Sunday, October 22, 2006

If you can't ban them, buy them!

The sale of Hardware Zone to SPH probably didn't generate much buzz outside of Singapore. I myself was unware of it until several days ago. (I don't usually watch/read the bullshit generated by CNA, asiaone and other thinly-veiled government propaganda machines, save to have a good laugh at the collective stupidity of the source that fed such "news" to them.)

While the deal may have stemmed from genuine business considerations that reflected SPH's increasingly desperate desire to gain a foothold on the Web (after repeated failures), there are suggestions that it's all part of a systematic attempt by the PAP government to control alternative views. Much of this arises because of the anti-authority vibe in the forums hosted by Hardware Zone.

The SPH-HWZ tie-up bears a striking similarity to MySpace's acquisition by News Corp., where the community felt betrayed by the sell-out. Like News Corp., SPH may initially be compelled to let the forums continue to operate on the principles of user control and grass-root growth. But surely at some point in time, it will have to demonstrate ROI by harvesting members' information for marketing purposes. Users, wary that their chatter will now be monitored by a government-linked entity, may abandon HWZ and congregate elsewhere.

In any case, it's a lose-lose situation for all parties involved.

Next up: a clamp-down on blogging sites?

Related stories:
State of the Propaganda Machine
SPH Orcs are Gaining Ground in the Web
Cheating in Monopoly
Two Tales
Press freedom a non-issue in the Internet age?


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