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November 30, 2009


Adam Daniel Mezei

Hi D,

As usual, you zero in on the target and ready, aim, fire. Well said.

During our recent trip to CN, we also (deliberately) spent a considerable number of nights sitting in front of the boobtube if only to get a sense of these mercurial commercials (spot on description of yours, by the way!). I admire this methodology you've proposed...of going back to the "classics" of the trade -- old school-like -- in order to suss out some sort of meaning for where we might have gone wrong.

In terms of present strategies, I think streaming video in China is so poorly utilized. With all of the competing video hosting sites in the PRC, you'd think there'd be more of this sort of activity, but alas no (not even going to delve into the GFW debate, but imagine if a global rollout strategy for MNC advertisers and the like could also include China?). "Chinese don't go online to buy," one Old Hand told us. "They use the net to be entertained." Thoughts?

And like one intrepid European SME investor I'd met recently in Shanghai told me: "If only someone could come up with a savvy app for micropayments." Continuing, he laid out his vision: imagine if $0.05 and $0.10 payments could be processed at the touch of a button (no registration, no lengthy approvals, no PayPal-esque oversight to gum up the works), and what this might entail for societies for which fractional amounts such as these made a difference? Think about it...

If you're planning on writing something with some serious cojones, count me in for a proofread. I'd be honored to.

Book Suggestion: Have you read Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel?" Now that's something I'd like your take on (guilty admission, I snagged my copy off a wickedly diverse Shanghai Subway shanzai dealer. What an assortment he had -- I end up coming back to Europe with more than a dozen books! What's my damage?)


Adam, you never seem to open a can of worms when you can open a case. Your comment will provoke a series of posts rather than an overlong comment, but a couple of things need immediate attention:

Be ever wary of blanket pronouncements about the Chinese by Old China Hands (this one included) and by Chinese "experts." If Chinese don't go online to buy, who is spending US$20 billion on AliPay? Foreign students? Horsefeathers: e-commerce in China lags the rest of the world for many reasons (and I've covered a few of them here), but to suggest that Chinese don't buy stuff online is both a canard today and a failure to read the signs of where things are headed.

As to the matter of micropayments, I think your investor friend is serving up a platter of red herring. The mechanisms to enable micropayments are in place, even in China (the mobile phone is a superb enabling device, for example.) But until consumers want or need micropayments for something they cannot get for free or as a part of a subscriptions service otherwise, micro-payments won't happen.

Thanks for the book suggestion: both of Diamond's recent works - "Guns, Germs, and Steel," and "Collapse" (legit copies) sit on my bookshelf demanding my attention, which they'll get soon. I am tempted, though, to read Alfred Crosby's "Ecological Imperialism" first, as there have been suggestions that Diamond derives much, er, inspiration from Crosby's writings.

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