How socially engaged are Vietnamese Online Newspapers?

The Bivings Group has recently released its annual report on the use of Internet by America’s largest newspapers in 2008. Basing on the key findings of the report, I’m doing a small research on the use of Internet by top Vietnamese online newspapers using the list of newspapers in the previous RSS usage research. This work is of course incomplete (it’s a one man’s job) and I highly appreciate your comments.

To begin with, please take a closer look at the graphical summary of the report demonstrated by TechCrunch:

TechCrunch Graphical Summary of Bivings Report

TechCrunch Graphical Summary of Bivings Report

For Vietnamese online newspapers, the key findings are as follows:

  • No reporter’s blog whatsoever. :(
  • User-generated content: 50% newspapers have some form of user-contributed articles. These, however, are under moderation: certain artiles are selected basing on quality and appropriateness. VnExpress has the a very popular section in which readers can share thoughts, problems, feelings, etc. with others and receive feedbacks from them. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any website that allows users to upload photos or videos at all. Rarely do we see a video submited by readers. Kenh14 (Channel14), a portfolio company serving teens do aggregate contents such as Karaoke music from other subsidiaries of VCCorp but that’s all.
  • Only Kenh14 and Afamily from VCCorp are two young sites that allow users to comment on articles. VnEconomy, the top Economics magazine in Vietnam, is by far the most progressive site where users can comment on articles. And certainly we like it.
  • Obviously none of the newspapers offer social networking features.
  • 80% offer features such as Most Viewed/Featured Articles/Hot articles/ News of the day on their site. Some even have more than one such as Tuoitre with [New/Featured/Most Popular]. Most Emailed, however, is nowhere to be seen.
  • Vietnam hasn’t got any such large social bookmarking sites as Delicious/Delicious/Digg/Mixx/Reddit yet so it is quite out of the question. Startups such as Linkhay is too small to be noticed.
  • 100% newspapers heavily rely on online advertising: banner ads and video ads to some extent. The ads are  even displayed aggresively in most of the sites :) . Unfortunately, the proposed bill that prohibits online newspapers from displaying ads on their front page, if passed, will deal a fatal blow to the fate of both the newspapers and the online advertising industry.
  • No PDF versions, SMS alerts or Community event calender of any sort are being offered. Though relevant reports on particular subect matters such as economic data are being delivered via PDF format by VnEconomy.
  • RSS Feeds offering was covered in my previous post.

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It’s interesting to find out why blogs haven’t taken off in the Vietnamese traditional media space. I had a short interview with Ms. Thanh Truc, a reporter from Tuoi Tre Newspaper. One of the reasons, according to her, is that most of the efforts are being put into the printed editions and thus reporters “don’t have time” to write blogs. Another is that the newspaper doesn’t think blogging is the best way to reach out to its readers. There are certainly other reasons such as regulatory limitations as to whether online newspapers are allowed to have blogs or not.

But what I find odd is that even though these reporters are supposedly too busy to write blogs for their newspapers, they do have time to write blog on their own, mostly on Yahoo! 360: Oshin, BoCuHung, TrangHa, just to name a few.

Positively speaking, there’re a lot of opportunities for Vietnamese online newspapers to leverage the Internet into further engaging themselves with their readers.

P/S: A Vietnamese summary of the Biving report can be found at Baomoi’s blog.

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