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Six Asian media firms that are leapfrogging towards global scale

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By Charlotte McEleny, Asia Editor

March 30, 2016 | 6 min read

With 60 per cent of the world’s population, the vast and multicultural region of Asia is a land grab for western media and digital businesses as they see audience’s plateaux on home turf. For example, the courting of China by major US internet businesses, such as Facebook, is weighted in the potential for growth should ‘the great firewall of China’ be opened for them.

But this migration East isn’t the only interesting movement, many businesses in Asia are making their mark globally. Where some may have viewed Asia as a ‘fast follower’ in the digital media sphere, it is now taking the lead, with Tencent's social networks having leapfrogged the likes of Facebook in terms of innovation.

Some have made the jump purely on scale, because they are based out of countries with enormous populations. Others have created new business models and ecosystems that are far more complex than the Western equivalents.

We’ve selected six media businesses that are worthy of the attention of Western marketers and are making significant strides towards being global media front-runners:

Line

You could also include a myriad of other messaging services in this, namely China’s WeChat and South Korea’s Kakao Talk, but recent developments from Japan’s Line help to prove how Asia’s instant messaging services are outpacing its Western rivals.

Asia’s messaging apps aren’t just about messaging, though they do that exceptionally well. Each of them have created ecosystems, integrating payment tools, partner services such as Taxi app integration and content in abundance.

Line is aiming for an IPO but with stiff competition from the likes of WeChat, Kakao Talk and western services such as Facebook’s Whatsapp, it faces a challenge. The announcement of a Line debit card and a Line internet service is not surprising therefore, and shows that the ambitions of these brands are much bigger than a messaging app.

With Facebook’s code recently giving the game away that it similarly plans an ‘ecosystem’ future for its messenger service, it flips the ‘fast follower’ notion on its head.

iFlix

Western streaming giant Netflix has made a very strong, recent move into Asia (outside China) but it’s facing very strong competition in the market. Namely that of South East Asia’s iFlix which has reportedly been raising $150 million to help its expansion into Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

SmartNews

The distribution and monetisation of news content is a worldwide problem. Young people are shunning newspapers in favour of mobile and social media-delivered current affairs.

The Japanese contender to Flipboard, an aggregator that uses machine learning to serve personalised news in an app, is live in 150 countries. With publishers needing new routes to reader and profit, the market is wide open for a service to take the lead on news content.

Mogujie

Social commerce is a bit of a dirty word in Western digital retail spheres; it once promised so much but has delivered so little. A bit like the surge in messaging app innovation in Asia, behaviour was much faster to change than in the West and consumers have been much more open to social commerce in China.

But there has been a lot of competition and it had made investors wary, so leader Mogujie acquired rival and Meilishuo, which had been backed by Tencent. The result is a social commerce superbrand.

Culture Machine Media

YouTube is very much dominant in a lot of Asia, aside from markets such as China where Western services are blocked and native brands such as Youku Tudou (Alibaba) and iQiyi (Baidu) reign supreme.

However, in South East Asian markets and India for example, YouTube is still a significant platform and a new breed of creators are forming.

In India, Culture Machine Media is one of these businesses. Founded by Sameer Pitalwalla, former director of video and celebrity at Disney India, and Venkat Prasad, former product manager at YouTube, it now boasts over 350 channels (including Being Indian below) and well over 400 million views.

Douban

Douban is a social network and music streaming service in China. It serves as a community with passion points around music, books and the arts as well as a content hub for music, via its radio and music streaming service. It even has a library of cultural information and user ratings.

A recent brand film released by the company shows how its aiming for a high brow, cultural brand image.

Douban isn’t as big as some of the other Chinese social networks, or as sprawling as Chinese search giant Baidu for music streaming, but for brands wanting to reach consumers around important cultural content, it’s an essential platform to know.

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