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A wake-up call for more aggressive strategies
Skali.com accelerated its tie-ups this year and counts 70 global content providers in its stable. The site records more than six million page views every month and publishes more than 1,000 new content items daily.
Aimi does not believe the banner ad market is "slow" anymore. "When we first started two years back, we were the only one singing the portal mantra. Now more players are in the market singing the same tune.
"We also see the creation of new Asian-based advertising networks e-Asia and Space Asia and international ad networks coming to Asia such as Real Media, 24/7, and lately, DoubleClick. Their entries suggest rising growth in the region," he said.
Aimi said there are also various new means to raise revenue including collaborative partnerships and affiliate programs.
Skali.com's strategy is to tie up with as many brand names and "share" content or technology. "The common model currently is co-oppetition--where you cooperate and at the same time compete. And the money is for everyone," he said.
Aimi said that technology puts most players in level playing fields and "understanding of user profiles, culture and local preferences does give us the advantage to provide a better service for the Asian user".
He conceded, however, that having deep pockets for branding and marketing exercises helps.
Richard Jacobson, senior Internet analyst for International Data Corp's Asia-Pacific unit, said competition is heating up in the portal market space especially from foreign players in the region. He suggested that language could be an advantage to consider as a new leveraging opportunity.
A recent IDC poll suggested that Asian Internet users shopped at foreign Web sites because they preferred viewing the Web in their native languages rather than English. Foreign companies are already offering such multilingual services and content.
The poll is a wake-up call for Asian Web sites to be more aggressive or lose a huge potential market to foreign companies.
Both Catcha.com and MyCARI.com suggest they will add on Malay and Chinese versions of their portals soon.
"Portals reliant on banners can still be profitable with the right positioning and differentiation. Ease of use and building customer relationships are essential. There is also room for various types of innovative e-commerce tie-ups," said Jacobson.
He added that he is bullish on e-commerce growth in the region to build new revenue streams for Asian Web sites. Jacobson qualified, however, that in Malaysia the numbers of users online is still relatively small. IDC estimates 580,000 users in 1998, growing to 770,000 in 1999.
Jacobson expects the figure to jump to 2.7 million users by 2003, by which time the portal war will be in full swing.
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