Web finds the niche

A comprehensive new Web site is spanning the Pacific to target one of the hottest new demographic markets online: Asian Americans.

Mike Yamamoto Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Mike Yamamoto is an executive editor for CNET News.com.
Mike Yamamoto
2 min read
A comprehensive new Web site is spanning the Pacific to target one of the hottest new demographic markets online: Asian Americans.

Channel A, a Silicon Valley start-up company funded by venture capitalists in the United States and abroad, is pursuing the ambitious goal of becoming the premier distribution channel for Asian-related information, products, and services online as the "East-West cyberbridge." The Web site will officially launch tomorrow but can be viewed by the public now.

"We want to create an interactive site that covers Asia's influences on the West, as well as all things Asian with an American perspective," Executive Editor Steve Chin said, adding that the site will feature everything from political debates to recipes from various ethnic cuisines. "We want to be what MTV is to music, what CNN is to world news, and what the Home Shopping Network is to retail."

Channel A is the latest example of the growing online marketing trend of "social narrowcasting" to groups explicitly defined by such characteristics as gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, as well as income level and geography. Many marketing experts and industry view such tactics as the strategy of the future for online commerce, noting that America Online, Microsoft Network, Yahoo, and other information services are moving in this direction.

Executives at Channel A say the site has two compatible objectives. Socially, it will serve as a community vehicle to educate and break down cultural barriers among the various Asian groups, as well as between Americans and Asia. Economically, Channel A hopes to tap a potentially enormous market of consumers who maintain a disproportionately high level of Internet usage and a household income that significantly exceeds the national average.

But Channel A faces serious obstacles. While marketing experts and demographers agree on the enormous potential of this consumer market, printed publications aimed at Asian readers have traditionally fared poorly. And a cornerstone of Channel A's strategy--to appeal to Asians abroad as well as Asian Americans--will be no easy task, given the vastly different backgrounds and cultures of all the nationalities it seeks to represent.

Nevertheless, company President and CEO Peggy Liu believes that the unique timing of the Internet explosion and the current historical stage of Asian communities will propel her company to inevitable success.

"Forty percent of all Asian-American households are on the Net. We have a target market of 1 million," said Liu, formerly of NetManage. "They have an average household income of over $44,000, $10,000 more than the average American household. They are affluent, highly educated yuppies."