Rev Asia acquires OhBulan! in latest digital media salvo
By A. Asohan October 7, 2014
- Malay-language portal gets editorial, design, tech and marketing support
- Deal comes only weeks after OhBulan! parts ways with Paul Tan’s Driven
DIGITAL media company Rev Asia Bhd has acquired Malay entertainment website OhBulan!, giving it a foothold in the Malay-speaking market and a potentially lucrative segment of the Malaysian media industry.
The deal, signed with the portal’s holding company M Driven Communications Sdn Bhd, was first announced on the OhBulan! portal itself on Sept 24 and later in the Malaysian edition of Business Insider, which is run by Rev Asia.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but “the acquisition price is mutually satisfactory between both parties. Rev Asia will own 100% of OhBulan! and its assets,” Rev Asia managing director Voon Tze Khay told Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
Rev Asia did not file a notice with Bursa Malaysia “because the deal size didn’t fall under listing requirement terms,” he said when asked why. [See Pages 1007-1014, Subsections 10.06-10.08 in this PDF -- ED, link corrected]
“The OhBulan! team will be hired as Rev Asia employees and form part of our business, and will continue to operate the website.
“Rev Asia will invest further in hiring to improve the volume of content and marketing efforts, as well as providing support and creating synergy across its current editorial, design, technology, and marketing teams,” he added.
OhBulan! focuses on celebrity-related content and entertainment news from Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea and Hollywood.
In Malaysia, Malay celebrities and entertainment is an industry in itself, with newsstands clogged by titles ranging from gossip rags to glossy mags, a trend also reflected on the Internet.
The overall Malaysian entertainment and media (E&M) is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.8% from 2013-2017 compared with 5.6% globally, according to PwC Malaysia in its Malaysia Entertainment and Media Outlook 2013 report.
This growth is being “driven primarily by a continuing surge in Internet access, both fixed and wireless,” said Irvin Menezes, the Technology Information Communication & Entertainment Leader at PwC Malaysia.
“Despite this increase in ‘access,’ we haven’t yet seen a commensurate increase in the shift to digital, from a consumer or advertising spend perspective – one [which] we are seeing elsewhere globally.
“We think this represents significant opportunity in the short-term; we believe that tapping into this nascent and emerging digital market will require increased personalisation, continuous innovation, smart use of insights that your data will provide, and establishing credible distribution channels,” he wrote in the report.
Rev Asia was formed in October last year with the merger of certain subsidiaries of public-listed Catcha Media Bhd with Says Sdn Bhd under a company called Rev Media Equity Holdings Bhd. In June this year, Catcha Media officially changed its name to Rev Asia.
Says operates Says.com, which describes itself as a crowdsourced content broadcasting platform that leverages on social media users to curate and share trending news items.
The OhBulan! acquisition adds one more title and platform to Rev Asia’s portfolio, and one more weapon to its revenue play that leverages on volume traffic to create advertising and cross-selling opportunities.
The acquisition “will strengthen our audience reach in Malaysia, thus allowing us to capitalise and monetise deeper through our other media assets,” Voon (pic) told DNA.
“We currently operate 16 (including OhBulan!) brands across the Rev Asia business, of which six are operated under licence with our respective partners,” he said.
In a separate report, Voon told Advertising + Marketing that “the focus on sponsored content and native advertising potential for advertisers within OhBulan! will be enhanced via Rev Asia’s existing extensive social media distribution platforms, putting us in the driving seat to capture a significant piece of Malaysia’s rapidly growing content marketing spend.”
When asked how much of OhBulan!’s content now falls under the above ‘sponsored content and native advertising’ category, and how much Rev Asia is aiming to achieve, Voon told DNA, “Currently, OhBulan! publishes minimal sponsored content, and we aim to increase the volume in the coming months through our partnership with our respective clients and brands.”
When asked if ‘sponsored content and native advertising’ was merely new media lingo for paid-for advertorials, Voon said there are key differences.
“Sponsored content and native advertising are different from paid advertorials, with the latter having a primary focus on fulfilling the client’s agenda.
“Sponsored content keeps in mind user interests as much as client agenda. A good piece of sponsored content is one that the user wouldn’t mind reading or watching even though it wasn’t sponsored.
“Sponsored content and posts [on OhBulan!] will be marked as such,” he added.
[Disclosure: DNA has also featured clearly-marked sponsored posts, such as this on broadband speed and connectivity issues.]
Parting of ways with Paul Tan
Rev Asia’s acquisition of OhBulan! comes weeks after the latter parted ways with Driven Communications Sdn Bhd, founded by industry icon Paul Tan who had transformed his blog into the disruptive automotive news portal paultan.org.
The two companies got together after an introduction by the media agency that represented sales for both of them.
OhBulan! was founded by Hafriz Zulpakar, currently the managing editor, whom Tan’s partner Harvinder Singh Sidhu in an earlier interview with DNA described as “a guy pretty much like Paul, who started from personal interest.”
“But after he graduated and was employed by Telekom Malaysia, he started neglecting the site. He couldn’t keep up. So we said we will come in and he will be able to continue maintaining the site full-time,” Harvinder said then.
According to Tan (pic), Driven Communications took a “70% stake for zero ringgit in August 2010.”
“The deal was that we would financially support the company for it to grow because sales were pretty much almost zero at that time, despite there being a pool of visitors.
“The deal was done on the basis that we would be building OhBulan! in the same way we built Paultan.org – the key phrase being ‘build and operate.’ We agreed that we were not going to ‘build and flip’ the company,” Tan told DNA via email.
But the synergies that the two parties expected “did not happen,” he added, so Driven Communications returned its stake without asking for any payment in return.
However, OhBulan! holding company M Driven did clear the loans that Driven Communications had extended to it.
“There was no black-and-white agreement in place but we take our word very seriously – if we were not going to ‘build and operate,’ we would not sell to someone else either,” said Tan.
“We could have easily just sold our stake to someone else but we did not because we wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if we did so.
“It appears that Hafriz sold the company to Rev Asia once the shares were all back in his name,” added Tan, also a DNA Digerati50.
How does this now figure into Driven Communications’ own plans now? “For now, we are going to focus on the automotive [space] only in the near- to medium-term,” he said.
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