Sunday, September 17, 2006

Stomp Eludes Search Engines

If you haven't already come across rana's posting on how Stomp - Singapore's flavour of participatory journalism - isn't listed highly on Google searches, you should definitely have a read. Rana didn't mention anything about MSN, so I checked it out. Guess what? Stomp came up tops for the search term "Stomp Singapore".

Google Who?

Extrapolate - obviously no one really looked into Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), or worried too much about uploading a Site Map to Google. But should they?

Today's Sunday Times reported that Stomp has hit 6 million page impressions and the numbers are still climbing. Who needs Google when you are the incumbent newspaper?

Popularity?

Incidentally, one should note that the site is indexed by Google. If you search for "IMF site:stomp.com.sg", Google does search and retrieve listings from stomp.com.sg. So why doesn't the site come up tops on Google searches for "stomp singapore"?

One of the "secret" ingredients of getting a good search ranking from Google is having lots of sites link to you. Could it be, despite the 6 million page impressions, there are few sites linking in? Probably not as lots of blogs have mentioned and linked to the site.

No content?

The more likely reason is that there is no content on stomp.com.sg. Or should I say, there is no indexable content. If you check out the homepage, it's 90% graphics and 10% text. The same goes for the "Star Blogs" and "StompCast" section pages. Strange for a media company not to realise the importance of text!

That's probably why rana's post and blog faired much better. Just 10 days after posting "Singapore's Stomp not yet on Google", her blog entry was the first listing on www.yahoo.com and on the first page of www.google.com search results.

No quality content?

There could be yet another reason. Experts in SEO have always emphasized that Google's secret recipe includes ranking sites with quality content higher. No one knows exactly what Google defines as quality content but a few things have been established: good grammar and spelling.

A site like stomp that thrives somewhat on topics like "Angmoh Uncle" might find it hard to explain to Google that it's good content in good English. Likewise, user-generated content which includes phrases like "Don't so sian la" is just part and parcel of being a true Stomporean.

X-files Conspiracy?

How Stomp climbed the charts at MSN to come out tops is anyone's guess. About 4 months ago, someone at MSN told me their corporate motto was to beat Google and all employees should report irrelevant search results to the development team. Perhaps there is a Stomporean in the midst who has helped to elevate its rankings.

If there is a conspiracy theory in that, then maybe Google's engine is conspiring with bloggers. Many of whom have been very critical of the site. This calls to mind something of great fun to do.
  1. Go to Google
  2. Type in "miserable failure"
  3. Enjoy the search results

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tower Records Demise, Digital Downloads Rise

Tower Records - once an icon for music CDs - filed for bankruptcy last month. Its assets are being auctioned off for US$90-95 million. Everyone has yakked on about how the company couldn't keep up with the rapid changes - especially that brought on by digital music.

It's not for lack of trying. In 2006, they announced ad-supported podcasts through TowerPod.com. It seems they just couldn't move fast or nimbly enough - a common problem of companies built in the 80s and 90s.

Music Stores Expand in Singapore
At home, music CD shops are expanding. The New Paper reported this month that Gramophone is betting that the market will consolidate and shrink to 30% of its current size. The company intends to be the last few standing. Interesting philosophy... let's be big fish in a small pond.

Singapore? No Critical Mass (lah)
Locally, the industry is moving quite slowly in the realm of digital music downloads. So far, only Soundbuzz has stood the test of time and it seems to be paying off (finally). Others in the industry oft cite "lack of critical mass" as a reason not to get their feet wet in digital music.

Small Changes Point to Big Picture
I think it might happen much faster than people think. 7 years ago, I joined an internet company for one pure and simple reason - broadband internet access. You bet everyone in the company downloaded music. (Yes, we got wrapped on the knuckles for it).

Today, even the most "techno agnostic" of my friends download music from the web. I've stopped - mainly because it's too mainstream for me (I'm busy making mashups now).

Four Pints Make a Jug
Are local companies missing the point entirely? If they won't serve digital music downloads, customers can hear their heart out on international sites. There is a 12-second delay when connecting to these sites, but I have a feeling most people are keeping themselves occupied on IM and friendster while downloading. Since iTunes is not offered in Asia, P2P sites like LimeWire are popular here.

Sin Turns to Cents
My Gen Y friends have no qualms about downloading (legal/illegal) music off the net. The music industry is listening. Many are offering legitimate downloads. Universal is opting for ad-supported music downloads. MySpace is offering music by independent labels. The race for a revenue model has begun (belatedly).

Invisible Music, Visible Players
Despite that, there are no serious digital music offerings in Singapore outside of Soundbuzz. (Sidenote: The site isn't compatible with FireFox!) There are official reports that mobile phones double up as music players. And the purchase of portable players in on the rise. But really, empirical evidence is far more interesting. Been to Sim Lim or Comex lately? It really makes you wonder what content goes into those devices...

Friday, September 15, 2006

INSEAD's 2.0 brainstorm?

This is an interesting post I discovered. Apparently, after this INSEAD event the warrensx2
"Came to the conclusion that web2.0 was not exactly what I was looking to get into after INSEAD."
I've left him/her a comment. Wonder what the response would be!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Where's the lucrative classifieds market in Singapore?

Craigslist has shown that classifieds can still be the name of the game. Aside from proving to the world that classifieds brings home the bacon, Craigslist also proves the might of a small and nimble team.

Singapore Roundup

In Singapore, the picture isn't as rosy. There have been, and are, many attempts to build a Singapore online classifieds. Back in the last 90s, the telcos ruled. Pacific Internet led the way, then SingTel joined in. Like all things in the dot com boom, classifieds sites sprung up.

Names like Adpost are still around. Yahoo! classifieds is still pretty well-used in Singapore. Vertical classifieds like SingaporeBikes are frequented by the community. New players like eFair have joined the fray.

Trophy's still up for grabs

Despite these many attempts, there is no clear winner. Is our population of 4 million people just too small to create any serious marketplace? Or are we so resistant to charging that we leave the moment a site attempts to collect some money from us? Or perhaps it's just that the revenue pie has been chomped up by the likes of jobsdb.

2.0 Singapore Style

I am not sure if the 2.0 wave has just hit us (delayed). Singapore's leading media company, SPH, has just announced a partnership that could change the local scene (or at least attempt to). SPH has partnered with a Norwegian company to:
"identify potential investments in online classifieds, search and directories across South-east Asia and Greater China."
What does that mean? Will they buy up the defragmented market? Or will they stomp on these smaller efforts? Whatever the outcome, SPH has a good chance of doing this right (better than before under AsiaOne).

One big change is the attitude of SPH. They are willing to partner -- they no longer have a desire (or vanity) to build all the technology themselves. They recognise their strength is the mass media. Mixing their marketing prowess with partner technologies might just be the right formula.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

SME Central - something for everyone online?

I just received an invitation to the launch of AsiaOne's SME Central. Whoever is behind their marketing has decided the right platform to be the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME).

Local Advertising

Undoubtedly, we are going to get a hyperlocal community portal. The invite mentioned something about online advertising opportunities for SMEs. For the longest time, AsiaOne's parent company, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), have not been able to get hold of SME advertising dollars. The reason is simple - the mothership newspaper ads are costly. Yes, we're talking about $30,000 - $50,000 for full page ads.

When SPH had it's freesheet paper - Streats - there were some attempts to get ad dollars from local businesses. But it has since "sold" the papers to its competitor in an effort for both media companies to stem losses.

Online presents a new opportunity. Already many SMEs in Singapore have dabbled with Google ads. The more savvy are reaping the returns. SMEs have been powering Google for ages. Why shouldn't SPH be powered by SMEs too?

Wait and See

It remains to be seen whether SME Central is going to make a big difference in the lives of SMEs. Being one myself, I am curious to see if this huge paper, run by individuals fed by a stable aristocratic company, can build something relevant and useful to me.

I'll update you guys after the launch.

Monday, September 11, 2006

3G and M-Commerce -- Will Singaporeans bite?

There was an article about 3G in the papers and how in Japan, 3G has fuelled m-commerce. The interesting bits:
  1. M-commerce because there is no time to shop.
  2. M-commerce takes place in transit (on trains) and stuff.
  3. Most still not comfortable with giving credit card when "M-commercing".
What about all of us here in Singapore? Have we all moved to 3G phones? Has 3G charges gotten so much cheaper we are willing to surf the net with it? Are there any places to shop on the mobile phone? Are we ready to start buying stuff?