The Globe as you know it is changing.
Coming June 2019

  • More thought-provoking stories that inspire
  • Independent, free and member-supported
  • Vote for, pitch and commission stories
  • Member engagement with our journalists

To understand more about why you are so important to our member-supported initiative, we encourage you to read the following from our managing editor ~ Read more

The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

If you’re interested in joining us, sign up to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. And watch this space.

The business of love: fierce competition between dating apps

By: Kirsten Han - Posted on: February 24, 2016 | Business

In an age where ‘swiping right’ has entered common parlance, the matchmakers behind the region’s most popular dating apps are working hard to attract users

Up a dimly lit concrete stairwell in Singapore’s Chinatown lies a small company in the business of love. Its office is typical of startups: minimalist (one could even describe it as bare). But appearances shouldn’t fool anyone. For this is the home of Paktor, one of the region’s biggest dating apps, boasting more than six million users in six key Asian markets.

The rise of dating apps has been a worldwide phenomenon. The introduction of smartphones, coupled with better connectivity, has created opportunities for mobile-based businesses, from music to games to taxi booking. The art of romance has been no different.

“We do most of our things on mobile right now, and hence it’s not surprising that dating has followed the same trend,” says Paktor’s chief executive officer, Joseph Phua. “With the advent of smart and mobile phones, and how small and handy they’ve become, we’ve just shifted our lives to the mobile world.”

Southeast Asian users have caught on to the trend, with a host of local dating apps – such as Thailand-based Noonswoon, Peekawoo in the Philippines, Indonesia’s Wavoo and Singapore’s LunchClick – now operating in the region.

However, Paktor, meaning ‘dating’ in Hokkien, is undoubtedly one of the best known, with reach in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam. The app allows users to review profiles, swiping left or right to indicate interest. Users are matched if positive reviews are mutual.

Alongside its 20-strong Singaporean team, the company has 40 more employees spread across Indonesia, Taiwan and Vietnam, plus freelance developers in countries such as Russia and Croatia. In July, it concluded its Series-B funding round, raising $10 million to strengthen its brand in existing markets as well as expand into new ones, such as Japan and Korea.

“The idea of a dating app is no longer revolutionary – it’s time business owners ask themselves the exact reason that people want to download a dating app.”

Yet competition is fierce. According to Phua, Paktor is the only dating app out of 13 that entered the Southeast Asian market at the same time that is still standing. And with established global brands such as US-based Tinder also used regionally, experts say it’s essential to stand out from the crowd.

Benny Ong, a strategist at the Singapore-based incubator Startup Academy, sees the challenges faced by dating apps as similar to those of most startups. “Business owners need to identify a niche space or promote a certain value that has not been established, or problems that have yet to be solved by the existing apps, as this gives consumers the value they are searching for,” he says. “The idea of a dating app is no longer revolutionary – it’s time business owners ask themselves the exact reason that people want to download a dating app.”

Indeed, in an effort to distinguish themselves from competition and cater to specific needs and preferences, Asean-based companies have adopted a variety of unique business models.

In Thailand, the chief executive officer of Noonswoon, Mickey Asavanant, explains that the app, which suggests a single match to users at noon each day, is the number one player in the country, capturing about 5% of Thai singles. “Our users are young professionals who aren’t keen on being a member of regular dating sites/apps where you becomes a choice among another hundred profiles,” he said.

As with most such apps, the basic service is free, but Noonswoon currently monetises by offering extra matches at $1 each. Users who would like an additional layer of vetting can also pay a monthly subscription fee of $19.99 to get their profiles verified. Verified users can then be matched with each other, with options to chat freely.

In contrast, Singapore’s LunchClick, which also offers a daily match and has market appeal among 28- to 40-year-olds, provides a question-and-answer system. Users select questions from a bank and send them on to the other party, who chooses an answer from the choices offered.

“Singles have also given feedback that the lack of a free chat makes conversation on their first date better, because they’re not in the situation where they’ve been chatting extensively via the app for a few weeks, and find that they run out of topics when they actually meet face to face,” explains Violet Lim, its chief executive officer.

Dating and technology in Southeast Asia
Shn Juay, regional marketing director of Paktor, looks at the dating scene. Photo: Paktor

Largely catering to professionals, LunchClick draws on Lim’s experience running Lunch Actually, an offline dating service. It also positions itself as a “female-centric dating app”, marketing itself to women looking for more than casual hook-ups, and offering packages ranging from $77 to $462 that provide a more personalised service, including assistance from dating consultants.

For Paktor, with a market ‘sweet spot’ of those aged 25 to 30, targeted marketing is key to keeping ahead of the pack, particularly against established apps such as Tinder. In a region as diverse as Southeast Asia, capturing market share involves understanding and working with the social norms of each country.

For instance, while most of Paktor’s advertising in Singapore appears online and on social media platforms, regional marketing director Shn Juay says the company adopted a different tack in Indonesia.

“We go into university campuses and identify people who could be influencers, such as those who hold positions in clubs and societies. We get them to try the app, and then share it through word of mouth,” she said. “It’s slower, but it gives us a lot more credibility.”

The company, which offers a translating feature on its app, has also begun to explore other opportunities. It now operates a ‘freemium’ model where users can subscribe every month for ‘Paktor Points’ that unlock special features, such as allowing users to filter profiles by height, education or occupation, or to buy virtual gifts. The company also has its sights set on more diverse services, moving beyond romantic hook-ups to provide more opportunities for general socialising.

“More often than not if you ask your friends how you met their significant other, it will be through a gathering, through work, through meeting with friends who brought friends,” said Phua. “We’re going to try to tie that in… create opportunities for people to socialise with groups of other people where they could potentially meet somebody.”

The service is currently still in development, but Paktor has already introduced an in-app group chat feature to allow people with similar interests to get in touch. It has also seen fit to move in a different direction.

In late 2014, Paktor launched an offline dating agency called GaiGai, providing matchmaking services but also style and fashion advice. Paid members work with a relationship manager and are guaranteed dates, while free members are simply screened and remain in a pool where they might be matched to paid members if deemed suitable.

“Current clients are still on the app, and we work together,” said Dolly Chua from GaiGai’s operations team. “That’s what makes GaiGai unique – we have the Paktor users.”

This ties in well with Phua’s own view on dating services. “It’s great that our target audience has both offline and online choices,” he said. “We service different needs within the same target audience and it’s mostly complementary.”

Asavanant also sees the same opportunities within the market, not just for apps but also for the dating industry as a whole.

“We are just tapping the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

“Apps will be just one part of the whole dating experience. There are many more pieces in the game of love.” 

Keep reading: “A killer buzz – BuzzFeed is setting its sights ever more firmly on Southeast Asia. Scott Lamb, the firm’s vice-president, international, discusses why the online giant is buzzing about the region