An unscientific assessment of Baidu

Google has finally left the Chinese market for search, so I thought I would try the alternative Baidu. My trial is gloriously unscientific in nature and not particularly rigorous. I did what most consumers would have done and searched for myself.

I was quite open-minded about this, on the one hand Google has been killing the search market in Europe, nothing can touch it in the EU and they have made moderately successful forays into other sectors as well. I also know that Google is not all conquering, in fact the wheels start to come off the wagon when you venture into areas with non-Roman languages such as Russian, Korean, Japanese and Chinese.

On the other hand, Robin Li over at Baidu is no slouch. Baidu is famous for is huge index and its continued appetite to crawl content whenever and wherever it can find it.

Baidu like its Korean counterpart Naver has also managed a successful social search product running a question-and-answer service like a better version of Yahoo! Answers – largely free of spam and a more middle-class range of participants provide highly relevant quality content.

It is also blatantly obvious that Baidu doesn’t care whether it attracts a potential English-speaking audience as the entire site apart from investor relations is in Chinese.



I was expecting some divergence between Google and Baidu search engine results pages for a number of reasons. Google crawls an estimated 15 per cent of the total web, and Baidu is likely to crawl a slightly larger amount. That means that their search indexes are likely to be slightly different. Secondly the results are usually ‘flavoured’ according to local market preferences such as language and local content.

I was a bit surprised at the level of divergence between Google and Baidu, which was great than I had seen between Google and Yahoo! in the past.

First of all flavouring. A comparison between the Japanese and Chinese versions of Baidu show a high degree of variance between the two versions of the Baidu search engine.

Baidu CN vs Baidu JP

Part of the reason for the difference may be due to Chinese regulations around permitted services, for instance an educational video of me by Econsultancy on YouTube is the top result on the Japanese site and a couple of twitter related hits come in at six and seven. The Japanese site skews much more toward video services than the Chinese site which picked up profile services Plaxo and Naymz.

Interestingly, the Chinese site picked up the re-direct URI for my blog (, whereas neither the Japanese or the Chinese versions picked up my proper domain ( at all. Even when I clicked a few pages down.

Plotting Baidu China against Google Hong Kong produced an interesting diversity of the results.

Baidu CN vs Google HK

Their one point of correlation, my profile on Naymz. Again part of this may be because of my presence on services that don’t do business in China for instance YouTube and Twitter. Google rightly puts more weight and a consequently higher ranking on my Crunchbase and LinkedIn profiles than Plaxo which appears a couple of pages down on Google.

Baidu obviously puts much more emphasis on a historic redirect URI I have for my blog than the ‘real’ one and doesn’t seem to crawl the site in any great depth. I am guessing that this is because of its largely English language content.

Baidu JP vs Google JP

In Japan, the Baidu | Google comparison told a similar story. The Google flavouring between Hong Kong and Japanese versions wasn’t that great only showing differences at position five and lower on the page. Baidu Japan managed to pick up my profile and twitter profile, but didn’t pick up my blog or any professional information on the first page.

In conclusion, Baidu provides a great search experience for consumers, but am uncertain how valuable it would be for people in a professional context, for instance researching foreigners with whom they may be doing business or finding foreign presentations. I can understand why Chinese scientific audiences would be concerned by the departure of Google.

I also suspect that optimising content to make it searchable on Baidu is different to the process that I would go through for Google or Yahoo!, but that would merit far more investigation before I could blog with any confidence about it.

Links of the day

Google Apps Still A Tiny Business — Only $50 Million A Year — But Microsoft Should Be In Major Panic Mode – Some interesting information on how it is disrupting Microsoft’s corporate pricing strategy

5 Essential Apps for Your Business’s Facebook Fan Page

The Seven Needs of Real-Time Curators

Strange Days | whatleydude

How Wrong Is Net Censorship in Australia? The U.S. Government Is Officially Concerned About It – as Australia turns into North Korea

New PS3 firmware kills Linux | DigitalFoundry – Sony on a crash course to piss off geek gamers

Preview: Freebase Gridworks – dealing with the challenges of open data

The Digital Divide Will Ensure a Broadband Ghetto

A Conversation With Brad Garlinghouse, AOL’s President Of Consumer Applications – The Future of Manufacturing in the US and Europe – economists wake and smell the coffee

Economists Urge Government to Stop War on Piracy | TorrentFreak – Digital Economy Bill-type measures don’t make economic sense according to Spanish economists

Making Contact With Mr. Gmail | Webmonkey

How does The Times going paywall affect the PR industry?

Aside from the obvious out-of-pocket expenses rise with The Times going behind a paywall, how is this going to affect PROs?

For a starter The Times Online becomes becomes a less attractive publication  to pitch in stories to, with the number of unique users estimated to fall from 1.2 million to 20,000 according to Forrester Research

It is also unclear how much (if any) Google juice stories will have as no one knows how the paywalled site will manage placing content into the Google index, or whether Google would want to index it given Rupert Murdoch’s hostility to the search engine. Usually, search engine take this content in on a specially formatted XML feed, but News International would be in a rather one-sided negotiation stance with Google over why they should take it.

This is all best guess speculation at the moment and it may be wrong. Sky disrupted the UK TV market and encouraged a substantial amount of the population to pay for television content where free content reigned previously. However this was mostly down to must-see exclusive content; something that The Times doesn’t have. Unlike fellow News Corp publication the Wall Street Journal – it isn’t an essential business tool either, given that there is equivalent high quality content easily available from around the world online The Times is in a tough position.

If the estimates are right then Times online-only coverage for clients may have little-to-no benefit for clients. What do you think?

Archived from blog posts I wrote for PR Week

There is no charge for awesomeness

I love Kung Fu Panda for its visual in-jokes and the line “There is no charge for awesomeness or attractiveness”. I was reminded of this by a window sticker I saw by South Korean logistics company Hanjin.

Hanjin Express

Whilst the Royal Mail has done some interesting product design like the electric mail trolleys and the custom-built post bikes, but there is nothing in their graphic or product design that would make you smile.

Links of the day

U.K. Kids Start Social Networking Way Under the Age Limit | Fast Company

::: Kenichi Tanaka – web zine :::: 卒業制作 / Final Thesis Project – love the 8bit styles

The Times’ Paywall – Can It Work? | Forrester Blogs – you can find my take on this here.

China To Lead The Race In Clean Energy? – PSFK

Consumer rights briefing on UK Digital Economy Bill for MPs – Boing Boing

Sony accuses Beyonce of piracy for putting her videos on YouTube – Boing Boing

Gen Y Highlights From SXSW Interactive – Ypulse reports back from SXSW Interactive on some of the youthier insights gleaned, trends spotted and more!

Internet Access Vital For Those With Chronic Disease | WebProNews

Russian Search Leader Yandex Launches Custom Google Chrome BrowserChina Youthology and Youth in 2009: Dreams in an uncertain age | China Youth Watch by China Youthology 青年志

4G Hype: Field of Dreams — Seeking Alpha – it reminds me of 2000 and 3G all over again, grandoise dreams and the slower mundane reality

The Onion Uses Django, And Why It Matters To Us : django

The IFPI’s obsession with depression – music industry spin to beat back internet

EU accessibility law won’t cover design of goods, says Presidency | Pinsent Masons LLP

Will social media weaken or strengthen brands? | – interesting debate going on, says alot about the understanding of the sector by marketers

Fleishman Hillard’s plummeting parliament

Along with a number of most other people I receive my copy of PR Week and nestled inside it was a copy of the Power Book. A guide to the great and the good of the industry.

One thing immediately grabbed my attention was the advert by Fleishman Hillard on the back of the book. My inital thought was that the artwork had somehow been put on upside down by accident but the orientation of the text indicated that this was not the case.


The text enquires “Are you ready for the greatest change in public affairs in 13 years?” Which made me think that  their plummetting parliament imagery may have been meant in a far more literal sense than I had previously considered. Do you envisage government downfall in a similar manner to Fleishman Hillard at the next election?

The end of arbitrage

Some 16 years ago I managed to get hold of a number of copies of a record that I didn’t really like (U4EA – Sunshine after the rain), but that my fellow Liverpudlians loved. I knew where to get them and they didn’t, they headed to shops like 3Beat where the promo copies were being sold at 15 GBP a pop. I went to a quiet HMV and picked them up at 5.99 and sold them in the DJ booth for 10GBP as a favour to the grateful customer.

Move forward 16 years and you have access to a worldwide market through the likes of eBay, netsoundsmusic and Discogs. The arbitrage opportunity is no longer there as prices are visible and transparent. The trust levels which were previously what kept retailers in place are no longer there. Two many bootlegs from ‘reputable’ companies, ‘promo copies’ label being used on a retail release to wind up the price with false exclusivity and the ability to get most tracks digitally by hook, or by crook means that pricing is now much less elastic.

This isn’t only about records any more though, it is a similar story with many other products. Arbitrage in consumer goods is pretty much at an end.

mobileme loading screen

mobileme loading screen, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

Bit an uncharacteristic FAIL over at Apple’s email service. I hadn’t been able to get web access all day. The loading bar is something I hadn’t seen before though.

Links of the day

Mr Scruff live DJ mix from Nouveau Casino, Paris, Sat 20th March 2010 – SoundCloud – great for a dinner party, usual eclectic style from Mr Scruff Filler Item Finder – handy site for shopping on Amazon UK

UK record lobby: democracy is a waste of time – Boing Boing – another potential gaffe by Labour PPC Richard Mollett? Cory Doctorow is awaiting a recording from the Mollett camp

Crowdcast’s crowdsourced dashboard lets managers know when they might fall short | VentureBeat

Monocolumn – Youth is wasted on the young [Monocle] – concerns about chancing consumer patterns emerging from young Japanese people

behavioral economists aren’t the future of adland, planners are :: Influxinsights

Social network use varies in US, UK and China – Warc

China demands unique solutions, says P&G – Warc News – Warc

Coca-Cola aims for research revolution – WARC

NAA: Newspapers’ Dismal Year: Historic Declines For Print, Online In ‘09 | paidContent

Sixteen years in the making, Trip Hawkins’ latest game for Facebook is “best idea I’ve ever had” | VentureBeat

A few ACTA notes · TACD IP Policy Committee

Some Language Translation Plug-ins for WordPress are Best Avoided – really good tips on translations here, particularly as it affects SEO

Record sales, down. Game sales, down. Video sales, down. VHS sales… up? – looking at these numbers, why does the entertainment industry need to be saved again?

Mac Mojo: Audio and video come to MSN | Windows Live messenger for the Mac – Skype has eaten a lot of lunch here already

Hello Goodbye: What Does Talent Exodus From Internet Companies Like Yahoo Actually Mean? | Kara Swisher | BoomTown | AllThingsD – Kara Swisher taken an outspoken glass half-full analysis of Yahoo! I think that she’s drunk too much of the Bartz kool-aid

Take Your RSS Feed And To Twitter, Facebook, And Tumblr

The Inquirer – Samsung takes back its disgraced leader – things aren’t that different, we’ve had Peter Mandelson return to government from disgrace a few times

CHART OF THE DAY: Apple Is In The Middle Of The Pack On Revenue, But Crushing On Operating Profit – why Android and Windows Mobile could be bad for phones, manufacturers would not want to replicate PC business model

Still Waiting For Mobile Wallets To Change The Way We Bank and Shop | Informilo

The Social Media Bubble – Umair Haque – interesting but flawed, will have to loop back on it in more depth later

KORG Monotron | The Production Room – OMG, want, want, want. Hoping it has MIDI

Advertisers continue to cut back in the UK – Warc – this is a decline in revenue but this maybe due to the fact that digital costs less, Reckitt Benckiser is well known as moving towards digital and listed as one of the declining brands

Drew B’s take on tech PR: 17 out of 1,300 brands on Foursquare are in the UK – nice aggregation of data on Foursquare by Drew

Ericsson Reports Mobile Data Traffic Now Tops Voice –

Joining Typekit – departure of Paul Hammond to Flickr. I don’t think that there is anyone I know left on the US Flickr team now

Epeus’ epigone: The BPI’s China-like clauses in the Digital Economy Bill

29 Things: Understand the nature of conversations and their appropriateness for your client

There are times when I sit down to right a post and think ‘Ged, what on earth are you doing this fool’s errand of a post for?‘. Part of what I will put in here will be technique and is likely to run past its sell-by date as soon as I hit the publish button. In terms of the remainder, some is common sense and a significant part of it is gut instinct. Something that comes along with working in the PR game and which reading blog posts like this won’t teach you.

I was sitting here unproductively for a while mulling this over when I thought sod it, write something, anything that people can react to and comment upon. Don’t give them all the pieces, give them enough to spark their own thoughts and maybe start a conversation online. It sounded like a bit of a cop out, but it was better than my previous inaction so here goes.

The nature of conversations is hard to define, by its nature it can be dynamic and specific depending on the subject area. For instance if you are looking after a UK-orientated financial services brand then forums such as Zopa and Money Saving Expert could be as important as Twitter or a post by a prominent blogger. For business-to-business services LinkedIn Answers can be important. These conversations can easily jump networks through cross-posting of links on other sites, blogs or even by email.

This the reason why single-media services that monitor Twitter for example are the social media equivalent of trying to view the world through a drinking straw. You need to be able to have a holistic view to try and understand what is happening around you. Generally if you expect to get 100 mentions or below a month then Google Alerts is a good bet, I would also recommend looking at something like  Social Mention.

If you can afford it, it is worthwhile considering professional holistic monitoring tools. There are a number of these out there, notably Brandwatch and Radian6. When we have clients that can afford it we use Radian6 for measurement and monitoring as they have a proven track record behind them and tend to develop ways of plugging into new social media services like Twitter faster than their competition. Nothing is perfect so I would still back these up with a Google Alert if possible.

Questions you should be thinking about:

  • You’ve discovered social media commentary that refers to your organisation, is it positive, negative or neutral?
  • What kind of ‘neighbourhood’ is the post in? Is is on a platform that tends to flame, belittle and generally go negative?
  • Is the neighbourhood ‘well trafficked’? Does it have any authority, would responding give it more credit than it deserves?
  • Have other parties already stepped in and balanced the discussion out?
  • Is the commentary meant to be a joke or satirical in nature?
  • Are their factual errors in the commentary? Do they need to be corrected?
  • Do you think that you need to get legal advice?
  • Is the commentary due to a poor quality interaction with one of the organisation’s stakeholders? Can it be fixed?
  • Is the commentary something that you would like to share with other people as an example of the right kind of third party commentary on your organisation?

Generally forums tend to be self-regulating so you have to moderate with a lighter touch than you would generally expect.


Trust yourself

You know more than you think you do.

That is how Dr. Benjamin Spock opened up his famous book Baby and Childcare, and the advice is equally as valid in this situation. What many people tend to get lost in is that social media is about people, everything else is stuff that gets in the way conceptually, its packaging, stuff nothing more. Your intuition, built up from decades of social interaction will serve you in good stead, pay attention to it. The vast majority of the time, when I am doing consultancy, I am reaffirming what people knew already – I am essentially a provider of reassurance.

Like any other part of PR, document what you do and keep the records and correspondence involved, you never know when you may need them; we live in litigious times.

Posts in this series

29 things: the basics of how to record audio

29 things: how Wikipedia works and how to get involved in the process of having a post changed

29 things: how to tweet

29 Things: Understand the nature of conversations and their appropriateness for your client

29 things: how to use Google for fun and profit

29 things: how to use an RSS reader

29 things: how to organise a PR account

29 things: how to embed pictures and video

29 things: how to create a link

29 things: how to touch-type

29 things: how to manage your communications platform

29 things for PR people

This was the post that started it all: 29 not-very-technical things that every PR person should know

Google UK Budget real-time update module

Google UK Budget realtime update module, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara. searches for information on today’s budget featured a real-time scrolling box of the latest news and analysis appearing. Usually you may see this for tweets but rarely for news items.

Links of the day

Experiment to Freak Out Expedia and – John Battelle’s Searchblog – this could be exceptionally disruptive and empowering for hotels. It screws the aggregators as their most profitable area at the moment is hotels, apparently there is no margin in flights

EU will probe google – The Inquirer – does Google need probing probably, but because of Foundem? Gimme a break

China has every right to be upset with Google right now – nice to see TechCrunch taking a more rational viewpoint on the China-Google issue

Toys R Us enters gun accessory market!!! | The Firearm Blog – the best thing I have read since the original reviews on Amazon of the Katie Price and Peter Andre album

Burger King: Whopperface | Ads of the World – genius, great advert and a great example of mass customisation, thanks to my colleague Hannah

Mark McLaughlin: Audiences Don’t Pay for Content

Coca-Cola top grocery brand by sales in UK – Warc News – Warc

Beet.TV: Anonymous Economist Writers Get Initials on Posts – Economist gets with the social media programme

Dr Martens uses music to build online presence – Brand Republic News – Brand Republic

Yiyi Lu: More Chinese Officials Will Become Media Stars – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China’s tech companies go global while no one is watching | Net Effect – why protests about Chinese internet policy are a mute point

Cinemek – Tools for film makers. – mobile storyboard composer

Top iPhone app prices drop steeply worldwide | VentureBeat

The Facebook Nestle Mess: When Social Media Goes Anti-Social

Social Media Today | The Economics Of Facebook Games

UK Anti-Piracy Lawyers Threaten File-Sharing Forum | TorrentFreak

We The Media – A quick timeline on the collapse of Cash Gordon … « FluffyKittens – Dan Catt explains what on earth #cashgordon was all about

Communities Dominate Brands: Paid smartphone apps – half get under 1,000 downloads! What does this mean

Amebaなう(アメーバなう) – celeb studded micro-blogging service a la Twitter

Prepare Your Company For Social Media Attacks « Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang

Hitwise Intelligence – Gen Ys most loyal shoppers to Appliances and Electronics sites

10 Ways All Employees Can Contribute to Link Building | Search Engine Journal

Broadband as an election issue

My post earlier today for Left Foot Forward analysed Gordon Brown’s speech where he put internet connectivity up as a central election issue. However, there isn’t that much separating Labour from the Conservatives in this regard. The vision of his speech will be additionally impacted by the All Expenses Paid Vacation in Corfu Digital Economy Bill which will cast a substantial part of the population out of reach of access to electronic government. You can find out more on Brown’s Broadband Bravado at Left Foot Forward.

Trial by Twitter

A couple of things have started to get me thinking about the nature of real-time discussion of an event over Twitter. Umair Haque’s interview of Evan Williams (@ev) of Twitter got hammered in real-time on Twitter to a worldwide audience following the SXSW conference. A number of weeks earlier, I had participated in a discussion hosted by Amnesty International where a ‘Twitterwall’ was projected behind a panel discussion. The criticism in that case was much more muted.

I found the whole process very interesting however since it was like silent heckling, and like a good heckler it doesn’t take much to turn the audience against the stage in a mob mentality. This is nothing new, conference channels on IRC have been havens of snark for years, but Twitter makes this more visible, more participatory and quickly becomes mob-like diminishing responsibility.

The speaker’s role is becoming more like that of a good club DJ, having to keep a better eye on the dynamics of the audience and adjusting their pace and tonality on the real-time feedback. The old adage of respect is earned, not commanded is now extended to conferences and I don’t think that its a bad thing.