Posted by: Blue Heavens | 29 April, 2008

Bloggers Rank the Lowest in Consumer Trust

This is a pretty interesting post from Jeremiah Owyang, where he uploaded a few research reports on consumer trust. Problem is, this poll is about North Americans, and there are tonnes of bloggers there. So then, does this report paint a picture about consumers in Asia, particularly Singapore?

And in that case, should companies continue to engage bloggers to showcase and give online reviews about their products? Seems like exposure is the main thing here!

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Posted by: Blue Heavens | 24 November, 2007

Objectivity of Old Media = Perceived Objectivity?

I refer to this news article from Straitstimes Online. In case that you are unable to read the article, Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, talked about the advantages of Old Media (eg. Television, Radio, Newspapers) against that of the New Media such as blogs, chatrooms and user-generated video. He pointed out that 2 main points differentiates the different tiers of Media, Professionalism and Objectivity.

Here, I state that I believe that mainstream Old Media will not be doomed just because of the New Media. So the worry is not about the survival of Old Media, but the points of difference as mentioned by Dr Lee.

Professionalism

  • There’s no major argument against this aspect as in terms of Professionalism, New Media still lags behind. If you compare citizen journalism to mainstream journalists, there’s no doubt that mainstream journalism is still considered professional as it is still a sought-after and noble(as someone puts it) profession in the industry (pun not intended).
  • However, what I feel here is that the term “Professionalism” is a subjective term, subjective because it is determined by society. It is the social beliefs and norms that determine the difference between a professional and an amateur, which here divides Old Media and New Media. Therefore, it will not be surprising that New Media, in the not too distant future, might catch up in this particular segment. You might end up with tonnes of freelance journalists and reporters pledging their alliance to online media moguls.

Objectivity

This is where I will put my money up against. I might not be totally correct in my argument, so try not to take my words too seriously.

  • I believe that the “Objectivity” that Dr Lee mentioned in the news article, is actually more of the Perceived Objectivity that the masses have put their faith in, and will do so for years to come. Quite a few of us out there have doubts on the “Objectivity” of Old Media, because I think that it is a result of: consumerism and social objectivity.
  • Consumerism:
    • Most Mainstream(Old) Media out there are creating things that are meant to attract, capture attention, and ultimately, increase viewership. Of course this can be done in different ways and in this case, putting what people believe in or what people would want to see. In this case, money is the winner. If they can create something that people would want to believe in and would want to watch, I would say for most parts, sex and violence sells.
  • Social Objectivity:
    • The fact that the bigger local media companies have, one way or another, links to the State doesn’t really help. Up till the popularization of cyberspace, alternate communication, we believe in whatever these companies want us to believe in. Also, the fear of getting convicted for questioning the government sorts of tamed us to think in a certain direction. I would term this as a forced perceived objectivity. Something that we might have been forced to believe in has become society’s views.

Let me put across a concept which can be made possible by the New Media:

Subjectivity Statement

What do I mean? Everyone knows that blog posts, online comments and chatrooms tend to be biased. However, the Online Media could be able to bring the majority of the arguments together to induce a more Objective view to a topic of discussion. Bearing in mind that Perfect or Absolute Objectivity does not and will not exist in this world, this would reflect society’s perception of Objectivity. This could be tweaked towards finding the social perception of a particular state, nation or region in this world.

You might think that isn’t a particular society’s perceptions and views shaped by the country’s forced perception? This could be true if we were talking about 2 or 3 decades ago, but in each society, there are people who agree and there are those who don’t. The gap has now been brought closer through cyberspace communications where we have inter-social and inter-cultural interactions where views and beliefs are being shared throughout the world. You can find more and more people online who are questioning the authorities, no matter if they’re hiding behind the veil or not. Governments would have to step over to the New Media side to continue their influence over the people.

Does this statement hold? Think about it…

Posted by: Blue Heavens | 5 November, 2007

So Many Players in such a Small Market

The furore over the administration fee imposed by Nuffnang has been continuing for so long that it seems that there’s a dark force behind supporting and pushing for this online riot. Now it has even spilled over to the States on TechCrunch. My question is, why criticise and compete when the survival of these online advertising companies are dependent on each other. Being an avid online marketing advocate, I can see that the dragging on of this problem is going to harm not just Nuffnang, not Advertlets, nor other up and coming CPM startups, but most importantly, the credibility of using online platforms such as blogs for doing advertising and running online campaigns.

Let’s start with my main argument her. Over these past few weeks, it seems like a couple of new players in this area coming up to try and inch their way into the small market share that the bloggers in Singapore and Malaysia provides. Of my knowledge, bloggers here can use:

  1. Google Adsense
  2. PayPerPost
  3. Nuffnang
  4. Advertlets
  5. BlogConceptz
  6. Blog2U
  7. Other non-local based services as seen on Sha Money Maker

There might be a couple of others outside my knowledge so feel free to let me know.

So why am I complaining about having so many players in the field? IMHO, it’s more of like demand and supply in an economic theory. To put it simply, I think that, the more advertising “agents” out there that we have, the lesser each one of them will earn in terms of ad sales to participating companies. In the long run, this will affect the overall turnover of the advertising companies, and ultimately, the blogger.

Of course, there might be some counter-arguments that bloggers do not really care about how much they earn as long as they are getting money out of something, or there’s an ever-increasing number of bloggers, and even the number of unique views of internet users are gradually increasing.  Allow me to point out the flaws.

  1. If you think that bloggers do not care much about how much they earn, take a leaf out of the book of the current situation right at our doorstep. Is S$1 per withdrawal a lot of compared to actually getting nothing out of blogging previously? Definitely not!! Of course bearing in mind that we’re living in a fast-paced and competitive society (meaning “kiasu”), everyone will start comparing the proceeds from each advertising services that they make use of. So what if Nuffnang has decided to absorb the fees for a while, how long will they survive with that? I’m sorry but we’re talking about economies of scale here. If so many companies are competing for the meagre sum of money out there, how do you think they are going to cut down on their operational cost. Think about it, if Nuffnang falls, there goes one form of revenue for some of you guys. Do consider the long term benefits of you and the people around you. All in all, I’m talking about consumer perception here. As more startups provide CPM services, it will then be natural for bloggers to contract the common perception that: They’re the boss and they dictate and expect how much money they should be getting.
  2. More bloggers means more places to put ads and more visitors to each site. WOoohooo!! I’m not sure how many of you have heard of the term “Continuous partial attention”. We are living in a world where we are constantly exposed to advertisements no matter where we are in the day. At the same time, we are also culprits of constantly multi-tasking to get our stuff completed during the day in this fast and competitive society of ours. Therefore it seems that the average effectiveness of an ad is slowly eroding, following our gradual ignorance and mental disposal of ads we come across. In this case, I’m going against the effectiveness of online advertising. As a society that is increasingly accepting online advertising as a way of reaching out to the consumers, I would say that there is still a market out there of the players. However, come the day where we’ve reached the point of market saturation, all the small details are going to come into scrutiny, like which bloggers are the companies hiring, why we do (not) want them, how they affect our image etc… Take a look at Facebook, which is on the fast track for online advertising.
  3. Companies that specifically provide CPM services in a regional area and who are engaging the services of geographically based bloggers should not depend on the factor that there’re increasing number of internet users and they are spending more time on the net. As I brought up in the previous point, they come across so many ads everyday and how many do they actually retain in their memory, much less decipher what was in that ad? I guess the main point here would then be the number of UNIQUE visitors, which is definitely limited by the population count of the geographical reach. There might come a day where advertisers will compare the effective reach of these online services and slowly realise that online advertising is all down to hype.

In conclusion, let’s push for a more honest online community and environment. As I said, quarrels and underhand playing is not just harming specific companies, but the whole CPM industry and the faith and trust that advertisers will be placing on bloggers. This is very much a emerging industry in this region, and advertisers are actually taking the risk and playing around with online advertising. So let’s try not to sabotage what we are slowly building up!

I refer to the article “Stop Wasting Your Time on Internet Advertising” written by Chris Jaques from Spark Project in the 19th October 2007 issue of Media. 

In this article, Chris pointed out 3 areas of the online medium where advertisements are less trusted – Email, blogs and social networking sites. Chris brought up Nielsen’s recent global survey, Trust in Advertising, the 3 media that were trusted less than any others in the world were mobile text ads, banner ads and search ads. Being a consumer myself, I would have to agree on the findings. However, in this article, Chris’ usage of the word “advertising”, and in this sense, the title of the article itself is debatable as it is dissuading companies from investing in online marketing and sales tools.

I believe what makes it feasible and worthwhile to spend money online is the power of spreading by “Word of Mouth”. Internet communication makes it fast and quick to spread the word online as compared to traditional media, and I guess that this purpose is the strongest proposition for companies to think of investing online. Next comes the power of education and information passing to the consumer.

I agree with Chris most of the time that Email advertising is very much less trusted, as the genuine message is being diluted among tonnes of spam and rubbish, such that customer perception of that anything that comes unsolicited from the mailbox is junk or contains a scam. However, do bear in mind that some customers do WANT certain kinds of mail and advertisements, provided that they have indicated their acceptance in receiving specific categories of mail.

On the topic of blogs, doing blog advertising is useful based on the fact that the blogger is someone who is more or less well known in the community or pretty much in a specific geographic area. Blog searching through the likes of technorati certainly does not entail trust and believe by the reader, as stumbling upon an “advertising” blog is almost the same as finding the SEO specialist in that group of words or tags use.

By frequenting a particular blog, one would have established a certain emotional bond with the blogger, and in turn create a form of trust between the reader and the blogger. In this case, I believe that advertising or encouraging blog posts on particular company products or services should not be enforced upon or affected by substantial amount of incentives. A regular reader can pretty much guess from the writing tone and pattern of the advertising blog post that the opinions and reviews are not in the neutral range. In my opinion, trusted reviews and feedback comes in the form of :-

  1. Reasons of coming up with that particular post 
  2. Neutral comments and feedback
  3. A balance of positive and negative points
  4. A suggestion of improvements made to the product and service
  5. A genuine recommendation of usage to the readers

Finally in his article, Chris talked about advertising on social networks. Personally, I’m a fervent user of online social networks such as Facebook and Friendster (not as much). From what I currently see on these sites, advertisers are trying to target certain specific groups of users with their products and services. This creates a value add to the users accessing the pages of some communities, groups or their friends’ pages, and boils down to a whole sense of relevance to the users. In the article, Chris mentioned about the numerous scams that appear on the site to cheat users (of sex?). As I’ve brought up above, I believe that effective online marketing would only come from word spread among acquainted people. For those who are in search of a cheap thrill, I’m sorry but you have to bear your own consequences.

With the recent clampdown of fake adverts and link exchanges, we can be sure that more useful and genuine advertisements are being unearthed from the pile of rubble. So instead of why we should not waste money on internet advertising, why not introducing and recommending ways of effective marketing investment online?

Posted by: Blue Heavens | 16 October, 2007

Thoughts about Web 2.0

The definition of Web 2.0 is widely debated throughout cyberspace and the offline world. According to Wikipedia, Web 2.0 refers to “a perceived second generation of web-based communities and hosted services — such as social-networking sites, wikis and folksonomies — which aim to facilitate collaboration and sharing between users.” In its sense, Web 2.0 is not a program, not a system, nor a platform, but a simple definitive term to narrate the change in Internet trends that highlights the evolution of applications, systems and platforms.

Coined by O’Reilly Radar, the characteristics of Web 2.0 can be generally categorized under:

  • The Web as a platform
  • User generated content
  • Rich and Interactive Internet Applications
  • Collaboration based system and program architectures
  • Applications leveraging on “The Long Tail”
  • Open source and open platforms
  • Data as the driving force

Web 2.0 in Singapore

Examples of Web 2.0 tools widely used in Singapore are blogs, video-sharing sites (eg Youtube) and social networking sites (eg Facebook and Friendster).

As a whole, the adoption of the term Web 2.0 in Singapore started about a couple of years back. However, it seems that prior to that, part of the population have started running online diaries and journals on personal websites. Blogging tools such as Blogger, which was established in 1999, then came about to address the needs of creating and managing online diaries for Internet users with minimal or close to no knowledge of web languages.

With the fast increasing popularity of these Web 2.0 tools in Singapore, it is no wonder that the government has pushed towards the adoption of Web 2.0 (under Interactive Digital Media), lagging behind the craze in the Valley by a good few years. Recently, we have seen the founding of a couple of organizations like The Digital Movement and E27 encouraging and promoting the cause of Web 2.0 in Singapore.

Promoting Web 2.0 to the masses is as difficult as defining and conveying the semantics of Web 2.0 to the common bystander in Singapore. Currently, I would believe Singapore is still hovering in the early adopter stage.

Economic Benefits of Web 2.0 in Singapore

Historically, the direction of Singapore’s fore founders has been towards the area of economic growth and pragmatism. Worried about the apparent size of the local market and the country’s inability to survive after independence, the policies and measures the government has taken have seen miraculous jumps in the economy. With the rise in competition from our neighbouring countries and their entry into the shipping industry, it seems that Singapore has to find an alternative industry to sustain its competitive advantage. Moving on a primary resource-free route, it is then logical to see the government focusing on new age technologies such as life sciences, biotechnology and of course, IT and Web 2.0.

Quoting from Mingyeow of The Digital Movement on the economic feasibility of Web 2.0 in Singapore, he mentioned that “Web 2.0 is feasible because of the lack of physical infrastructure, and the fact that the most important commodity here is a source of wise perspectives. We will be delusional if we are looking to build a gold mine where the key resource is gold mines. We are looking to build an industry, where the key resource is new perspectives. Put Eric’s (Quaffs) technical team or Herryanto (BookJetty) with someone with truly innovative thoughts and they can turn out something as great as anyone. Hence, thoughts are the main resource. Thoughts can be nurtured, can be increased exponentially, and can be expanded from nothing. Thoughts are fueled via conversations, via networking.”

According to Su Yuen: “Singapore is moving towards having the image of being the technology hub in the region, thus increasing the prospect of attracting very highly-skilled global talents into the country. Whether Singapore successfully creates another Google or YouTube is not a main concern but having the platform for current and future tech companies from abroad set up a base in Singapore for Asian expansion is important for economic benefit.”

Singapore has seen its share of IT successes and milestones, ranging from Creative to Trek (first seller of the thumbdrive) to more recently, Match.com (founded by Ong Peng Tsin). At a focus group discussion last year, the group discussed about why Singapore has not seen a major success since Creative. Problems brought up included:

  • The need to successfully market local companies and products globally
  • The lack of “smart” money invested in local startups; Investment are commonly measured in terms of short period ROI.
  • The lack of support for local products.
  • We are still searching for the next success story after Creative to promote Singapore as a technology hub.

The Movement

As mentioned at the start of this essay, the current state of Web 2.0 adoption in Singapore is still in its infancy stage. Being a member of The Digital Movement myself, I believe that the future is bright for the Singapore IT scene, particularly in the Web 2.0 area. We are currently reaching out to an increasing bunch of Web 2.0 enthusiasts, or people who are passionate and crazy about the endless possibilities about the Web. These people include students, entrepreneurs, working executives and professionals in both the private and public sectors.

Having a current mission to build up a global community of young leaders in Web 2.0 and social media, we have organized a number of events, including our flagship conference, Nexus 2007, which attracted about 500 participants from all walks of life, including a number of foreign attendees. We have just concluded PopOut: Emerging Web Startups, a startup showcase where we connected the technopreneurs, venture capitalist, geeks, students, startups and basically anyone interested in the Web 2.0 and beyond.

In my opinion, PopOut was THE start towards celebrating and promoting local entrepreneurs and their venture into Web 2.0. From the first ever GeekOut in March, we have witnessed a few milestones in the startups that we have showcased. Startups like Velvet Puffin and SharedCopy have been covered by the press and a few popular technology blogs like TechCrunch. PopOut was a success not just in terms of the flawless execution of the event, but also that we are capturing the attention of more people outside the usual circle of suspects that we normally see at Web 2.0 events.

Success of Web 2.0 in Businesses

The main evidence of the success in implementing Web 2.0 tools is through the use of blogs. In this era, the consumer value transparency and candor more than artificially created ads and CRM channels that mask the true personality of the company. Other local ventures into the Web 2.0 and New Media arena include the National Heritage Board (Walter Lim) and its brainchild, Yesterday.sg, SPH with Stomp and Starhub with Pfingo.

Quoting Vanessa Tan, “The more we integrate social media into our marketing and publicity campaigns, the more ‘normalized’ it becomes. This will encourage more Government agencies to step forward and embrace it too. However the agency must realize that with social media, they are no longer fully in control of what happens, and they must be prepared to have a meaningful conversation with the public. This in itself can be a major stumbling block and IMHO only the more progressive agencies have pressed forward so far.”

The local foray into Web 2.0 has only just started. The success of Web 2.0 in Singapore is not just based on how many successful startups in the industry there are, but also the successful usage of the Web as a medium, by consumers and also by businesses. As we travel down the road in the 21st century, we see Web 2.0 taking over our lives. Be it social networking sites that we frequent for leisure and for business, or the numerous blog posts, the Wikipedia contributions or the Youtube video submissions, we can see it being an important part of our present lives and also in the future.

Posted by: Blue Heavens | 29 August, 2007

Facebook : Collaboration vs Viral Marketing

Well, we have seen posts about how we should use Facebook to reach out to the masses, for collaboration and discussion and how Facebook kills productivity etc. Have you thought about how effective is Facebook in doing that.

 

Facebook originally started out as a social networking site meant for college students around the world. It then evolved into an “open” site and exploded in terms of sign ups and usage. However, I deem it not up to standard for companies to spend too much time on looking to gain in-depth participation and information. In my opinion, Facebook to businesses is more a viral marketing tool, a tool to reach out to the masses and increase hype in the shortest period of time possible. Groups, companies, friends, widget developers are using it to gain popularity (or some, notoriety). In its current stage, I believe that much has to be done in improvement for companies to invest substantial time and effort in carrying out discussions in Facebook. It is a social site, and its usage is still pretty much for social purposes.

 

Why am I criticizing the discussion and collaboration aspect in Facebook? From the groups I have joined and visited, how many discussion threads are actually running in the discussion forum? And of those, how many threads have garnered enough replies to call it a substantial discussion? The common phenomenon is that people find it much simpler and easier to write on Walls and SuperWalls that do not exactly have a directed discussion. It does not appeal to users if they have joined many groups and they would have to micro-manage the forums that they have participated in. I guess it would be better if users could subscribe to various threads and get notified if someone has replied, instead of getting zombified or being spanked. A stronger forum management system could very well be used. There is much that we can bring over from the forum days, such as providing ample categories for the discussion forums.

 

Community building is the main value proposition for companies looking to participate in Facebook and I would say Viral Marketing is the better choice of company focus than to look into discussion and collaboration.

 

Posted by: Blue Heavens | 4 August, 2007

Major Brands pull Advertisements from Facebook

There goes the money… Facebook is sacrificing it’s advertising base all because of lousy ad placing. It seems that major labels like Vodafone, Virgin Media and First Direct by HSBC found their ads appearing beside the far right British National Party. Does the tag “British” link the ads and BNP’s page together on the same page? If so, Facebook would have much to do qualming future advertisers. Although very much fast growing, it has caught my attention that the Facebook Flyers are actually displaying some unacceptable ads like links to adult dating sites. Given that a large part of their users are aged between 18 and 24, and the up and rising group lies from 12 to 17, this would cause great worry in parents.

“Their decision to withdraw advertising is a fresh challenge for the fast-growing social networking website, accused by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal this week of doing too little to protect young users from sexual predators. “

Some articles reporting the same news;

Posted by: Blue Heavens | 3 August, 2007

Douglas Merrill, CIO of Google talks about Innovation at Google

Thanks to William Claxton of Itr8 for the heads up. Here we have it, the suave Douglas Merrill, CIO and VP of Engineering at Google, Roger Federer lookalike and having the personality of Quentin Tarantino, talking about innovation at Google.

Enjoy!!

About a month back, we had iX Conference in Singapore, and we were talking about how enterprises can get a ride on the social media bandwagon.

I would like to show you the video on Epic 2015, which is kinda outdated today, but nevertheless still interesting.

Next is the video Prometeus – The Media Revolution which was shown at the iX Conference Gala Dinner.

The organisers made a good decision in recording the panel at the Dinner Forum. You can view it here. Moderated by Mark Laudi from CNBC, it features Douglas Merrill, CIO of Google, Mike Downey of Flash and AIR evangelist of Adobe and Cory Ondrejka, CTO of LindenLabs (creators of SecondLife).

Posted by: Blue Heavens | 2 August, 2007

A Little Something on Leadership

Leadership is subjective. It can be magnanimous, inspiring, motivating, but at the same time, destructive, disruptive and heartless. Leaders are visionaries. They can be omnipotent to some, but a mere pathetic mortal to others. To me, leadership is having the urge to change and improve the current state of things, having the confidence to lead the way in front of the pack and having the will to walk the talk. It appears in different forms, from having the ability to motivate people vocally to impressions made from the way of life to personally engaging and forging ahead in the dangerous battle.

Leadership identifies the exceptional from the normal. It has shaped the way the world it is today. From Confucius to Hitler to Bill Gates to our local patriarch, Lee Kuan Yew, these leaders have their own way in bringing change to this world, to motivate people, to move against the odds and to display an aura of might that is unmatched by many people. The world needs more of them, people who dare to stand out among the billions of people on this planet, to build a better future on this planet that is embracing a slow death.

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