and the pipeline management process, as well as the need for something on strategy and technology management.  So, in addition to marketing and the product development overview, we may also add training on these aspects of marketing, product development and product management.

We will building this training out into more modules with more exercises in the next few months as well as applying the process to specific case studies of products in development here in KL.

Feedback and comments are welcome and encouraged.

Comments can be found at the Knight Fellow Blog or on Slideshare.net

Presentation on Slideshare

OpenWebAsia – Business Models in Southeast Asia

Looking for more background on developing sustainable business models for the independent online media in the region, I attended the OpenWebAsia conference that was held in Kuala Lumpur this past week.  This is a semi-regular event last held in Seoul in 2008.  This year’s event was sponsored by the Multimedia Development Corporation
MDeC a branch of the Malaysian government responsible for the promotion of a multimedia industry in Malaysia.  The conference was attended by a mix of entrepreneurs, venture capital and finance types as well as business executives from major international and regional online and mobile leaders like Yahoo!, Google, Amazon, Jobstreet, …

My first time at this conference, but attendees who attended in the past remarked that attendance and the overall mood was definitely up from past years. The regular drumbeat of positive online news definitely contributed to the mood.  In the past six months, major online media deals announced include:

In this list of deals and ventures you begin to see some of the key themes of the conference:

  • ecommerce/Online Payments
  • VentureFunding and Localization
  • Social Media

    In addition, there was one notable omission, advertising which was almost completely absent from the two-day’s discussion. See last week’s post about the value and size of the regional online advertising market.

    The conversation around ecommerce generally broke into two related tracks – the online sales of physical goods and payments for consuming online content (mostly games).
    Many Malaysian, Singaporean and Indonesian entrepreneurs are looking to ecommerce (online sales) to create profitable online businesses where advertising has been unable to drive sufficient revenue.  Currently, in the Malaysian market there are a handful of major
    players in the ecommerce, storefront space – most notably eBay Malaysia, and Mudah.com.my (a joint venture between Singapore Press Holdings – SPH – and Norwegian media giant Schibsted ASA).  But as a whole the space is still small and underdeveloped.  On the conference room floor one of the most frequently mentioned obstacles to growth was online payments.  Online payments has traditionally required a credit card, but at this stage of development most Malaysians felt uncomfortable revealing this information online.  A few of the Indonesian attendees voiced similar sentiments.  If North America and Europe are any indication, this obstacle will fall as soon as there is something online that people want badly enough to push them over this barrier.    A second obstacle and a more surprising one was fulfillment.  Many of the ecommerce entrepreneurs said that unreliable local courier services and very high-priced
    international services made the cost of local Shipping & Handling (S&H) prohibitive.

    The second area and one that should present some interesting opportunities for content producers is micropayments for online or mobile content.  The infrastructure for this has been developed in Malaysia to allow consumers to pay for online gaming.  It generally involves something like a “top up” process where consumers register for an account.  They may actually get a card to help them remember the account details and in some cases to create opportunities for offline micropayments as well.  They then use the card as a debit card when they want to purchase something online.  The account is then debited and access to the product is granted.  Since the product access is immediate and payments are small, the assumption is that the amount of bad debt from unfulfilled product is kept to a minimum.

    New venture funding/venture creation also received a lot of attention in the panels as well as on the conference room floor.   Independent VC funding appeared to face several regional obstacles including the lack of sufficient scale to drive exit valuations either from IPO or acquisition.  The creation of joint ventures between established global players and local Internet companies to localize platforms clearly has some traction with Facebook, eBay’s Paypal and Rakuten announcing deals in the last year.   But as a whole the ability for any local start-up to gain enough scale to drive valuations made the investment or joint ventures a challenge.  There is clearly an opportunity to create some type of localization service for regional internet start-ups to help drive scale across the region. As one representative from Yahoo! commented that is nothing else any start-up site should have an English execution to make it at least accessible by some consumers around the region.

    Finally, in the area of social media, one of the most impressive series of presentations during the conference was from the emerging open data movement in Malaysia.  Referencing the efforts of Tim Berners Lee to develop a web of open and transparent data, the organizers of the effort highlighted trial efforts like MalaysiaCrime.com
    and Data.org.my as the beginnings of databases that would be developed from community contributions in lieu of access to government databases that are currently restricted.

    Malaysia Crime - Citizen Sourced Data

    It would be hard not to come away impressed with the sophistication in the room as well as an appreciation of the challenges that exist to build sufficient scale to drive business models in the region.

    For a look at the twitter sidebar conversation during the two-day conference, you can find follow the back and forth at #owasea.

    More to come.

    Newspapers and Content Models

    Over the last several weeks I have watched the reporting and discussion about the crisis facing the newspaper industry in the US.  There has been some good reasoned reporting and analysis.  In my opinion, Clay Shirky’s post on the newspaper industry represents one of the best.

    In much of the writing there is an undercurrent of surprise at the suddenness of the decline.  But, I think if you ask people close to some of these companies, you will find that what’s happened has been talked about for years.  Even the speed at which the product might unravel was acknowledged, if not acted upon by the people who made decisions.

    I think we knew that classified advertising was eventually going to be gone and that we had  increased our investment in news and circulation on the back of profits from a classified business that quickly had little use for the circulation investment.  I still remember when it became clear that CareerBuilder could do almost as well in a non-affiliate newspaper market with its own telesales teams as in a local newspaper affiliated market.

    I think we knew that we were trying to sell consumers newspapers that were mostly packaging and wire service to keep margins and circulation up and ultimately speeding the decline of the circulation we were trying to maintain.

    I think we knew we needed focused surgery, but couldn’t take a knife to the areas that needed to be amputated in order to save the core.

    If you are a newspaper today and trying to focus, one area you need to examine is the impact the internet has had on how we gather and create value for different types of content.

    • Reviews:  The internet has made word of mouth its own form of reporting that increasingly drives user purchase behavior and advertiser dollars.  Yelp and Zvents and the handful of social review sites have made reviews a marketing game of most friends and most reviews.
    • Opinion: Low-cost frequent punditry has made everyone the head of their own editorial page.
    • Reporting: Getting all the facts and just the facts of a particular occurrence.  Breaking a story and getting it mostly right.  The internet has changed the news cycle and the degree of precision that is required to break a story.  Newspapermen may not approve, but the audience does.
    • Investigative reporting:  I haven’t seen this model yet online.  It is a complex process.  In many ways it is like creating a movie or a video game.  The more value in the story – the deeper the investigation, the more roles and people who are required to make it happen.  There are people trying to make this work – ProPublica and a few others.   This will eventually get figured out, probably by someone who doesn’t have an immediate profit motive.  NPR, the BBC, perhaps a university project like Global Voices.

    I am not even going to comment on the comics and all of the other things that we wasted so much time in the past discussing  TV Grid in the paper or not, comics in the paper, horoscopes, … They all exist online in better formats.  Be dispassionate about it.  If it doesn’t contribute to what you want to focus on, don’t waste time discussing it.  Just let it go.

    So, what does that mean if you are trying to focus.  Some of it will be driven by scale.

    If you are in a small market, you may want to have investigative pieces and a weekend features section, … But given the size of the market, you will probably need to focus on creating a community that gets the story in and creates a reliable volume of reviews for things happening in town.  You may employ a couple of stringers to make sure this happens regularly, but that may be all the market will support in terms of revenue or engagement.  Remember that not every citizen cares about every issue enough to run out to report on it or even read them when they are reported on.

    If you are a large brand or national paper, you may have the revenue depth to compete to in all categories of content, though having a clear idea of which category represents the core of your brand and drives your most loyal consumers will be critical.  So, if you are the Washington Post are you investigation, news and reporting from the American capital?  And everything else is secondary color.  If  you are the New York Times, what are you?  Reporting from the style capital of America are you features driven?   Are you international news and reporting a la the BBC?  The challenge for them all is how to focus, you can’t continue to chip away at the news operation without a guidebook for what you want it to look like when you are done.

    If you are major regional paper like the Chicago Tribune or the Boston Globe, which way do you go?  If the national papers are staking out positions in large-scale content activities and if the barrier to compete in the local reporting and reviews space is pretty low.  What do you do?  Look for economies in the technology platform, move quicker and faster than the new entrants to develop new online features?  Invest in quality of reporting and reviews? Maybe the answer is you have to break yourself up.  Be small and aggregate up to your region?  Is there enough revenue in the market to maintain a group of reporters to report on the city?

    The other exercise that newspapers need to do is a clear understanding of revenue at risk?  Category by category of newspaper advertising needs to be examined to identify is there a dominant online advertising model for those advertisers – e.g. online job listing; what percent of the advertising is held by the newspaper, is the newspaper advertising share relatively stable?  Why?  Is there some braking inertia in the category?  Look at department stores. These stores still don’t have a good online ad unit to drive online audience to take an offline behavior.  Newspapers are often built-in to merchant coop arrangements guaranteeing some newspaper advertising presence.  So, if a good ROI driven online ad unit emerges and the marketers change the coop rules, then poof.  2 years, 3 years max.

    Sorry, just some rambling on a Sunday afternoon.  I should spend a little more time trying to organize some of this.  There may actually be a unique thought mixed in here or there.

    We knew then what would happen.  We probably know now what we need to do.  It is just very painful, but it is doable.  If the newspapers that are left are honest about what they see in the future and the implications for decisions in the present, then they need to get on with it. Articulate the future, give the employees that are going to be effected a heads-up and get on with it.

    Meebo Me

    Well, thanks again to the guys at Meebo who I increasingly depend on as I travel around.  At first I would log in into my homepage/webmail pages, check email, check out the news, …  Now I still pull up my Yahoo home page, but as soon as I hit enter I open a new window and pull up my Meebo account which centralizes all of my IM accounts ( I have three and they all get used).  While I am sitting in an internet cafe in Bali or Sydney or Singapore, I can also stay in touch with people at home who are also online. Another interesting Meebo factoid (kudos to their network people), I have NEVER had a problem logging on to my Meebo page, I can NOT say that about my Gmail page.

    Not only do I pull up the Meebo account page, but I find myself dropping into the internet cafe at about the time people in the US would also be on their IM client.  Could be coincidence.

    Anyway, Meebo has launched a little widget which I am testing in the communications section at the left, that allows anyone reading the blog who wants to send me a IM message either anonymously or directly.  Not sure how this will play out.  So, if you try it, let me know what you think.

    One outcome of all of the web-based services is I don’t think I necessarily need to be carrying a computer anymore and am definitely thinking about selling this MacBook, before moving on.  Not sure I need it.

    That sets up another post for this afternoon on packing for a long trip.  It is a rainy Sunday in Byron Bay, so I have some time to read and post.