Friday, May 29

Bending copyright boundaries: and New Google

I've just taken a look at the preview video for (Microsoft) and Google's new approach to reviews. I can't help wondering where this leaves the rest of the world's internet companies!

Google's stated mission was always to help people find info fast and push them onto to the content owners for relevant info as quickly as possible. The latest iteration of search from the giants is to aggregate customer reviews for hotels, gadgets, computers, restaurants, etc from all the 'trusted' sources and present the info on the search site... hmmm

As far as I can see, most of the 'trusted' sites business models IS the reviews and results, so this new approach to search is breaking that foundation. It's breaking the give-take relationship with search engines and publishers, and it begins to push search vertically up the value-chain, into niche areas. Most of the big media owners have made Google very aware of the boundaries in aggregating news content into Google News. I wonder if the review sites will have the same power.

CNET, Tripadvisor, TopTable and the millions of smaller review sites don't have open API's to these reviews. So, in effect, the search engines are flagrantly breaking copyright - unless, of course, it is for 'non-commercial purposes'.

You could argue that it's good for the consumer, as they get a quicker snapshot of results. The search engines may argue that it is good for the review sites (which would be hard to believe). The negative impact and fallout in the internet industry could be enormous if this approach to search is accepted. For instead of investing in the content and communities in these millions of niche areas, the search engines are creaming the best, for free, for themselves. And that only leads to less revenue for the smaller guy's, less competition and less quality in content.

Search is at a cross-roads. It's not smart-enough. But delving so far into vertical communities, and not just providing results but taking reviews may be a step too far.

There surely has to be a revenue share paid to the content owners, else this is simply copyright theft. If I want to make an action movie, I can't splice the best bits of Terminator 4, Die Hard, Independence Day and release a blockbuster movie worldwide, without some kind of deal with the creators of those films.

WolframAlpha is smart, and it fits well into the eco-system of the internet. Bing and Google are going head-to-head with their own industry :(

I'd love to see what other people make of this.

Wednesday, May 27

Game Changers: The Kindle

"Kindle accounted for c.10% of N American books sold in Q1 2009; c.4 mil of 38 mil sold - (RT @stevehall)" (from @bbhlabs twitter)

For those of us outside of the Kindle-fever countries, I'd say this just about sums it up. 10% of all books sold in Q1! Expect the traditional publishing industry to follow the music industry into a decade of arse-covering, future hating legal-suits. The 'free downloaders' are coming! But the industry will be bigger and faster moving than ever before. Book publishers, you better get your game-on because your industry is about to take-off.

The hype and outreach marketing on Kindle is so reminiscent of the iPod, that it's sometimes hard to believe this isn't an Apple product. Massive credit to Amazon for truly launching a game-changing device.

(I would have hoped News Corp to take the lead in this field, given it's portfolio companies and R&D in the e-paper space).

Monday, May 25

Yahoo Vietnam is quickly losing ground to Vietnam's home-grown services

Saturday was Saigon's first Digital Marketing conference and what a room full of beautiful and smart people it was too. I spoke on Digital 101, which was a lot to cover in 1 hour but seemed to be well received. My presentation included children, humour, hot girls and a little violence, so it had the right ingredients for entertainment value.

An interesting take-out from the day was Yahoo confirming that their blogging product 360! is closing...but that actually it is not, it's just a simple upgrade path to 360+. Unfortunately, most of Vietnam believes 360! is dead completely and are already well on their way to moving onto new platforms (Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Blogger). It was quite a striking example of how in the digital space, information spreads fast, whether it is correct or not. I'm afraid for Yahoo, they've lost their "web" hooks into this market now and will have to rely on IM and Email as their trojan horse to other services.

Mentioned on Saturday was that Yahoo 360! has 1m users. If that is correct, then it is quite significantly smaller than I had imagined. Let's say there are 28m Vietnamese online, Yahoo! 360 has 3.6% of online users. That probably still makes it the leading blogging platform but I suspect not by far, Blogger and My Opera cannot be too far behind.

If you think the 'active' user base may be 30% of 1m, then the platform is already dead. You'll see a much more active base on Vietnamese social networks.

The rapid (albeit small numbers) move of Vietnamese to Facebook, Twitter as well as locally grown social networks like YoBanBe (VinaGame), is a more significant trend than Yahoo and many others are giving credit to. Facebook is a low-effort service which can easily surpass Yahoo 360's user numbers inside 12 months. Guestimates are that 100,000 Vietnamese are now on FB. If each invite 10 friends, FB will already be larger than 360!

Of course, none of this is new news, since the demise of Yahoo 360 as we know has been coming for a long-time. What stands out for me is how Yahoo is looking very Web 1.0 in these times, and that the industry boom in content, media and (hopefully) revenue is all to play for. Yahoo needs a much stronger digital strategy 'for Vietnam' (a locally relevant gameplan) if it wants to fight off the growth of Vietnamese sites like Zing, Kenh14, etc.

With so many plugged into it's IM and email products, it surely has the ingredients to beat anyone. For Yahoo is a market-leader, no doubt. It has the power, the brand and the tools to win. But it doesn't know that it's slowly losing the war. Those research questions from Yahoo need to quickly focus on what the Vietnamese digital influencers are doing, where they are spending their time "now" and what their perceptions are. I think it may give Yahoo a shock.

Wednesday, May 20

Video: Inspiring Entrepreneurs to Inspire

Friday, May 15

What's wrong with Murdoch's dream to charge for news online

Rupert Murdoch, the part-owner and chairman of News Corp (Star TV, 20th Century Fox, The Times, The Sun, Wall St Journal...) announced that the day's of the free internet are over, and New's will pursue a paid content strategy within 12 months.

Having worked long and hard on both The Times and The Sun's digital products for many years it's a surprising statement and strategy to me. 5 years ago both The Times and The Sun were really not punching their weight, with less than 1m unique users per month each. Over that time investment in content, marketing and technology has brought both titles to around 20m unique users. The point, is that they are each influential in their own right, they reach millions of people each day and the revenues are healthy (albeit a million miles from newspaper takings).

Having built a platform of audience, of influence and of advertisers/commerce, News Corp is in a powerful position to grow new revenues in the digital age. Unfortunately, in these times, we all need the revenue to come along quicker, to grow faster, to replace declines in print. So comes the 'dream' of charging for content, again!

The Wall Street Journal does very nicely from it's subscription revenue. In fact, in studies that I made a few years ago WSJ was earning substantially more than it would have from a free/open advertising business-model. But that's the exception, not the rule. The WSJ is a globally known 'busines' news source, it delivers something of high-value (business thought and news) that many cannot do without. Like The Economist, it's a thought leader and an influencer to which people subscribe.

The quality of journalism in The Times is certainly on par with WSJ but to think that this makes it chargeable is a very 'internal' product-led view of the world. The truth is that the readers 'value' from the content is much less if it is not influencing their daily work or business decisions. The content may well be fantastically written but the prose in "Spur's destruction of Chelsea" (that's my dream!) is not content that a large number of people will pay for...

The reasons:

1) It doesn't add enough value to me (not in the same way a stockmarket recommendation would)

2) I can ALWAYS get that same information for FREE online elsewhere (it may not be so well crafted, but the facts remain the same)

3) The news product is not the "some of it's parts" when it's online. I will only read the bits that I find personally interesting. So you can't charge me $1 a day since one day I might find 1 article interesting, the next day it might be 10 articles.

4) We are still at the beginning of the digital age, many people have still not developed their habits, their brand preferences

5) The internet is GLOBAL. The Times and The Sun are extending their brands from NY and London to Saigon and Siberia. To people in Saigon, The Times is new, not something to charge a premium for.

I expect The Times is the most likely target to trial a new subscription/"pay as you go" service on. I will feel quite sad if that is the case. The pay barrier will hemorrhage readership very quickly, the global reach and influence of the content will diminish overnight and the platform that has been built for the transition of paper to web will be taken away.

Internet business-models are continuing to develop fast, revenues are building proportionately quickly (compared with other media)...just be patient. Please Mr Murdoch, don't hold onto the Candle when the Lightbulb has already been lit.

Monday, May 11

Asia Geek Events for All

A couple of shameless plugs for some Tech events hitting Asia over the coming month:

First up, one that I am speaking at:

"SDM: Vietnam's First Interactive Marketing - Advertising Exhibition & Conference."

In a market where the total media spend online was $8m last year...but where there are 25m people online, there's a huge opportunity for marketeers in Vietnam to 'go digital'. SDM (Saigon Digital Marketing) aims to bring together digital experts with marketeers. It's a day-long event and exhibition on 23.05.09 in Ho Chi Minh City.

I'm covering "Digital Marketing 101: Tips And Tricks From Planning And Strategy To Execution And ROI". It's going to be a one-hour, whirl-wind tour of Digital Marketing, for those marketeers with and without budgets.

Register for the conference and/or exhibition here

Next, The "Geeks on a Plane" Tour.

"Geeks On A Plane is all about leveraging the combined cross border networks of Dave McClure, Founders Fund and Web2Asia to offer attendees an opportunity to accelerate the process of meeting and connecting with key contacts in Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai's tech and investment sector."

Sounds like a fantastic way for Asian natives to swap knowledge and learn from each other. And 'Asian-impostors' like myself to meet and learn from the best of the big internet players in Asia's biggest digital markets.

It's an invitation only event so register your 'interest' at Geeks On A Plane's website

Tuesday, May 5

The fever hits Vietnam... Twitter

Sorry, it's been a while, hello blog! A quick update on what we've been up-to, before some more serious posts in the morning...

The fever has definitely made it's way to Vietnam and it could be an epidemic...Twitter that is, not H1N1! Vietnam is starting to get the Twitter bug, buoyed by local and international media hype. The tech media has certainly been crying out for something to talk about other than Facebook or Google's latest lab project.

Like many, I started on Twitter a few years back, and was underwhelmed. What Twitter has pulled-off is launching with a very very very stripped back service and sticking to it. Many, like me, probably dropped off after their first taste. But now twitter has members, active members and lots of them. So the service is alive with inane rumblings from around the world. Like many people, I'm not sure Twitter (or it's members) can survive this level of attention. It's destined to be spam city an even easier place to spam than email. I hope not.

At we're on the Twitter bandwagon already. We released Vietnam's Twitter page, letting our members watch public tweets coming exclusively from Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Hai Phong and Da Nang. We also added some 'Tags' to let people find the Buzz on Twitter from Vietnam. Filtering for tweets with the word 'hot' or 'love' can throw up some interesting results... but it's always entertaining.

6 months ago there was lots of talk of Twitter clones in Vietnam, but now much of that's subsided. There are some great clones (better than the real thing)...but as most marketers know, it's the first in the mind not the best product which wins.

Like most tech services, the penetration lies in the major cities with HCM and HN generating tens of thousands of tweets a day. But in Vietnam's second/third largest cities there are just 3 members each, Hai Phong and Danang!

So today we launch a campaign "Buzz wants to double the number of Twitter members in Vietnam's second largest cities" ;) (that'll be 6 more people, I think we can do it!)

And, if you speak/read Vietnamese and want to follow some of the cool stuff we save at Buzz, follow us at