December 23rd, 2010
03:18 AM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – There is something plainly fascinating about Paul Butler's map of the world. The Facebook intern used data from the social networking site to create a map of people's friendships across the globe and to see how they related to geographical and political boundaries. After experimenting with different techniques, he ended up using arced, weighted lines to connect cities based on the volume of the Facebook friendships between them.

In Butler's words, the result is "a surprisingly detailed map of the world. Not only were continents visible, certain international borders were apparent as well. What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn't represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships."

The lines also map out, to a large extent, Facebook's global penetration. One is struck by the fluorescent clusters in the United States and Europe, where Facebook is widely used; the clear contours of Indonesia, home of the most Facebook users in Asia; and the giant hole where China should be.

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July 11th, 2010
06:01 PM GMT
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(CNN) – If you can spare few seconds during the World Cup final (unlikely, I know), take a look at the rotating ads behind the pitch. There is one ad combination that is particularly striking: McDonald's and Yingli Solar.

This is McDonald's fifth World Cup and the global fast food giant has it down to an art. They run a World Cup advertising campaign and in-store promotions around the world. There are even World Cup Happy Meal toys.

On the other hand, who has heard of Yingli Solar? It is a brand owned by Yingli Green Energy Holding Company, a 12-year-old Chinese company that makes photovoltaic modules, a technology that's increasingly used to convert solar energy into electricity. It has only been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 2007.

But Yingli's executives are hoping after this World Cup, you will know their name.

Bryan Li, the company's CFO, says Yingli decided to become a World Cup sponsor because of the increasingly competitive market for solar companies. Yingli felt it could "not just compete with our global competition by cost. We also need to compete with them by the brand."

Li cannot disclose the financial details of the sponsorship because of a confidentiality agreement with FIFA, but says Yingli paid less than others because FIFA was eager to include a sponsor from China and associated with renewable energy. Branding experts estimate that other companies at the same sponsorship level paid between 35 and 50 million dollars.

Nigel Currie, from the UK consulting firm brandRapport, sees Yingli's sponsorship as part of a broader shift from big multinationals to emerging market companies. Four of this year's World Cup sponsors are relatively young brands on the global stage, something Currie says was hard to imagine even five years ago. Newbies include Yingli Solar, South Africa's Telecom giant MTN, Brazilian food company Seara and Indian IT provider Mahindra Satyam. With its hundreds of millions of worldwide viewers and its pitch-side advertising, Currie believes the World Cup provides brand exposure like no other event.

Coming into the finals, Li agrees. He says the impact of the sponsorship has exceeded his expectations. In the first six months of this year, Yingli has had almost two and half times as many orders as they can meet with next year's expected capacity. "A year ago, we approached the client," he says. "Now the client approaches us."

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February 25th, 2010
10:44 PM GMT
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A victory for figure skater Kim Yu-Na Thursday night gave her gold on the ice, but she is already raking in her fair share outside of the rink.

The 19-year-old is wildly popular in her native Korea, with nicknames like "The Queen" and "The Fairy of the Ice." That status has yielded her $10 million in sponsorships and endorsements deals, according to her representatives, IB Sports Management.

Forbes magazine ranks Kim as the top earning Olympic athlete this year, tied with U.S. snowboarder Shaun White.

Nike has created a Just Do It campaign around the young skater, showing her overcoming the pressure and challenges of Olympic-level competition. Though the campaign is only in Korea, Nike believes it will be seen around the world. "We are getting a lot of great response from our consumers and know that through our campaign, she is touching the lives of aspiring athletes, young people and fans throughout the world," Nike said in a statement.

Samsung Electronics has created the Yuna Haptic, a cell phone branded around the skater. In the accompanying ad campaign, she goofs around like an average teenager, using her phone to take pictures and listen to music. Samsung says more than one million Yuna Haptics have already been sold.

South Korea has never before won a medal in Olympic figure skating. Kimmy Kim, a reporter for SBS TV in Seoul, says many average Koreans believe Kim's victory would help reinvigorate the country. "The Korean economy is not as good as it used to be. They hope that she wins and gives strength and hope to everyone in Korea."

IB Sports Management hopes a gold medal could lead to even more deals for the young skater. This is Kim's first Olympic games and a gold would go a long way towards extending her fame beyond her native country.

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December 21st, 2009
11:31 AM GMT
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You have to admit gold has kind of stolen the show in the metals sector this year. The traditional safe haven investment raced to settle at a record price of $1,218.30 an ounce in early December. Now prices have fallen off somewhat since then, but the gold bulls and the gold bears are still arguing it out over when we might see $1500.

In all this gold rush though, you may have overlooked the significant gains in other metals. Here are a few to watch in 2010.

Platinum: Platinum prices have made solid gains this year, but some analysts say the precious metal could have more room to grow. Used both for jewelry and industrial purposes, constrained supply is an issue.

Copper: Prices for this industrial metal more than doubled in 2009 after a difficult 2008. Copper watchers expect demand for the metal will continue rising as global economies pick up in 2010. Copper is a key component for building projects, autos and electrical wiring, so it is an essential resource for quickly growing countries like China.

Steel: More, more and more seems to be China's attitude towards steel at the moment. Still the outlook for this essential building material is far from certain. Fitch Ratings predicts in a recent report that demand will recover at a "modest pace" over the 12-18 months, but says high stocks and excess capacity should limit price increases.  Morgan Stanley believes such overproduction should recede though and higher prices are on the horizon, driven by rising raw materials costs and China's booming property sector.



November 15th, 2009
07:23 AM GMT
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Singapore – Alphabet soup is on the menu everywhere here at the APEC summit. Acronyms, painful at the best of times, seem to be used continually by leaders, CEOs and politicians gathered in Singapore. Here’s a guide for those trying to follow the action.

APEC

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, consists of 21 member economies that account for more than half of global gross domestic product – the value of all goods and services a country produces. Members include power players such as the United States, Japan and China and developing nations such as Chile and Indonesia. A key part of the mission: achieving the 'Bogor Goals of “free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific by 2010 for industrialized economies and 2020 for developing economies.”

 Once famously described as"four adjectives looking for a noun,” APEC sometimes comes under criticism for being little more than a talking shop. Members have no treaty obligations and all agreements are non-binding. Still any event that puts Barack Obama and Hu Jintao in the same room is going to attract the world’s attention.

 ASEAN

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN has 10 member states, with a combined GDP of US$1.5 trillion. The group’s mission is to promote economic growth and regional stability. Barack Obama will be the first U.S. president to meet with the group’s leaders, including Myanmar’s Prime Minister Thein Sein. The Obama administration has adopted a policy of engaging Myanmar, also known as Burma, in hopes it will push the country toward democratic reforms.

 TPP

Until a few days ago, the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP was little known economic alliance formed between Chile, New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei. Now the U.S., Australia, Peru and Vietnam want to join, with the intention of using the TPP as a stepping stone toward the ultimate goal of free trade throughout the APEC region. This may be the first you have heard of TPP, but I doubt it will be the last.

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October 22nd, 2009
03:02 AM GMT
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China = 1.3 billion people.

That’s an equation that intoxicates marketers and drives businesses to invest serious cash in capturing the Chinese consumer.

But experts in brand marketing in China warn businesses not to get dazzled by the numbers. China's consumer market is large, but it is also complex, fragmented and fiercely competitive. If you want a piece of the action, you better do your homework and be prepared to stay for the long term.

Here are a few tips from our experts.

Target your customers

Only 33.5% of retail sales now come from China's top 24 cities, according to a study from Ogilvy & Mather Group China. China's smaller cities and towns are a growing market for foreign brands.

However, consumers in these areas have considerably different shopping habits than those in big cities. They are less hurried, spend more time in public spaces and have limited access to the Internet. Differences like these can be crucial for market strategy.

Regional, cultural and ethnic differences have to be considered as well. Chris Reitermann, President of Ogilvy Shanghai, says focusing on a smaller market segment can pay off more than a broad, unrefined strategy.

Have a local partner

There are a lot of benefits to choosing the right Chinese partner and building a strong relationship with them. GM, a long-term success story in the Chinese market, has made out of its joint ventures with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. "They know the market," says GM marketer Joseph Liu. "They help us on the distribution side. They bring the government relationship which is extremely important in China."

Take your time

Both our experts advise that building a brand in China is an energy and time-consuming business. Liu recommends putting someone in China full time to build relationships. Reitermann says studying the Chinese way of life can help you build a marketing campaign that is sensitive to local culture and appeals to local tastes.

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July 24th, 2009
04:31 AM GMT
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Remember the anticipation that used to come with turning on a new computer? The graphics were cooler, the load-time faster and the new features in the operating system inspired awe.

When did that end? Starting up my latest laptop was a less than thrilling experience. Sure it was new and shiny, but the user experience was essentially the same as the computer I'd had before. Faster, yes, but the difference to me as a relatively average computer user was negligible. Look I love my new laptop, but it simply is not leaps and bounds ahead of my last one.

So that got me thinking - what would make my mouth drop open these days when it comes to a new laptop? There is only one thing that really frustrates me anymore: battery life. What good is wireless Internet when you can only be so far from a power socket? A 16-hour transcontinental flight and a four-hour battery life do not a happy work trip make.

Acer CEO J.T. Wang is betting other consumers feel the same way. The Taiwanese company has just launched a series of laptops they say have eight-plus hours of battery life. "Eight is a magical number, according to market studies." says Wang. "Because eight hours represents a whole day computing and you don't have to bring a big adapter."

Apparently, the battle to build a better battery is a battle of the bulge – it all comes down to weight. Building a lighter, more powerful battery appears to be more challenging than building lighter, more powerful chips.

As for me, I don't know if an eight-hour battery life is enough. I want 16. Or 24.Honestly I'd be happiest if I never had to plug the thing in at all.

How many hours of computing time would keep you satisfied?



September 22nd, 2008
08:31 AM GMT
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HONG KONG, China - "What does that mean... in English?" That is the question I seem to get most these days. Short selling, credit debt swaps, bank holding companies - the business speak is coming fast and thick and it is putting fear into the heart of many journalists and non-journalists alike. Those of us working in CNN's business units have never felt so popular - if you can call it that.

Understanding and explaining what is happening in the financial markets is our biggest challenge right now. Some of this stuff, like short selling, is familiar territory for financial journalists. But some of the jargon is unfamiliar to us also, and we are working hard to learn and to translate it in a clear way.

If there is anything that needs to be explained, please post your comments on this blog or email yourviews@cnn.com

I tell my CNN colleagues who feel overwhelmed that the financial instruments involved in this meltdown are so complex that many of the bankers involved don't even understand them.

That might make them feel better - but then the same thought always sends me into a panic.

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September 9th, 2008
01:52 PM GMT
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The branding was not subtle. Giant banners reading PokerStars.Net surrounded the competitors in this year's Asia Pacific Poker Tour Macao event. I guess that is to be expected. Such online sites bring in much of the poker industry's revenue. They also sponsor many of the tournaments and competitors.

Watch CNN's Eunice Yoon on China's gambling habits

Watch CNN's Eunice Yoon on China's gambling habits.

The appeal, according to some players, is that anyone can play online. No intimidating casino, no need to travel - poker from the comfort of your own home.

But you can use online poker as a stepping stone. The appropriately named Chris Moneymaker, one of the game's biggest celebrities, won the 2003 World Series of Poker, and $2.5 million, after qualifying online.

From the players I saw in Macao, poker players pretty much run the gamut. Young and old, men and women. There was even one guy dressed as a joker.

So here come the questions. Do you play online poker? Would you play at the casino? Is there something about the Internet that boosts your confidence?

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July 11th, 2008
06:29 AM GMT
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HONG KONG - For Yin Ho, fame was instantaneous.

The first in line, Ho was mobbed Friday by the hordes of press covering the launch of the iPhone 3G here in Hong Kong. And he was enjoying the glory, posing with an enormous grin for the camera, first with a sample phone, then with his own precious handset.

Hong Kong did not have the queues of Japan or the United States. Carrier Hutchison Telecom had an online lottery to pick the first 500 customers to receive the iPhone. More than 60,000 applied. New iPhones were also given to select friends and loyal customers of the company.  

Officially, the new iPhone 3G is the first to be released in Hong Kong. In reality, the original iPhone is everywhere, brought over from the United States or Western Europe and unlocked to run on networks other than Apple's approved service providers. Many of the customers in line for the new phone on Friday proudly showed me their original models. The taxi driver who took us to the launch this morning even had one on his dash.

Critics might complain about the new iPhone's price plans, battery life or features that don't measure up against existing phones on the market in Asia. For the die-hard iPhone fans online this morning in Hong Kong, none of that mattered. They wanted the new phone, for status, for the new features, for its style. And they wanted to tell all their friends they had it first.

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