February 22, 2008

Podcast of Toys R Us Interview

Finally found some spare time to edit and post the interview with Argha Sen, our guest at the last social mixer (V9.0).

Even though Argha is somewhat of a digital migrant, in his role as Head of Marketing & CRM for Toys R Us Asia, he has to deal with the harsh realities of selling products via physical outlets. In the digital arena, he therefore focuses his marketing activities on enticing customers back to the shops using targeted email offerings, and enhancing their in-store experiences with interactive touch screens and dance pads. RFID tags, 2D bar codes and Blue Tooth are being tested, but it all comes down to "what the customer wants".

Overall, Argha admits that Toys R Us has "just about scratched the surface with internet marketing" but feels that they are "advanced compared to other Hong Kong retailers". His predictions for the future of selling toys are "interactive, educational, electronic (i.e. battery operated) and 'back to basics' (as shown by the resurgence of the Rubik's Cube and Monopoly Here and Now)".

You can listen to the full interview by clicking on the play button below:

powered by ODEO

NB: All our previous interviews are available on our audio channel, Palava Podcasts, on Odeo.

We had two good questions from the floor:

  • Jeremy Woolf, Managing Partner of Text100, "Will Toys R Us engage consumers via virtual worlds like Disney's Club Penguin?"
  • Kinzie, founder of HeartBeat and respond123, "Are you not concerned that push emails will encourage consumers to purchase their toys online via other websites, especially in large countries like China where distance matters?"

And we mustn't forget Jay Oatway's Lifestream posted from his HTC mobile phone live from the event. "Oh My God! They are Hugging Giraffes!"

On his blog, Psychobserver, Nicolas Lassus felt that Argha was very much in contrast to the typical web 2.0 start-up mentality in that "his approach was show me the money, show me the numbers that supports me getting into that Web stuff and then I will think about it. Obviously the audience at Web Wednesday was not expecting this...but reality checks are always good".

Do sign up here for the next event, social mixer v10.0, on 5th March.

For those of you reluctant to join Facebook (too shy to admit it still, Michael?), I've set up a group on Flickr for us to share photos of the event and anything we find interesting to the Web Wednesday community.

February 21, 2008

Vote for HK's best mobile film

In their innovative drive to promote the "Fourth Screen" as a valid platform for the creation and viewing of video content, the Hong Kong Wireless Technology Industry Association (WTIA) and the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) have combined forces to launch Hong Kong's 1st Mobile Film Festival.

There are several categories of awards, including "Best Drama", "Best Animation" and "Best My Hong Kong", but only one has been opened to the public, "Nokia Most Popular Film Award".

You can view all 15 submissions and select your chosen winner here. You'll need to enter your name, email and mobile number plus the first 4 digits of your HKID card. Some truly original works from a city that continues to prove that it is more than just a financial centre.

The votes close on the 23rd February (only two days to go) and the award presentation ceremony will be held on 20th March 2008. No indication of the venue yet. (I wonder whether they'll livecast the awards using a mobile phone?)

February 19, 2008

Baidu Basics Webinar - March 10th (changed)

Following on from their recent expansion into Japan, the folks at Baidu have set up a new international office, headed up by Grace Zhou, to interface with foreign companies wanting to reach Chinese netizens. Although Google is making aggressive moves, Baidu still dominates search in China, claiming over 60% of searches in this rapidly expanding internet market of over 210 million curious and connected people.

The webinar - login details to be confirmed - will be a panel format with Grace Zhou from Baidu, Lonnie Hodge from Culture Fish Media, Sam Flemming of CIC Data and a representative of ChinaOnTV and moderated by Christine Lu of China Business Network at 11:30 - 12:30 (Beijing Standard Time) on Monday 10th March (note change from 6th March in poster above). There will also be a live Q&A session held via Twitter and Seesmic (again, no account details released yet).

You can sign up for the webinar via Facebook or Culture Fish Media's website. As of 19th Feb, 88 people had taken the brave step.

DotAsia launch party - a new domain land grab?

In the heady days of the 90's dotcom boom, there were launch parties in Hong Kong every week. Then it all went quiet...for far too long! Now it's starting to trickle back, and this time they mean real business, or at least charity!

The folks at the DotAsia Organisation, a not-for-profit, incorporated in Hong Kong, are hiring the latest hot spot in town, Cliq, for a grand countdown to the public launch of the ".asia" Top Level Domain (TLD) registry. It's an invite only event, but you may be able to slip in if you can prove your geek credentials at 2/F On Hing Building, On Hing Terrace, Central (7-11pm) or alternatively write a persuasive RSVP.

Given how Asia is far from being a united continent, we're not sure how the domain will take off. (Note how the map on the website includes the Middle East and ANZAC countries). They could be seen as trying to emulate the ".eu" domain for Europe, which is a more "united" continent at least with a central parliament and currency.

Nevertheless, they aspire to lofty goals :

"The .ASIA domain aspires to embrace this dynamism in the Asia Century to become a nucleus, intersection and breeding ground for Internet activity and development in the region.

* To sponsor, establish and operate a regional Internet namespace with global recognition and regional significance, dedicated to the needs of the Pan-Asia and Asia Pacific Internet community.
* To reinvest surpluses in socio-technological advancement initiatives relevant to the Pan-Asia and Asia Pacific Internet community; and
* To operate a viable not-for-profit initiative that is a technically advanced, world-class TLD registry for the Pan-Asia and Asia Pacific community."

It will be interesting to see who will lead the charge into this new domain. Will it be the local organisations or multi-nationals seeking to prove how culturally-sensitive they are?

Post-launch update: the Landrush was kicked off last night, as counted down by a posse of glamorous starlets, and will conclude on 12th March 2008. For domains with more than one bidder, they will conduct an English auction to decide the winner. From 26th March, it becomes a free for all, with a first-come-first-served registration process. The list of authorised registrants is here.

February 14, 2008

Web Wednesday - Social Mixer V10.0

Happy Valentine's to you all!

If you were lucky enough to hug Geoffrey the Giraffe at our February event (Web Wednesday - Social Mixer V9.0), you would have gone home with more than a fistful of new name cards.

For ladies, we had plush roses and for men, if your bluetooth worked, Rubik's cube videos, ringtones and mobile wallpapers. And we mustn't forget the special 20% discount on lingerie purchases from Figleaves.com.

What else could you possibly want as this loving time of year?

A big thank you to Argha Sen, Head of Marketing & CRM for Toys R Us Asia, for explaining the true meaning of CRM, namely "treating your customer as an individual not a statistic", and sharing with us the challenges of incorporating the latest internet technologies into the marketing mix, especially for a traditional toy retailer.

We will be uploading the full interview here soon. You can listen to our previous interviews on our Odeo Channel.

Our next event, Social Mixer V10.0, will be on Wednesday 5th March and our guest speaker will be Kenneth Kong, Head of Digital Media for IMG Sports, the company that invented sports sponsorship.

We will be looking at how the sports industry has engaged the online world and how this is changing the promotion and coverage of global events, like the upcoming Beijing Olympics. Of course, with over 500 million mobile users in China, cell phones will also play a major role in promoting the sponsors link to the world most talked about Olympic event.

As per usual practice, the bar opens at 6:30 p.m. and we will start the interview at 7 p.m. Venue remains the same at Lotus Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge, 37-43 Pottinger Street, Central, Hong Kong.

Make sure you download the Lotus wallpaper from our mobile website
(m.webwednesday.hk) if you want a free cocktail to help you break the ice. Lotus will also be offering us a discount on drinks, HK$40 for standard booze and HK$25 for soft drinks.

If you want to come along (entrance is free), please sign up via to the event invite on Facebook or just turn up on the night.

If you have a question that you'd like to ask Kenneth but are to shy to do so in person, please post it to our discussion board on the Web Wednesday Group on Facebook which now has reached a grand 455 members (as of 14th Feb 08).

A special thanks to the people and companies that support this event:

  1. Outblaze - social collaboration software (behind the scenes).
  2. Lotus Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge - venue, complimentary cocktail and finger foods.
  3. The HyperFactory - SMS contest, mobile website and coupon download.
  4. Epsilon Interactive - email marketing platform.
  5. Beansbox - email design.
  6. Asia Digital Marketing Association - official industry endorser.
  7. Palava Digital - event organiser & web community pioneer.
Looking forward to another memorable evening of networking and sharing ideas!

February 13, 2008

Jay's Mobile Lifestream

Tech-culture futurist and ranting blogger, Jay Oatway, is pushing video blogging in Hong Kong to dizzying heights with his mobile lifestream. His latest posting, wittily reminds us of tonight's social mixer, ""It’s Web Wednesday tonight, when HK’s Internet geeks come out and get drunk." Here's the full mobile video posting, filmed and uploaded live from his HTC mobile on the Peak Tram earlier today:

For more of his thought provoking rants, you can visit his blog (portension.com), subscribe to his lifestream feedburner feed (on assignment for Charged magazine) or hang out on his Youtube channel.

Figleaves - Special Valentine's Offer

Do you remember Charlie Bodycote (no, that's not him featured above!), who flew in from the UK to attend our Social Mixer V8.0 event in January?

As a Founder and CTO of Figleaves, a lingerie, underwear and swimwear site for men and women, he's generously offering all our Web Wednesday members (450 of you!) a 20% discount off all their products on the UK site, figleaves.com/uk.

Enter "HONGKONG" when you complete your purchase. Offer open until end of Feb 2008 for all deliveries to Hong Kong. Shipping costs from the UK are very reasonable, only GBP4 or HK$65 or so.

February 11, 2008

Interview with Thomas Crampton, Next Media

Hard-hitting international correspondent and new media entrepreneur, Thomas Crampton, called me in for a sharp shooting interview to talk about the internet scene in Hong Kong for Next Media's live interactive web TV channel, Apple Action News.

You can view the interview below and visit Thomas' full posting, where he introduces some of the companies we talked about (Discuss, Open Radio, Sifu TV, Frenzoo, Dookaz, EditGrid, Bullpoo and Jade Tower). This is a trial technology with video call ins so all comments welcome.

Kung Hei 'Rat' Choi

As we transition from the bloated Year of the Pig into the scandalous Year of the Rat, a (sadly large) segment of the internet and media community has gleefully leapt from the trough into the gutter. On top of ruining the careers of local celebrities, what's more at stake is the issue of safe harbour and protecting people's privacy and rights in the online world.

Thankfully, we still have high-quality journalism to draw us back to the issues that really matter. The folks at the Wall Street Journal came out with this multimedia report on the value and taste of rats in Vietnam. In the last rodent cycle 12 years ago, rats were very much on the menu in Southern China. I'm not sure if we've moved on or whether the freezing temperatures have frozen up all our rodent delights in this part of the world.

To cheer you up after those post-CNY blues, the creative team at Atomic Sushi (thanks for the witty headline!) have created a catchy Facebook game, aplty named "Rat Race".

February 6, 2008

Baidu - 100 Degrees of Cold

Unlike the mash-up map launched by Google China (see our previous posting), the Mainland's leading search engine, Baidu, has devoted its person-of-the-month page (renwu.baidu.com) to the people affected by this year's wintry woes.

The page includes a new section offering links to weather reports and charity organizations providing support to those affected by heavy snow. Baidu also replaced its standard Baidu Zhidao and news links with Baidu Post and Baidu Space links related to recent frost-bitten events.

There are plenty of charity groups out there, but we recommend World Vision Hong Kong. You can donate directly via their website or print out the donation form. So far they have committed HK$2 million and their relief teams have reached Hunan, Guangxi, Anhui and Jiangxi to distribute 40,000 quilts to villagers to ease their desperate situation.

Sending warmth in the snow

Unlike the sexual diatribes of Edison Chan, Hong Kong's other celebrities are putting their fame to good use and have teamed together to "send warmth in the snow" (雪中送暖) to brothers and sisters in the mainland being hit by the record freezing weather. The Chinese description of the video puts it very well: "五十年一遇的暴雪肆虐中國十幾個省區,災情嚴重,災民的苦況,牽動著每一個人的心。香 港百位藝人參與大合唱,為內地同胞送上溫暖關懷的歌聲". Or in English, "The worst snow storms in 50 years have struck 10 provinces in China, causing serious damage and bitter pain which has deeply moved everyone. Over 100 Hong Kong celebrities have united their voices in song to send warmth and care to their brethren in the Mainland."

Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) brought the artists together to sing this song and distribute it over RTHK channel on Youtube. Hopefully, the gatekeepers of the Great Chinese Firewall will let this one through!

February 1, 2008

Stranded in China? Google to the Rescue!

With snow storms raging across China, the odds of migrant workers getting home to their loved ones for Chinese New Year holidays seem increasingly low. The cover of today's Wall Street Journal relates a very personal story about a lady stranded in Beijing and reinforces the message with photos like the one below (thanks to Reuters).

The innovative team at Google China are doing their bit - and beating Baidu to the game - by publishing an interactive map that pulls the latest news about weather and transportation blockages into a mash-up map of the People's Republic of China. How's that for giving back to the society?

Click on the icons below for the latest updates.