Yahoo Malaysia confident of double-digit growth
Personalization, mobility & localization the key
YAHOO's Malaysian operations is poised to experience "double-digit" percentage revenue growth in 2013 on the back of a successful 2012 that was driven by an increase in digital advertising spending and the localization of advertising campaigns, according to its local head.
Speaking to the media on March 12 at the launch of the tech media giant’s new Malaysian office, Jon-Tjin Kee (pic), country ambassador and sales director for Yahoo Malaysia, said the company has seen revenue growth continuously because the digital advertising pie is growing bigger year-on-year.
“Based on what we’ve been tracking quarter to quarter, I’m very confident that we will see double digit growth this year,” he said.
Pressed further on what double-digits actually entails, Kee declined to be specific, noting only that he was actually “quite surprised to see this growth despite the first quarter being a traditionally slow time for most businesses.”
Asked how Malaysia’s impending General Election, which must be called by April, would affect its revenue performance, Kee said he does not expect this to be a big factor as Yahoo is engaged in global campaigns and not just local ones.
“We do global campaigns as well and advertisers such as Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia won’t stop spending just because there is an election around the corner,” he said.
Citing a Universal McCann report which stated that digital marketing spending in Malaysia surpassed RM300 million in 2011 and is expected to hit RM450 million in 2012, Kee said he was confident that advertising expenditure (adex) would increase in the coming year.
[RM1 = US$0.32]
“From an adex point of view, I don’t have a crystal ball, but from what we’ve seen so far, we expect companies to advertise now, if not later after the elections,” he said.
Kee also said that Yahoo Malaysia’s revenue growth will be fueled by its traditional CPM (click per mille or 1,000 impressions) and CPC (cost per click) digital display advertising, noting that this will continue to be the “baseline of how the company conducts its business.”
Besides these this bread and butter advertising business, Kee said Yahoo plans to broaden and deepen its collaboration with various content partners, such as the ones that it has established with Majalah Tech (a local Malay language tech magazine) and Motor Trader (a weekly motoring classified magazine) in 2012.
“These content partners are leaders in their own fields and because of this, advertisers will follow suit,” he explained. “We plan to widen this to include lifestyle and finance content later in the year.”
Personalization and mobility
Yahoo has had in the past few years experienced a tumultuous time in the leadership and share price front. In the late 1990s, it was one of the darlings of Silicon Valley. Even after the dotcom bust in 2001, it still had a strong brand presence and many netizens still set their browsers to Yahoo as their home page.
But as the new millennium progressed, it struggled to find relevance amongst new challengers such as social media giants like Facebook and Twitter, to name just two. In those years, it also lost its search crown to Google, which became the de facto search engine.
On the corporate front, Yahoo has had six CEOs removed and/ or fired in the past five years alone, the most publicized of which was co-founder Jerry Yang being removed as chief executive officer in 2009.
During this period, its share price took a severe hit and has since fallen to more than half its value from 2007 when it hovered around US$30, to US$13 in the middle of 2010.
Finally last July, Yahoo’s board picked the tech sector's rising star Marissa Mayer (pic) to lead the company out of its troubles. The former high ranking Google executive and search giant’s first female engineer has somewhat stabilized its operations and its share price to date is about US$22, despite some detractors accusing her of not being strategic enough to turn Yahoo around.
In recent interviews, Mayer unveiled her vision for Yahoo, stating that two important trends – personalization and mobility – are what will define the company going forward.
Asked how these two visions translated to Yahoo Malaysia’s operations, Kee said that as a global company, products that are launched in the West which have both personalization and mobility built into them would also be available here in Malaysia, and indeed, to the rest of the region.
“Products like Mail and Flickr were globally available when they were re-launched, and we in Malaysia experienced the changes too,” he pointed out. “But there may be other products such as personalized and behavioral-based advertisement that may be tested in the United States first before they become available here.”
Kee also claimed that from a personalization perspective, Yahoo Malaysia has a lot of leeway to decide what kind of localized content gets onto the website here.
“Yahoo provides backend tools for us to use in order that we may localize the content here. And our tools like Content Optimization and Relevance Engine (Core) help us to track users’ behavior and highlight what they prefer, thereby giving us the ability to localize content.”
Additionally, Kee said Yahoo’s content is also filled with localized news rather than that of other countries.
“If you look at the front page of US Yahoo and Yahoo Malaysia, the content served is very different. Yahoo Malaysia’s news is very Malaysian-centric and will not include irrelevant stories to our readers,” he said. “Our media properties also have bilingual sites – English and Malay – being served to our users.”
No work from home controversy
On how Mayer’s recent retraction of its Work From Home (WFH) policy – which effectively bars any full-time staff from working from home any more – would impact the Yahoo Malaysia office, Kee said he doesn’t expect this to make much difference locally.
“Yahoo’s WFH policy applied to full-time employees that are working completely from home in the United States,” he said. “In Malaysia, we don’t have an official policy or practice for such work arrangements, and most of the time, all our staff are in the office working.
“That said, we have always practised flexibility in our arrangements with our staff here and it depends from situation to situation as to whether staff can be granted flexibility to work from home or not.
“If there is a need to be flexible, we can be, but we have not experiences any form of abuse of this practice here so it’s not an issue for us in Malaysia nor even in the region,” Kee claimed.
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