Archive for the 'Global' Category

Mar 20 2014

Remembering Pat McGovern

"Boston, MA – March 20, 2014 – International Data Group IDG announced today with great sadness that its Founder and Chairman, Patrick J. McGovern, died March 19, 2014, at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, California."

via Remembering Pat McGovern | IDG.com.

I worked for Pat McGovern for eight months in 2005 when I was running online at CXO -- the branch of IDG publishing that published CIO, CSO, CMO Magazines. I competed against his publications in the early 80s when I worked for PC Week, the arch-rival of IDG's InfoWorld.

There are going to be a ton of Pat McGovern stories told over the next few days. Here's mine.

While Pat was a lion in technology publishing he was also one of the first and most influential western businessmen to operate in the People's Republic of China.  His presence in China, his reputation there to this very day, is legendary and made him the most well known and respected Westerner sin the Chinese tech sector. His VC investments in the likes of Baidu were early and massive successes. The man even spoke Mandarin.

During the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics I was surprised to find myself riding in the back of a bus with Pat on our way to a private dinner with Lenovo's senior executives and some heavy hitting senior execs from Qualcomm, Google, Microsoft, Intel, AMD, etc.. I saw him sitting alone in the back of the bus, so I sat down beside him and started chatting him up, thanking him for the opportunity to briefly work for him before quitting to join Lenovo. He was legendary for his photographic memory and immediately made the connection and started peppering me with questions.

As the bus crawled through traffic it was apparent that most everybody sitting within six rows of us was eaves-dropping on the conversation, most of them unaware of who Pat was. He was a big man but a soft spoken one; not at all brash or loud.  So I introduced him around  to the people in the adjacent seats as the first Westerner to do business in Communist China, well before Deng's market reforms that led to "capitalism with Chinese characteristics" and unlocked the Chinese growth we marvel at today. I urged Pat to tell the bus the story of how he infiltrated China in the 1970s. The story went roughly like this: Pat was on a flight from Japan to Russia and figured out he could make a "connection" in Beijing. This is back in the era of Nixon-Mao and PingPong diplomacy. Let's just say there were no princelings drag racing Ferrari's around the third ring road back then. Anyway, the plane lands, Pat looks out the window, amazed he's this close to the mysterious closed country. So he gets off the plane. The plane leaves without him. The Red Guard are confronted with this American standing in their airport essentially saying "Take me to your leader."

Pat humbly regaled the bus for 30 minutes with the story of how he invaded China, set up the first Chinese tech publications, and earned the trust and respect of the Chinese government. When we arrived at the restaurant it was my Chinese colleagues who really lit up at the sight of him, hustling him away to a place of honor next to the chairman and CEO of Lenovo as befitted the father of Chinese computer journalism.

He was a genuinely great man. Here's his story of how he entered China as captured in the official IDG oral history:

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Mar 28 2009

Digital Governance in a Global Org

I spent part of past Wednesday at the the New York Googleplex with some fellow digital marketers and  agency people as part of Google's Global Advisory Council.  I consider the content and conversations as unbloggable/off-the-record, but wanted to share  one excellent line from Scott McLaren at General Motors, who in the course of presenting how GM was able to centralize search marketing said:

"Centralize the science and localize the art."

That brilliant insight goes into my collection of business koans along with McKinsey's Dick Foster's line:  "Loosen control without losing control" and that anonymous jazzman who told another musician "If you don't know what to do, then don't do anything."

What Scott summarized in that one-liner, is probably familiar to anyone in a global digital marketing role who has tried to evangelize a unified (credit to Carol Kruse at Coca-Cola for recommending "unified" over "centralized") approach to planning, spending and executing a marketing discipline across many oceans and borders.

Decentralization is the rule in a massive global organization, a throw-back to the Roman Empire when the edges of the empire were too far away from the center of power in Rome and the Emperor had to divide c0ntrol between four Caesars. When I was at International Data Group in 2005 I felt the 1970s edict by owner and founder Pat McGovern that decentralization was the way the company would be organized and run was out of date and a worn out necessity born from a pre-fax/pre-email era, one that ignored the economies of scale of consolidating 300 websites onto a unified analytics and content management system.

Information Technology tends to consolidate and unify. The oldest story in the IT playbook is the hub, the router, the server, the data center.  All discussions of mesh architectures and complex matrixed "edge" computing models have been speculative structures, but in the end, the men in white coats want the users to be on dumb diskless workstations, working in unity off of one central processor. But - IT aside -- money likes to be decentralized. If you want "feet on the street" to take accountability for sales targets, then you have to push fiscal responsibility down to the regional and country level -- otherwise there will be no accountability or insights into local markets.

Back to McLaren's statement and why I think search engine marketing must be centralized.

  • The auction model punishes organizations that have two or more people bidding on the same brand terms.  This is classic Three Stooges behavior. Search bids are science. Not art.
  • Analytical conformity. What's the dashboard by which activities are going to be measured? How do you value search interactions and analyze search against other media in market? Can you compare the effects of a television campaign to searches? The answer is yes .... if you have a well controlled environment and are reasonably assured that your results are not being skewed by dealers, channel partners, or affiliates bidding on your branded terms against you. Analytics are science -- not art.
  • Expertise. Most, if not all major search budgets are managed by search speciality agencies. They have to.  Search campaigns are complex, rigorous organisms that require deep, repeatable expertise. An agency accustomed to running complex global search for multiple clients will generally beat the efforts of a single internal operator or team of search operators. Dispersing SEM expertise regionally makes utterly no sense.

What else can be centralized in global digital marketing?

  • Display advertising, for the most part, can be negotiated, bought, trafficked, executed and measured centrally.
  • Display advertising should have a 15 or 20% set aside for local sites and local trafficking. There is art to display media plans, and local teams have the best insight into what local sites have local readership. That said -- supporting many countries with many display media agencies is insane as non-working dollars explode and working dollars decline.

What can't be centralized?

  • Display creative needs to be locally verified. Holiday promotions tend to drive ecommerce discounting and only a local team can declare St. Patrick's Day over Golden Week.
  • Social media relations. Bloggers, forums, high profile users -- all should be related to on a local, face to face basis. Local meetups and in-person relations are vital to any community efforts.

More later, but it was good to hear two very global, very capable marketers confirm the issues I've seen the past three years.  Digital marketing needs to be unified around IT, analytics, and discounted volume negotiations but localized around creative and customer/blogger relations.

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Apr 02 2008

IOC Exec Warns China Against Internet Censorship During Olympics – washingtonpost.com

Published by under China,Global,Olympics

IOC Exec Warns China Against Internet Censorship During Olympics - washingtonpost.com

From Staci Kramer at Paidcontent.org:

"With the Beijing Olympics roughly four months away, Kevan Gosper, vice chairman of the IOC coordinating commission, is warning organizers that the internet must be open during the games and that restrictions "would reflect very poorly" on China. AP quotes Gosper about raising the issue during the last official organizing meeting before the Beijing Olympics: "This morning we discussed and insisted again. ... Our concern is that the press (should be) able to operate as it has at previous games. ... There was some criticism that the Internet closed down during events relating to Tibet in previous weeks." Gosper added: "I'm satisfied that the Chinese understand the need for this and they will do it.""

I remain optimistic that there will be open access to the critical tools need to enable our Lenovo Olympic Blogger program and that is Google's Blogger and YouTube platforms, both of which have been particularly problematic from time to time due to the capricious nature of the "connection has been reset" phenomenon known as the Great Firewall. With the IOC permitting athlete blogs during the Games for the first time, there will be a great deal of pressure to maintain an open conduit of internet communications. With the world's press on the scene as well as hundreds of thousands of spectators from around the world, I don't see a tightening of access, but a relaxation.

Or at least so I hope. Fallows' piece in the Atlantic Monthly remains the best FAQ on the situation.

4 responses so far

Jan 24 2008

The Gates Speech — Rebuilding Capitalism

Published by under Global

Bill Gates -- in the twilight of his technical career at Microsoft, on the eve of his new one in philanthropy at the helm of his Gates Foundation -- is set to speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos, CH today to call for a "kinder, creative" capitalism (according to the subject line of the Wall Street Journal's email alert this morning). This should be a classic Davos speech, the kind of thing captains of industry and heads of state and rock and roll front men want to discuss, and it should kick off a furious bout of analysis, guffaws, and more important, heavy thinking about the role of corporate social responsibility.

""We have to find a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well," Mr. Gates will tell world leaders at the forum, according to a copy of the speech seen by The Wall Street Journal."

"Among the fixes he plans to call for: Companies should create businesses that focus on building products and services for the poor. "Such a system would have a twin mission: making profits and also improving lives for those who don't fully benefit from market forces," he plans to say."

I strongly recommend a read of the Journal story, it's a deep look at how the richest man in the world intends to leave his mark on the world, and that mark won't look like this if he has his way.

Corporate Social Responsibility is due to be changed in some tangible ways. Lenovo is lucky to have Bill Stevenson guiding its efforts, and I'll be interested in his thoughts on today's speech by Gates. You can read Bill's blog at Lenovoblogs.com

Jeff Jarvis is liveblogging from Davos and hits on the Gore/Bono-Google sessions.

3 responses so far

Apr 10 2007

Beijing this week

Sitting in a conference room discussing the forthcoming summer Olympics, amazingly uncrippled by jet lag ... a post more appropriate for Twitter, but I've all but dropped Twitter as one of the most spectacularly useless toys I've played with this year.

I'll blog on Olympic marketing later -- I have the global web strategy and am presenting my plan tomorrow. The challenge is simple: what can an Olympic sponsor do online that users will actually care about and return to?

I think I have an idea.

This is a short trip. Three full days in country, four nights, not a lot of exploration or out of office experiences -- unlike last year's first trip where I spent a lot of time meeting Chinese internet companies.

5 responses so far

Feb 12 2007

Digital Influence Mapping Project: Hong Kong Bloggers

Published by under China,Global

Digital Influence Mapping Project: Hong Kong Bloggers Pt 1

Ogilvy PR's John Bell is doing the China thing and blogging some interesting stuff about Chinese blogs. One interesting point is that Hong Kong bloggers sometimes run a mirror inside of the Great Firewall to insure uninterrupted readership within mainland China. Bell writes about the difficulty of identifying influential blogs through western measures such as Technorati. Good stuff.

"We are holding an Asia Pacific regional meeting of our Digital Influence team in the region. This is super-exciting due to the caliber of folks in the region. And the meetings are a lot more fun than they sound. We shared our videos from BlogHer and Vloggercon, as well as our really comprehensive approach to digital influence with each other. There are tremendous insights from each region."

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Jul 20 2006

Important post by Rebecca MacKinnon on Chinese net censorship

Published by under China,Global,Journalism

RConversation

I ran into the same phenomenon during my Beijing trip. Western hand-wringing over the Great Firewall is sometimes met with indifference or indignance:

"I've met with local Internet entrepreneurs, bloggers, Westerners doing business here in the Chinese Internet sector, some diplomats, and some low-level bureaucrats. I'm struck by the degree of disconnect between what the international human rights and free speech community is intending to do, and the way the criticisms of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! are perceived here on the ground. While the leading international free speech and human rights activists view corporate collaboration in Chinese censorship as part of a global problem which will have a major impact on the future of the internet and free speech worldwide, most people in China who are aware of the issue see the debate mainly in terms of whether or not Internet companies should engage in China. They also see it as part of a larger political agenda to demonize China, or as an effort by Americans to tell the Chinese how to run their country. (See the essay by Chinese blogger Michael Anti, himself no fan of censorship being victim of it himself: "The freedom of Chinese netizens is not up to the Americans.")

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May 09 2006

China Tech Stories: Summary of Search Market in China

Published by under China,Global

China Tech Stories: Summary of Search Market in China

Interesting report at China Tech Stories of tech.163.com's report on the state of search in China. This graph shows -- in green -- Baidu's current domination, but Google is coming on strong, contradicting the anecdotal trashing the company received at the hands of the Chinese users I spoke with last month in Beijing.

Google is even better when it comes to monetizing search. Maoxianjia's analysis:

"First, Baidu has gained commanding lead in both usage and popularity reach. However, Baidu's monetization on search is still very limited.

"Secondly, the data pretty much prove Google CEO Eric Schmidt's remark that the China market is up for grabs. In such a short time, from Aug to Dec. 2005, Google has grabbed 14.4% of the market share in revenues in China which is quite remarkable."

And in related China internet news, some squawking over the Chinese character domains -- the censorship crowd is crying manipulation of traffic -- me, it seems logical that you'd have domain names in the same character set as the users, no? Separate issue from who issues and controls the domains.

And finally, read somewhere yesterday that some pundit is predicting 60 million Chinese blogs within a year.

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May 05 2006

Micro Persuasion: Chinese Blogger Tops Technorati 100

Published by under China,Global

Micro Persuasion: Chinese Blogger Tops Technorati 100

Well, I'll be. A couple days ago I pick up on the meme that China bloggers are underrepresented if not completely uncounted in Technorati -- making the syllogism that if I couldn't get to Technorati inside of China then how could Technorati get to Chinese blogs.

Wrong. This is wild. Now comes the news that it ain't Boing Boing on the top of the charts any longer, but now it is Xu Jing Lei. From the numbers quoted to me last week by Sina and Sohu -- the blog counts in China are insanely off the charts. Here you go world, this is the face of the blogosphere and it ain't the usual "A-List" cross linking to each other either:

 

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Apr 25 2006

Breaking through the clutter in Beijing

I've been keeping an eagle's eye out in the chaos and confusion of moving through Beijing for marketing impressions from Western Brands and comparing them to how Chinese brands represent themselves. To keep the discussion simple, I'll first look at outdoor advertising and then in a second essay, look at online.

Outdoor advertising -- and by this I mean bus shelters to buses, billboards to storefronts -- really should be separated into nighttime and daytime effects. Nighttime is a battle of neon. Not a lot of it, saturated Vegas style, but islands of it that really stick out. Daytime is a war for space. The Baidaling Expressway, which runs north out of Beijing up to the Great Wall, has its share of billboards, but only once one gets inside of the fourth ring road (Beijing is defined by concentric circles of ring roads, like Washington D.C.'s Beltway). Then things get interesting. No Western brands appear until one gets into the heart of the city, and the most effective ones are actually building brands -- IBM, Ericsson, Microsoft -- which interestingly enough are not out in the main technology park in the Shandi district where Lenovo is based and one can see Western companies like Peoplesoft and Nordisk.

Once in the city proper, the advertising starts going nuts.

Here's a few photos:

Then, one starts to notice some familiar brands, but still competing for attention:

And right around the corner ....

The situation in the stores is even more chaotic, according to my colleagues who visited a tech mall last night (which I need to do before the week is over.) Lots of machines competing for attention -- like your average 42nd St. electronic store in NYC.

Bus shelters and sidewalk displays seem focused on mobile phones. Lots and lots of Lenovo impressions for our handheld business. This one is for a Lenovo PC.

And finally, my favorite impression of the day. From lunch:

Next up, online advertising for PCs in China. This is mindblowing stuff.

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Apr 24 2006

Inside looking out

Published by under China,Global

Yesterday was an eye-opener in terms of getting a different vantage point on the same goal.

I spent the day working with my Chinese colleagues -- not a new thing, I've collaborated with them via email, and in person in North Carolina since the middle of January. But being here, in their offices, watching how they work, and hearing first-hand their perspectives on what it means to be a Chinese company seeking to become a global company is an entirely different thing than making assumptions from North Carolina trying to help them realize that goal.

The entire vibe is one of intense and keen interest in figuring out the best way to build a true global company -- not an integration of a Chinese and an American one. Having spent last week in Singapore with colleagues from all of the Asia Pacific region, instant messaging with the United Kingdom, organizing operations in Buenos Aries -- this is head spinning to say the least.

While IT is the backbone, what's more apparent to me is the necessity for the old cliche from the early days of online community, lessons learned on the docks of Sausalito by the first denizens of the W.E.L.L., by the Geeks on the Beach at Reel-Time -- that face to face time is the most precious commodity of all. Flat worlds, fiber pipes, IM, SMS, global wireless ... all expedite the collaboration, but nothing can ever replace the intense bandwidth of sharing a lunch with a colleague 13 time zones away from one's home. I blogged early on global governance and management, now I'm living it, and it is apparent we're on the threshold of something massive coming, the early stages of a new world that will demand new thinking.

The friction is -- essentially --airplanes and jet lag. Language is a pain, but even so, seat me next to someone over a bowl of fishhead soup and I'll gain a better understanding than I would from a 7 am conference calls and a hundred emails.

2 responses so far

Apr 22 2006

China Internet thoughts

Things are too chaotic on the morning of day two to compose a reasoned essay on what the situation is regarding computing, Internet, mobile telephony, and branding opportunities in China. and I need to get outside and explore more on one of my precious days off in the country before a week of meetings.
So here's a random list:

  • Right off the bat I saw a Yahoo ad on a bus. I love bus ads. CNET used them to great effect in Manhattan in the mid-90s. Yahoo was the only U.S. internet brand to make an impression yesterday and this one was sighted outside of the northern entrance to the Forbidden City.
  • Internet access in the two hotels I've visited is hardwired and fairly fast. I moved a ton of images up to Flickr without any problem. I've been googling with no hiccups and have seen no examples of censorship. There may be different "zones" for hotel access, but I can't say I have seen any blocked messages or sites.Wikipedia is not loading, but running a politically sensitive search on Google permitted click throughs to sites critical of the government. I have not looked for any porn or other objectionable content. In no way have I felt that any online activities are being delayed, blocked or impeded in the four hours I've spent online.
  • There aren't a lot of American brands in evidence. Microsoft has a large office building with their logo on it. But it seems to be European brands such as Lufthansa, Nestle, Volkswagen, Audi, and Mercedes in the highest abundance. This history plaque in the Forbidden City was sponsored by American Express. And on every plaque carrying this, there appeared to be smears of mud or clay where someone tried to obscure the tagline.
  • I have seen no Internet cafes yet.
  • Wireless phones tend to be either local brands, Nokia, or Motorolas. People use them incessantly. My step-sister, who is a film executive, has one glued to her head at all times. No one appears to be using them for email (I have not seen a Blackberry in use) and I don't see many people texting SMS nor any advertising calls to action that use SMS codes.
  • I saw the word "Mashup" on a poster at this Beijing art gallery. The art here is amazing and the gallery district in a former factory in the 7-9-8 district is right out of San Francisco's SOMA.
  • Blogging is big. I am going to meet some bloggers later this week, but I understand from my step-sister that a lot of business people blog here in Beijing. My China blogroll only now holds:
  • Virtual China: "Virtual China is an exploration of virtual experiences and environments in and about China. The topic is also the primary research area for the Institute for the Future's Asia Focus Program in 2006. IFTF is an independent, nonprofit strategic research group with more than 35 years of forecasting experience based in Palo Alto, CA."
  • ChinaTechStory: which isn't working at the time of this post.
  • ChinaTechNews.com: a good frequent news feed.
  • There is a Starbucks inside the Forbidden City. Of course. The other big American brand is, of course, McDonald's. While eating gyoza in an awesome little cafe, the family at the table next to us was tucking into a great meal while Junior ate a Big Mac and fried from the Golden Arches. The world isn't flat, but it sure will be fat.
  • Chinese "OOH" -- Marketing lingo for Out Of Home -- billboards to you and me, is big. Like really big. The stuff is huge. It screams. We whisper. I'll get some pictures of how we advertise Lenovo here. I got tons of Lenovo impressions yesterday. Big billboards at a convention/tech center and those mechanical rolling ads. All such brands are in English and Chinese.
  • The entire city is under construction. The locals blame a lot of the dust and air quality problems on construction. Apparently a construction moratorium is going into effect along with a coal ban inside of the third ring road to try to clean things up in time for the Olympics. Tons of Olympic branding everywhere and a big countdown clock of the days remaining before they open in '08 at Tianamen Square.
  • That's all for now. Time to lace on the hiking shoes and start exploring after a congee breakfast.
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