Mumbrella Asia is three. We’ve told you what we’re against; Now we’ll tell you what we’re for

Robin HicksMumbrella Asia turns three years old today. How are we doing, asks editor Robin Hicks at a time of unprecedented disruption for marketing and media in Asia.   

We are three. Some people, including many of our friends, have since told us they didn’t think we’d make it this far. But here we are, 7,101 articles, three million page views and five live events later. And I think the industry is now beginning to realise we’re in it for the long haul.

Here’s the growth story on Google Analytics since April 2013, when we launched.

Mumbrella Asia traffic journey 2013-2016

And here is the story of the last year, showing month-to-month traffic growth. The blue line shows the last 12 months, the orange line the year before that.

Google Analytics chart

Page views are up by more than a third (to 1.4m), as are sessions on the site (992,000).

Most of our traffic – almost half of it – comes from Singapore. Which is perhaps unsurprising, given its importance to the regional agency market.

And there’s been a shift in interest elsewhere.

The biggest growth this year has come from Malaysia (up 172 per cent), which is now our second biggest traffic source having overtaken the US at the beginning of this year.

This was largely driven by our best-read story yet, about the disqualification of an advertising agency from an awards show over allegations of plagiarism, which we broke at the start of the year.

India, Indonesia, the Philippines and particularly Vietnam are also growing quickly.

So, we’re growing. And I think we’re also growing up.

When you ask senior people within the industry what they make of us, I think it’s fair to say that we get mixed reviews.

On the plus side, we’re seen as a title that will publish stories that no one else will, and takes an honest approach to industry reporting, tackling tricky issues head on.

Our philosophy there is a fairly simple one. Our job is to serve our readers, and to tell it as we see it, as honestly as we can. We write for our readers first, not for our contacts or advertisers, although we of course value their support.

On the other, we can be seen as taking an overly tabloid approach, sensationalist, gossipy and too negative.

One regional agency boss – somebody whose advice we value – asked us recently, “We know what you are against. But what do you stand for?”

That was a great question.

While highlighting cases of plagiarism and cheating at awards shows does come with it the supposition that we are for originality and fair play, there is undoubtedly more we can do to showcase the industry at its best.

So, if you’re out there doing great work, let me know about it. We have an awards show, the Mumbrella Asia Awards now in its third year, and we want to show off creative thinking that is setting the region apart.

And we also love to write about good campaigns and thinking as it unfolds.

Our commitment to championing fair play is one of the things that makes Singapore the perfect place for Mumbrella’s Asia base. Like the state, we are strongly anti-corruption. And that’s at a time where tough questions are being asked globally about what really happens to a brand’s money as it passes from agency to buying point to media owner.

Meanwhile, as Wayne Arnold, Singapore-based global CEO of MullenLowe Profero suggested this week, there is interesting work coming out of Asia, particularly in the mobile space where Asia leads the world. And it is a myth that this region is lacking in talent, and is inclined to copy rather than innovate. I’d like to showcase more work that helps prove that copycat Asia is no more than a dated stereotype.

Admittedly, some of the comments we are getting on stories on the site haven’t done much to encourage people to feature their work on Mumbrella – whether it’s good or bad. What we should do about this is a big question for us. And I’d love to know your views about how we foster an honest debate without derailing it with unwarranted criticism.

Should we turn comments off? As the Guardian pointed out in a brilliant summary of the issue (The dark side of comments) just recently, giving a voice to readers – when they are considered, thoughtful and move the discussion on, or take it in another direction – enriches a story. But often their effect is the opposite.

The most commented-on stories on Mumbrella Asia have been about industry issues (just lately: massive restructuring in agencies and plagiarism), but many have been about people. For that reason we haven’t published just under a third (32 per cent) of comments because they’re either abusive, libellous or just plain mean.

Of course we make mistakes. Some comments have been published that shouldn’t have been. Comment moderation seems to be about getting a feel for what would be fine to say to someone to their face at a party, and I clearly have not been to enough parties.

But as we grow we try to get better.

Is Mumbrella too negative? Perhaps at times it can seem that way. But it cannot be denied that right now, just in the last few months, there’s been an awful lot of scary stuff happening that is worth reporting. And doubtless most of it – given how tame the media and marketing trade press tends to be in this region – has gone unreported.

For marketers, the world is an increasingly complex place, and needs more help than ever to navigate.

Meanwhile traditional advertising agencies appear to have visibly shrunk as the likes of Google and Facebook fatten.

This is the most fascinating time to be writing about this business that I can remember in 15 years or so of covering it. And it just so happens that at a time of massive upheaval the losers seem to be outnumbering the winners. At least on the more traditional side of the business.

But even the trailblazers, such as Buzzfeed and Mashable in digital media, or Pubmatic and Turn in ad tech, are having to adjust to markets so new and unpredictable that it is hard to tell who will be here next week, let alone next year.

Will we be here next year? I believe so. I think there is space in the market for what we do, and a need in Asia for straight, honest reporting that goes beyond the contents of a press release.

mumbrella asia awards dom lau

And there’s a lot of evidence that the industry is supporting us as we grow. Last year about 120 people supported the first Mumbrella Asia Awards. This time round, we had around 200 people in the room, and it felt like we were beginning to find our place.

As somebody whose connections to Singapore, and Asia more widely, go back for more than a decade, it was a satisfying feeling.

And as Mumbrella Asia grows up, we’ll be telling you more and more about the things we stand for and want to champion.

Thank you for your support this far.

Robin Hicks is editor of Mumbrella Asia


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