Big investment in Sanook.com

Posted: August 28, 2010 in Thailand

Sanook.com has been one of the top destinations for Thai internetizens for some time. Apparently it ranks sixth in terms of visitors in Thailand. I have stumbled upon it from a couple different paths, including celebrity news which they carry a lot of, and the curious way that eBay Thailand is integrated into it. Regarding the latter, if you type ebay.co.th into your browser’s navigation bar you are redirected to shopping.co.th and then shopping.sanook.com. When you reach the landing page you see shopping.co.th at top left with the Sanook logo and “in association with ebay” at the top right.

The website is the typical horribly messy Thai website design with junk all over the place, animated gifs, and loads of unrelated links clamoring for attention. After years of seeing these garbage websites in Thailand I’m still wondering if they are effective at all. Are Thais so different from westerners that utter chaos is effective in selling something? You know what? Maybe! Go to a shopping area in Bangkok and experience the chaos and noise – maybe that’s what is required. I still don’t know.

But in reality I think that the conventional wisdom of educated and experienced website designers is probably a better guide. Clean websites that get visitors to home in on the call to action instead of distracting them with childish flashing cartoon buttons would probably achieve the best results.

To be fair, the shopping.sanook.com website isn’t a bad as many I’ve seen. But the main page is a whole bunch of 100×100 product images linking to auction pages that look very much like ebay pages, but aren’t. Then farther down the page area ebay listings which are actually all affiliate links for eBay U.S. program. Maybe they have some deal to use the ebay logo and say “in association with ebay” on their site but in reality they are nothing more than another ebay US affiliate.

Which makes me wonder where the value is that led Chinese company Tencent to invest USD10.5 million to buy a little less than 50% of sanook.com. It must be in the raw number of visitors and display advertising they have across their web properties. The guys who track internet traffic in Thailand are truehits.com and they say sanook.com’s looks like this:

It has been previously reported that Thailand is the fastest growing (percentage wise) online advertising market. So perhaps sanook.com is really worth that kind of investment. Perhaps, but I’m not so sure. What is the online spend in Thailand? And the advertising spend? Maybe those numbers are big enough for this investment by Tencent to make sense.

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