AOL returns with HK and Taiwan portals
AOL, the internet services company operated by media conglomerate Time Warner, has returned to the Greater China market by introducing portals in Hong Kong and Taiwan, hoping to tap the fast-growing online advertising market.
The company is still considering a return to the mainland after pulling out from FM365.com, a joint venture with Legend Group that was announced in 2001.
'In China, we need to be cautious as we need to deal with various issues,' AOL China vice-president Norman Koo said yesterday.
AOL launched a new portal in Hong Kong yesterday following one opened in Taiwan earlier this week, offering free services such as unlimited email storage, an online calendar, the video search engine Truevo and AOL Instant Messenger.
The portals also provide news, finance and entertainment content.
'Hong Kong is the best place for our new portal as it has over 2 million broadband subscribers and there is growth potential for the online advertising business,' Mr Koo said in Hong Kong yesterday.
He said the portal would generate revenue from online advertising in concert with other AOL units such as Advertising.com and Tacoda.
Before the launch of the Hong Kong site, AOL drew 482,000 unique visitors from the city to its main portal, with 5 million page views in February. About 190,000 unique visitors browsed AOL Music that month.
'Traffic at AOL's main portal from Hong Kong gives us confidence for the success of the Hong Kong portal,' Mr Koo said. 'We believe our free services like AIM and the video search engine will drive traffic.'
Yahoo Hong Kong, the city's most popular portal, records more than 3 million unique visitors each month. Atnext.com, the portal of Next Media in the city, had more than 1 million unique visitors each month, sources from the advertising industry said.
'The portal should have a clear market position and target audience. Advertisers will allocate budget for it after it builds up established traffic,' said Ivan Chiu, digital manager at media agent Carat Hong Kong.
AOL Hong Kong was an internet service provider in the late 1990s, charging a monthly fee for internet connectivity. Mr Koo said the new portal should be successful because of its low cost base.
'Our email service has over 100 million users around the world. With such a strong user base, our operating costs are low and we don't need big revenue to make it a success,' he said.