Oprah Time: Asian Godfathers by Joe Studwell

I’d read Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works over lunar new year. Studwell dealt directly with there reasons for East Asia’s economic growth and Southeast Asia’s failing to follow them.

Asian Godfathers

Studwell attached this same subject through through a different lens. In Asian Godfathers, he tells the story through Asia’s business tycoons; from the taipans of Hong Kong to Stanley Ho – the Macau gambling tycoon.

Cosmopolitan privileged people who where in the right place at the right time. Some of them had colourful origin stories as black marketers selling fake medicines and blockade runners. But they are just a side show in a wider panorama of political greed and incompetence. Asian Godfathers is more like Hotel Babylon than an economics analysis like How Asia Works, yet it delivers its message forcefully.

The QRcode post

A few years ago, I was involved in a project that used QRcodes on OOH (out of home) activity for a retail launch. QRcode scanners varied in performance. In addition you had to think about:

  • Contrast – did the QRcode stand out?
  • Relative aspect – would it be too big or too small for the audience to scan?

In the UK, QRcodes are seen by marketers as old hat (but then they didn’t ‘get’ them in the same way that Asia did). Other people don’t really understand how to use them.
QRcode 101
Above is the picture of the local cafe around the corner from my office. The QRcode is too disjointed and blurred to read. I asked a member of staff about it and he told me that he thought it was some type of logo…

Oprah time: China’s Coming War With Asia by Jonathan Holslag

Where do I start with a book title this inflammatory? I went to the trouble of reading the book twice before starting this review. In the end, the only conclusion I can come to is ‘Policy Faultlines in East Asia’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Holsag marshals a huge range of facts and opinions within the book. If you want to have a basic understanding of modern Chinese state, the book is a good primer.

He provides insight into the Chinese Communist’s Party’s policy cornerstone of territory maximisation. They were happy to put off their agenda for tactical advantage, but never gave up on their goals. China’s neighbours have similar inflexible policy goals. There is is no win-win solution.

Time has brought increased pressures. A fight for resources to fuel further growth and water rights conflicts. Relative declines in economic growth also fuels nationalistic politics. In China, nationalistic sentiments in citizens grew with prosperity. It has become convenient for politicians to tap into nationalistic sentiments.

Holsag doesn’t attempt to provide a solution for de-escalation of these edges. His book only provides a macro-level understanding of the countries involved. For the reader who wants to understand Asia, Holsag’s book is an excellent primer.  More on China’s Coming War With Asia by Jonathan Holsag.

Edelman’s trust barometer 2016

Edelman’s Trust Barometer has become a kind of zeitgeist meter for the kind of people who go to the World Economic Forum at Davos.

This year Edelman talks about the Grand Illusion, that everyday people will follow the global elites. Income inequality and a growing realisation that the future won’t get better has gradually changed perceptions. It is yet another data point that signals the death of the American Dream and according to Citi the end of Pax Americana.

It is also worthwhile looking at BAV Consulting research on ‘the best countries in the world’ to see how country brand equity are now perceived.

More information
Prepare for the Post Pax-Americana era, says Citi – FT (paywall)
2016 Trust Barometer: Divide Opens Up Between Global Elite And Public | Holmes Report
U.S. News & World Report, WPP’s BAV Consulting & The Wharton School on best countries in the world | PR Newswire

Happy mid-autumn festival

Especially to my peeps in Hong Kong
Happy mid autumn festival

Reflecting on Yahoo!’s Q2 2015 progress report on product prioritisation

Yahoo! published a list of properties that it was closing down and services that it was changing support on over the next few months. Most of the coverage amongst the people I follow has been around the shutdown of Yahoo! Pipes, as despite its flakey behaviour it was tremendously useful for putting together cheap, fast services to help with social media monitoring. I ‘built’ monitoring pipes for the likes of Microsoft and AMD after I had left Yahoo! that included careful key word filtering. This allowed them to take this feed and syndicate ‘good’ news machine translated into different languages on different micro-sites. This ‘Pipe building’ process took just a few hours.

My friend Mat Morrison had put it up to much more inventive uses.

Yahoo! Pipes, like the Fire Eagle location service came out of a golden age of web development. An influx of talent into the business like Bradley Horowitz, Simon Willison, Stewart Butterfield, Tom Coates and Joshua Schachter brought with it a web 2.0 philosophy of data being:

  • Portable – consumers could back up their own data at any time, or use it to move to a rival service. In stark contrast to the Facebook and WeChat walled gardens of today
  • Data is to be manipulated – data could be overlaid or processed through other services, like crime data on maps, or Pipes

But enough eulogising; Pipes was an interesting idea that never got the support from consumers or Yahoo! that it needed. The service was flakey at times, if it was a car it would have been a late 1970s/early 1980s vintage Alfa Romeo or Lancia – it was that bad. It is obvious from the Yahoo! Pipes blog that it has been in a mode of minimal maintenance for years – the last post prior to the shut down notice was posted in 2012 to outline a work around from Yahoo! shutting down its Babelfish translation service (which was originally on AltaVista.com in the late 1990s and relied on technology licenced from Systrans).

Lets look at some of the other services that Yahoo! has sunset this time around.

The market specific services are interesting, as they paint a picture of Yahoo! under-performing across international markets and in sectors where it previously had a strong advertising offering. Take the cars section across the main European markets, looking at the UK offering – there is no page takeover by a car brand, there is no sponsored content and there is two banner ads (one for AutoTrader, one for BSkyB), one tiny rich content ad at the bottom of the page for the new Terminator film and one re-targeting module. If this is an indicator of what other European markets are like then automotive advertising at Yahoo! Europe is in a bad way.

TV and film properties have little to no ads on the front page, again no takeovers or sponsored content. So Yahoo! seems to be struggling with getting advertising spend in two key sectors.

If we go to Asia, the move out of the Philippines is particularly interesting, presumably driven by advertising opportunity – or the lack there of. But when you look at the economic indicators of the Philippines, there is a consistent growth predicted in retail sales according to Statista
philippines retail sales

According to Ken Research, the Philippines online advertising market grew with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 43.4% during the period 2008 – 2013 and is predicted to grow almost 15% CAGR between 2013 and 2018. E-tailing is expected to grow by 101.4% CAGR over 2013 – 2018. So why is Yahoo!, which has been established in the Philippines unable to capitalise on the in-market growth. Is it that Yahoo! sees ways to earn more money elsewhere and the opportunity cost is too high in the Philippines, or is it a broken advertising sales machine?

The closure of Yahoo! Entertainment in Singapore is more curious as Yahoo! still manages to get advertising from major brands. As I write this Oreo has a full page frame running and there is a dynamic banner by group shopping site Qoo10.

Yahoo! Mail and Contacts support of older Macs and iPhones. I was surprised that these were called out. Yahoo! Mail is depreciating support for devices running iOS4 or older and running the native mail application. A couple of things here; given Apple’s expertise at upgrading iPhone users speedily why would this even be an issue. Secondly,  why does Yahoo! need to make a special effort to support accounts that were presumably using POP3 or IMAP email standards? The webDEV standard would make a similarly curious point about Yahoo!’s depreciation of support for contacts on a Mac running OS X 10.8 and earlier. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

Over the past two years prior to this update, Yahoo! has already closed over 60 services, where does it all stop?

More information
Q2 2015 Progress Report On Our Product Prioritization | Yahoo! Blog
Pipes End-of-life Announcement | Yahoo Pipes Blog
Q4 2014 Progress Report | Yahoo! Blog

Mentos go close to the bone

Mentos put together a video that points out the minty breath freshness of their sweets and makes light of Singapore’s population issue with ‘national night’ presumably on the national day public holiday that celebrates Singapore’s independence. I thought that its risque nature was at odds with Singapore’s character, but only time will tell.

The video is on YouTube so may not be available to some readers.

I like: Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific Corporate Social Media Study 2011

Some handy slide fodder from Burson-Marsteller. It was interesting that Asian companies have gone to micro-blogs and social networks. I am not surprised as a blog needs nurturing, also you can do a lot more in 140 Chinese characters than you can do in the English language.

Unsurprisingly South Korea led the pack, partly due to the vibrant local eco-system there with the likes of Kakao Talk, LINE and mature platforms like CyWorld.

One thing I did notice which I thought was a nice touch: B-M state that the research is released under a Creative Commons licence. A small thing that demonstrates digital awareness, especially when the industry is full of proprietary methodologies and the like.

The slides are on Slideware which may not be available to all readers.

I like: Goodstuph paying it forward card

Singapore blogger Pat Law and her social influence agency Goodstuph mailed me an iron-on patch of their logo and some letter press cards to say thank you to other people.

London conference on cyberspace

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the British Government has always had the best online presence of all the different government departments, but I still find it interesting that it is they rather than the department of media and culture who are looking to lead a discussion on the future of the web and associated technologies. The FCO are hosting a conference in London on November 1-2, 2011 and are extending it online through social media platforms. I can’t help but feel the dialogue is aimed as much within the UK as internationally.

Of course, the ironic thing is that the UK isn’t at all progressive in terms of all things internet related compared to the likes of South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Iceland or Finland to name but a few countries. The Digital Economy Bill and actions done by the likes of Ed Vaizey have shown resistance rather than working out how it can benefit from the change. The music industry tried to fight the change and has torn itself apart so it will be interesting to see how that stance will work out.

Find out more here.

It’s a Facebook world (well most of it is)

My client Experian have put out research on Facebook usage out this morning. The research had two tables.

The first table looked at the average time spend on Facebook

Market Average time spent on Facebook in August 2011 per session
Singapore 38 mins 46 sec
New Zealand 30 mins 31 sec
Australia 26 mins 27 sec
UK 25 mins 33 sec
US 20 mins 46 sec
France 21 mins 53 sec
India 20 mins 21 sec
Brazil 18 mins 19 sec

The second looked at market penetration of social networks and forums as part of overall web behaviour

Market Market share for social networks and forums
Brazil 18.9%
Singapore 16.4%
US 15.4%
India 14.0%
New Zealand 13.9%
France 15.1%
Australia 13.1%
UK 12.2%

This was spread across some 9,000 social networks in the UK alone.

I found it interesting that there didn’t seem to be a clear positive correlation between the amount of time that users spent on social networks and market penetration of social networks. Does this indicate that just because social network usage maybe tending towards ubiquity doesn’t necessarily mean that they are that engaging?


Oprah Time: Beyond The Crash by Gordon Brown

On leaving office, Gordon Brown immediately spent a lot of time hammering out a book Beyond The Crash. Unlike Peter Mandelson this wasn’t the Westminster equivalent of a sordid kiss-and-tell exposé or a Tony Blair-esque sales brochure to secure speaking engagements. Instead Brown set out to do what he does best, putting on page deep thought and analysis about the knotty problem of global finances. He did an excellent job of marshaling ideas and sources in the book. His grasp on Asian economics and China in particular is very good. There is a whole section on the Asian crisis of 1998 which is well worth reading on its own.

In this respect, the book is a solid piece of work, Brown isn’t as compelling a writer as other economic thinkers that the Labour party has looked to like Will Hutton; but he does a good job at making his ideas and concepts understandable to the average reader.

Where things go wrong with the book is where Brown tries to humanise his writing. His comments of praise for colleagues and other politicians feels wooden, as if it was written into his book as a postscript. And it is because of this that we see a glimpse of Brown the politician; the polar opposite of his predecessor Tony Blair. Someone who thought at great depth and knew what to do but didn’t have the surface finish.

If you are prepared to persevere with the book, it is a good read, and is currently for sale in Amazon Marketplace at a massive discount to the cover price.

Ogilvy on Facebook Commerce with an Asian slant to the data

Interesting presentation by Ogilvy on f-commerce. It has some great data about the market opportunity for e-commerce in Asia.

A couple of thoughts on the presentation. Firstly, you may not realise it by looking at the slides but commerce was happening on Japanese social network Mixi and Korean network Cyworld before Facebook. Secondly, social commerce depends a lot on the context of the product or service purchase, it isn’t a universal opportunity.

Making a word-of-mouth video is a breeze in Singapore

Standard Chartered Bank wanted to get the Singaporean public to capture some of the excitement of the iPhone and put it around its brand and decided to use a new mobile banking application called Breeze as the vehicle to do this. So they came up with this viral film which was shot during the launch of the iPhone 4 device:

Pat Law has published the ins and outs of this viral video, providing a great case study, check it out at her Blankanvis blog.