November 25, 2005

Direct marketing and feeds…a “killer channel”

Filed under: Direct Marketing,Loyalty — Administrator @ 11:36 am

FeedBurner has a new Feed For Thought article titled, “How feeds will change the way content is distributed, valued and consumed” that I think is really worth reading…

Here is a bit of the article:

Today, feeds are largely considered the output of content management systems. You create an article, an Atom/RSS version of that article gets generated, and that’s it. Visitors to the site see an html view of the content, and subscribers to the feed get some rendering of the same content (derived from the feed) in their aggregator.

Since the feed data is semi-structured, it is possible to enhance the feed with 3rd party services in a generalized way. Meta-data can be readily incorporated and other content can be spliced into the feed based on easily parsed feed elements…like meta-data additions (Media RSS, iTunes tags) and content splicing (links and photos) for some time now….

We can leverage the benefits of feed structure to allow publishers to provide a feedback loop to the Web site; the feed can become input to content on the site. There are unique capabilities that can be provided to the site as a function of performing transformations and enhancements to the feed derived from that web content.

I am totally convinced that there is a killer direct marketing/targeted email model that specifically leverages feeds…this includes developing a direct marketing feed aggregator…

The team at Shanghai based 1Diantong also think so, and thus they are working to integrate feeds into their distribution channels…it is going to be fun to watch how this plays out…

November 21, 2005

Article about Tim O’Reilly…harnessing collective intelligence

Filed under: Start-up First Aid,Web 2.0 — Administrator @ 6:16 pm

Great article about Tim O’Reilly by Steven Levy from October’s

Two solid points I took away from the article that every entrepreneur should keep in mind:

1) Beneath every “no” lays a “yes” that had never been broken

2) Harness collective intelligence

How will services like GoogleBase impact China’s portals and direct marketing?

Filed under: Direct Marketing,Web 2.0 — Administrator @ 4:14 pm

Follow-up to post below “Internet indispensable for young people” is Adam Green’s posting on how 2006 will be year Internet explodes , he notes:

The explosion I am talking about is the shifting of a website’s content from internal to external. Instead of a website being a “place” where data “is” and other sites “point” to, a website will be a source of data that is in many external databases, including Google. Why “go” to a website when all of its content has already been absorbed and remixed into the collective datastream.

The obvious leaders this space are and GoogleBase, which will evenutally make their way to China (i.e. mainstream). We’ve talked about before, but not GoogleBase:

Google Base is a place where you can add all types of information that we’ll host and make searchable online. You can describe any item you post with attributes, which will help people find it when they search Google Base.

I wonder how this will impact the traffic flow to China’s Internet portals where “entertainment” (e.g. gaming, MP3) is a key driver of traffic and not news and information as it is in the US or Europe? MP3 can definitely get distributed by RSS, but you can’t do that with gaming…

I do think this will have a major impact — though, perhaps not an explosion — on China’s advertising industry, specifically on the direct marketing side of the equation; my money’s on the company that can: (1) build the deepest/richest user database; and (2) aggregate information from other websites and leveraging this data to generate dynamics adverts.

Come to think about this sounds a lot like Matrix meets the Truman show

Internet indispensable for young people

Filed under: Direct Marketing,Marketing — Administrator @ 3:50 pm

If you had any doubt about the importance of the Internet in China, have a read of the latest results from an Internet usage survey conducted by Social Survey Center of China Youth Daily.

Below are some bits:

I can’t imagine a life without the Internet,” said Lin, a junior of Southwest University of Finance and Economics of China.

Some 19 percent of the 4,032 respondents said the Internet “can take the place of everything.”

About 62.2 percent of the Chinese netizens often play games online, 56.5 percent often download music and 53.5 percent download entertainment information from the Internet

Amazon is tagging

Filed under: Marketing,Web 2.0 — Administrator @ 3:22 pm

I was searching for Tom Clancy’s new “novel” from his Jack Ryan series when I realized that Amazon has updated their platform to incorporate tags.

Amazon calls tagging “CAPs”

November 14, 2005

Amazon Mechanical Turk…computers outsource to humans?

Filed under: Outsourcing — Administrator @ 2:48 pm

Amazon has a new service called Amazon Mechanical Turk which is sort of an outsourcing service whereby computers outsource to humans. I signed up and made US$0.21 last week, below is a summary of myAmazon Mechanical Turk activity for the week ending Nov 12, 2005:

Weekly HIT Activity:
– Number of HITs accepted: 7
– Number of HITs returned: 0
– Number of HITs abandoned: 0
– Number of HITs submitted: 7
– Number of HITs approved: 7
– Number of HITs rejected: 0
– Amount earned this week: $0.21

Does anyone remember what Terminator 3 was about…”Rise of the Machines”?

Maybe we are closer to that scenario than we think…

November 11, 2005

Bryan Ellis from Bertelsmann China talks about his acid test for loyalty programs

Filed under: Direct Marketing,Loyalty — Administrator @ 11:54 am

I had a chat with Bryan Ellis from Bertelsmann’s Book Club in Shanghai. Bryan is somewhat of an expert in direct marketing and loyalty programs; he was kind enough to pass along some interesting insights and lessons he has learned over his 8+ years at Bertelsmann, such as his acid test for weeding out the “players” from the “non-players” in the loyalty universe.

Bryan’s acid test is made up of three parts:

a. Who are the partners in the coalition?
b. How can a new member leverage this network?
c. What is the spread (buy v. sell)?

He noted that in China, most companies get some derivative of part “a” and part “b”, but no one has every been able to nail the economics of the business…or what he calls the spread…

November 9, 2005

Scams in China volume 1: Domain Names

Filed under: Regulatory,Start-up First Aid — Administrator @ 12:49 pm

Since December 2005, I have had no less than four phone calls from Chinese ISP and domain registrars telling me that some one wants to register a domain name that corresponds to or sounds like our company name in Chinese. I’m told the only way to stop this third party from registering my domain name is by paying them RMB 13,000. Whatever!

I don’t think there is anyone wanting to register a domain. I think they’re just going through the phone book or Googling companies — making this up as they go along. Anyhow, domains don’t have the value that they used to thanks to Google Base,, etc.

November 8, 2005

Loyalty and direct marketing gurus visit Shanghai

Filed under: Direct Marketing,Loyalty — Administrator @ 7:18 pm

Last week, Eric Tilenius and Steve Markowitz were in Shanghai visiting, etc. I had the chance to sit down with with these two loyalty and direct marketing thought leaders and chat about what makes a good loyalty program worth investing in.

Their core message was that any loyalty program worth its salt will work to achieve the following four goals/benefits:

1. Acquisition
2. Activation
3. Stimulation
4. Retention

Makes a lot of sense…funny thing is that 99% of these programs are okay at the “acquisition” part but fall dramatically short of the latter bits; most likely this has to do with an underdeveloped network/partnership and flat direct marketing campaigns…

I’m talking from experience: In 2000, I was a Director at Hong Kong based online brokerage, and one of the most time consuming yet ineffective services we offered was a loyalty program called “Boom Points”. The idea was to give Boom Points to our customers each time they placed a trade; the amount of points were based on the size (value in HK$/US$) of each trade.

Some of the places we went wrong was in the following ways:

1. Trade sizes were not large enough for customers to earn nearly enough points to make it worth their while; they would have had to make institutional size trades

2. Because each Boom Point represented a $ amount, customers could calculate each points exact worth; in other words, what incentive did you have to trade more if you knew you could purchase the same radio Boom offered at Fortress for 30% less?

3. We didn’t offered any perishable goods, such as airline tickets ( high perceived value, yet low marginal cost); and thus we lost real money each time a customer redeemed points

4. Customers could only earn points at Boom; we should have build a platform or leveraged our branding to build a network effect

5. We didn’t create any impactful direct marketing campaigns to stimulate or enlarge our network

Hard lessons, for sure, but lessons nevertheless…I’m waiting for a company in China or Hong Kong to come along that can successfully address the four points Eric and Steve waxed on about…

The Venture Capital Squeeze

Filed under: Start-up First Aid — Administrator @ 6:34 pm

Paul Graham wrote an interesting bit on the four reasons why venture capital funds are going to get squeezed in the coming years. Basically, he say what few quality deals are out there now want less and less money, because it’s getting so cheap to start a startup. The four causes of this are:

1. Open Source: which makes software free
2. Moore’s Law: which makes hardware geometrically closer to free
3. the Web: which makes promotions free if you’re good
4. Better Language: which makes development a lot cheaper

It is funny because there are just too many good deal in China to get involved in, the problem is too many VCs are looking for the perfect deal but a lot of new entrants seem to forget that we are in a developing country and not in SV; and thus, you either get your hands dirty and pulled together the “best of” or roll-up the fund and head home…

The future of TV in China…look to the what is shaping up in the USA or not?

Filed under: Technology,Tencent — Administrator @ 4:47 pm

Recent announcements by major broadcast and cable networks, digital recording devices, and Internet portals in the US are blurring the lines between TV and Internet…what ramifications will this have on the future of TV advertising and content? What are the implications for China?

Below is a summary of some of these events:

(November 7, 2005) David Lieberman from USA TODAY reports that, “Tailored, ad-free TV gains ground

CBS and NBC delivered another hammer blow to the traditional TV economic model on Monday by agreeing to let some Comcast and DirecTV customers pay 99 cents to watch certain hit shows on demand and ad-free

(November 6, 2005) Michael Singer from CNET reported, “Yahoo, TiVo to connect services

Users of Yahoo’s TV page will be able to click on a record-to-TiVo button directly from a television program listing to remotely schedule recordings.

There seems to be a couple things going on here: (1) Networks are waking up to the fact that advertising dollars are eroding and must search for alternative pools, and thus video-on-demand as well as digitalizing content for the web seems to be two solutions; (2) Internet portals are looking to go the other way, for example TiVo is one of the few devices that provides consumers with the ability to both record broadcast and Internet videos and deliver this to the TV.

In a sense, we are truly seeing the convergence of channels, rather than mediums…I guess the question is who benefits the most from this convergence? It seems to me it might be the online players as they are leading the charge in real-time/rich media/contextual advertisement, for example, Yahoo reported a YoY 46% gain in 3Q05 advertising revenues…

…the networks by moving towards video-on-demand (or even a rental model) seem to be acknowledging the inadequacies of traditional TV advertising model…

Back to China and how events in the US might impact the environment out here…

Based on our analysis, TV accounted for 40% of total advertising spend in 2003, we expect this to decline to 32% at end of 2005. This decline largely comes on the back of an increase in interactive/web based advertising spend, which we are forecasting to grow on a 2005 to 2009 CAGR of 25% to US$1.5 billion.

If you trust that these numbers at least illustrate the macro trend, then what should we be looking to invest in to ensure we’ll hit the next wave — that is if we aren’t already in the next wave?

And finally, does this make IPTV irrelevant and portals, such as Tencent’s QQ increasingly more relevant?

mmm…I think it does…

November 7, 2005

Video gets Flickr’d…BIG TIME!

Filed under: Podcasting,Social Networks,Video/Film,Web 2.0 — Administrator @ 6:32 pm

This weekend, I was listening to last week’s Microsoft Live Windows press conference and somehow ended up playing around with Google Video… then it occurred to me that there must be a website that maps Flickr’s functionality to videos

…and so I started digging and came up with a lot of these sites, here are some of them:

I also read on Flickr’s blog that they will be adding video capabilities in the near future…

I am wondering how these sites will differentiate themselves from one another? Features? Community? Branding? Content? All these answers are so generic and yet spot on…

You know what? This started out as a platform play but it is quickly shaping up to be a drag race

November 1, 2005

iTunes video sales top 1 million downloads in 20 days…see content counts, not free access!!

Filed under: Regulatory — Administrator @ 8:52 pm

Yesterday, Apple announced that iTunes customers purchased over 1 million videos since videos debuted about 20 days ago on October 12, 2005.

Customers can choose from over 2,000 music videos, Pixar short films and hit TV shows for just $1.99. Top downloads include music videos from Michael Jackson, Fatboy Slim and Kanye West; Pixar’s “For the Birds” and “Boundin’”; and episodes of ABC’s hit TV shows “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.”

I’ve personally bought several videos, mostly Lost episodes. Music videos are nice, but there are only a handful I’d actually want to watch repeatedly. TV shows are great, though. The picture quality could be tweaked a little, so viewing on a Mac was a little better…

Meanwhile, Sprint Nextel has launched the first US music download service aimed at mobile phone users.

iTunes doesn’t have this functionality…but I know of one IT company based in Hong Kong (just down the street from my office) developing a mobile platform that searches for MP3s and then allows users to download these songs to their mobile phone…they earn money from the download (it works quite well)…interestingly enough the company is listed on the Hong Kong Exchange…in my book this is illegal…and they should be delisted for developing this functionality….

Along the same lines, I read an article from Beijing News reporting R2G’s suit against CDC, Hurray and Any8 for music copyright infringements:

Beijing based online intellectual property piracy monitor R2G will sue wireless value added service providers CDC Corporation (Nasdaq: CHINA), Hurray (Nasdaq: HRAY), Any8 and Altratek for mobile music copyright infringement, R2G told The Beijing News on Monday…

I understand “China is a developing country…blah blah blah” but this does not give companies, especially listed companies, the right to profit from illegal downloads…if fact, I strongly believe after several warnings, if a public company continues to engage in this sort of business they should be delisted…period!

My view is if you aren’t creative enough to come up with unique content or smart enough to structure deals to distribute exclusive content that people are willing to pay for…then there really is no long term business model for your platform…how many “distribution” sites can the market support?

Here is a hint…look at the broadband market in the US…its consolidating…fast! Om Malik from Business 2.0 has a lot of intelligent things to say about this, click here to read more

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