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GRVTY Media Team Year End Note

Hi everyone!

As the year comes to an end, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you for all the work, all the happy memories and shared wins we’ve achieved as a company.

I want to also make a few important notes as we enter into a new year. All of these revolves around survivability in the industry we are in – the media industry.

While we had a lot of wins in 2017 – where we saw our revenue grew almost 5x and our headcount more than tripled since we moved out from Anson Road (when it was just the editorial team) – this year the industry saw a lot of negative news too. Notably, SPH slashed its headcount, and saw revenue declined year on year. Our friends over at The Middle Ground, AsiaOne and Mashable also saw their company closed down, and they no longer have a workplace they can continue to produce great work for.

There are many reasons why they couldn’t continue their operations – but the underlying reason was because the content they produce were no longer relevant to the mass audience in Singapore. Business model aside, when was the last time we saw a piece of editorial or video from their platform that wow-ed us?

The same applies for us – I hope all of you understand now that as a media company, we make money through content creation. This can be through our own media assets or through our client’s media asset. The day that we stop producing great work that we wow ourselves and our readers, will be the day we start losing, and soon Marketing Interactive will be writing about the decline of GRVTY Media.

Producing great content aside, as a media company, we must also put emphasis on how these content can build GRVTY’s brand. By “brand”, it means how our audience perceive GRVTY, what GRVTY and its individual media assets mean to them. For example, when entrepreneurs are looking for resources and inspiration, do they look at Vulcan Post? When a Singaporean is looking for the most popular Chicken Rice stall, do they look at Discover SG? From a business point of view, when a brand is looking for an expert in new media content creation, do they look at GRVTY Media?

Beyond just that, I also encourage and urge all of you to always keep track of what our peers in the industry is doing. For the editorial team, read more, and track what folks like New York Times, Rice Media, TSL are producing, and for the video team, follow what great agency creatives are producing. There were too many times this year that we internally shared the content / video done by others, and I hope that in 2018, all of us aspire to produce similarly / better content that our peers will look at and be inspired.

In 2018, I also hope that each of you can take time to learn something that you have never learnt in 2017. As we evolve and grow as a media company, the changing digital landscape demands us to evolve accordingly – what this means is, there might come a day that need to learn how to start a telegram channel, there might come a day that we need to manage a Facebook chat bot, there might come a day that we need to boost an ad not on Facebook, but to a video on an Android mobile app. These days may come sooner than you think, and when it does, we have to be prepared for it.

We’ve survived 2017, and I hope that we will continue to survive and thrive in 2018.

And we can – by continuously producing great and relevant content that we are all damn proud of, by solidifying what GRVTY means to the digital audience in Singapore, by upskilling ourselves and staying ahead of the curve.

Happy New Year, don’t party too hard tonight, and see you all on 2nd January 2018!



This post came in slightly late as I was away back in Kuching. As an annal habit, I pen down what happened the year before (so that I can refer back in the future) and as well writing down what I hope to achieve along with a note to myself a year later.

2017 has been a rock solid year, in terms of career and financials, but lacking in the personal front.

Looking back at what I set myself to do, while most of which was not achieved, it was replaced by other “line items”.

  1. Grow Vulcan Post 20% minimally across the board – our pageviews grew only 11%, but video views grew by 35% and social reach grew by almost 40%.
  2. Grow Discover SG 50% minimally across the board – this was the worst performing goal – while pageviews grew by 20%, video views and social reach declined almost 80%.
  3. New market – Philippines – Done! We’ve launched three of our media brands there and are moving into our own office in the next few months.
  4. Learn how to swim – Nope.
  5. Get attached – Nope.
  6. Build a decent financial portfolio – Finally dabbled into the world of investment and did better than expected.
  7. Travel to new places (ITALY planned!) – So in the end, we went to Taiwan.
  8. Spend more quality time with mum and sisters – Not bad on this front.


2017 was the year we splitted with YDMG, and moved into our new offices in Singapore and Malaysia. We finally had offices we can call our own. All our metrics exploded this year, we saw our revenue more than 5x this year, profit grew, our headcount grew more than 3x, and we also raised S$1M from a new investor to do a cap table reshuffling + get some growth capital. We won some industry awards, hosted our second content summit which we managed to invite Ms Yeah to come down, and we expanded to Philippines. We are making several investments too which we will announce soon.

Of course, with all the ups, there are definitely downs. As we grew, the challenge now becomes, how do we grow and replicate the same amount of growth in 2018. It’s really really hard to imagine growing another 5x in revenue this year – that would require a huge shift in business modelling, which would then require ground work. As we grew too, we have to plan for career advancements, pay increments and retention for our colleagues. And as the days go by, it will become inevitable that key employees will want to move on – so how do we prepare for that?


In August 2017, I started to look into various investments. 2017 was a good year to invest – stock indexes are in their all time high, and no matter how you invest, the chances of you making money is highly likely, because everything grew by a lot last year.

I bought several stocks in August, and liquidated all of it in December when there was a super mini correction, giving my weak hands a mini scare. I bought shares of Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba, JD, NVIDIA, Micron, most of which I made money simply because the stocks were just on a bull run. In just 5 months, I saw a realized return of almost 15% across the portfolio.

In July, I went into crypto too, and bought some ether and bitcoin. As of December, my total return was almost 200%! Crypto exposed me to the greedy nature of human when it comes to investing. The more you win, the more you wont want to sell.

I also dabbled into peer to peer lending, and while the publicized ROI was 9 – 11%, after some personal calculation, taking all the platform fees into account + averaging the time period of each loans, the effective return is about 6.8%. This is if there are no defaults in any of the loans. While this is better than rates given by banks, there are definitely other better performing asset classes. Plus, your money is tied to the companies you lend to.

All in all, my liquid net worth grew by almost 60 – 80% in the year! So that’s definitely a win for me in 2017. Couldn’t get the exact figure because I only started in July / August period. Oh I also bought my first condo in KL. Hopefully that will not be a bad decision that will mess up my financials.


Severely lacking on the personal front, so it has been a, slightly depressive / mechanical year for me D: I think as we grow, we become less expressive and more guarded.


So I wrote down a few things I want to achieve in the near year.

On the financial front, I’d like to build up a decent dividend portfolio made up of REITs – ideally about $200 – $300 in monthly dividend. From the liquid net worth front, hopefully I can hit $200,000.

On the career front, Philippines remain the key market for us, and if we can start monetizing aggressively this year, that will be really good for us. Hopefully we can have a partial exit from the investments we are making, or a partial exit though movements on our current cap table.

This year will also mark the 10th year I’m in Singapore, and if my financials allow, I’d really like to get that watch that I have been eyeing since the past few years. 🙂

To Jacky on the 31st December 2018, here’s a reminder: Live a little.

2016 – “WOW!”. 2017 – “HELLO!”


How and where do I even start – if there’s one thing that is clear to me today, it would be that, I have almost forgotten how to write! This year, I havent been writing much, be it professionally or personally.

So 2016 – to sum it up, WOW it has been an eventful year! Looking back a year ago, here are the things that I’ve set up to achieve:

  • Grow new lifestyle media site with Discover JB into a sustainable media platform (50% Done)
  • Get 55 enterprise paying customers for Parrot (2% done)
  • Grow Vulcan Post minimally 20% across the board (with 60 – 70% less resources) (DONE AND OUTPERFORMED)
  • Grow personal savings! (DONE)
  • Travel to more placessss (Japan set for April!) (DONE)
  • Seriously Jacky, grow some balls and get attached already. (DONE)

So here are some of the things that have happened earlier this year:

1. Discover SG grew and its most notable differentiating factor is our ambassador programme. Probably my first foray into (micro) influencer marketing. The team sent our ambassadors to a bunch of cool events like Ultra Singapore, Its The Ship, Flight Simulator, Singapore Fashion Week, Soulscape Festival, Zouk Out, Halloweens Horror Nights and a ton of other media invites. Our pageviews could have been better so that’s something that Im going to fix in the new year, and am happy with the YouTube video show that we did with Germaine.



2. Vulcan Post on the other hand, had a good year. Despite facing some hiccups in the earlier year due to manpower issue, overall our pageviews grew 40% this year, more than the 20% i originally hoped for. Our revenue also grew 400% this year (mostly thanks to our Malaysia team and also ongoing support from our long time clients). We also did videos for Vulcan Post and our Facebook videos generated over 3.5M Facebook video views.


While the numbers are great, we are now at the crossroad of a very challenging media landscape where fake news are dominating, views are getting harder and harder to come by, and most importantly, the vision and what your brand stands for.

We did not do our Vulcan Post awards and Publisher Summit this year, which we will be doing in the first part of the new year.

But what we did achieve, was winning Bronze for The Best Website Award (Vulcan Post) and also Gold for The Most Innovative Technology (Parrot) at Marketing Interactive’s Spark Awards 2016.

The award marked a mini full circle for Vulcan Post – on the 18th of August 2013, I published the first article on Vulcan Post, and 3 years later, we won an industry award. So 18th of August is a very important date to me.

August 18.

A post shared by Jacky Yap 葉冠賢 (@jackyyapp) on

3. This year I also got attached to someone, and while it didnt last long, I learnt more about myself, and hopefully I will be able to give all of me in the next relationship.

4. In the later part of the year, I also signed up for a personal development course, which is still ongoing – and it is probably one of the most valuable thing I did for myself. Because of the course, I see myself more clearly, I developed a better relationship with my mum and my two sisters, and of course, creating better friendships with people around me. 🙂

5. This year has been fun in terms of travelling too! Traveled to Japan (for the first time!), Bali, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines (for the first time). Also partied at Ultra Singapore, Zouk Out and It’s The Ship!


6. So what was bad? Probably nothing much except for the fact that I was betrayed by a very close friend. While i treated him as a business confidant, he went ahead and started a competitor media site with the information that I shared with him. After the episode, I told myself that, it is always the case of “every man for himself”.

So what’s for the new year?

  • Grow Vulcan Post 20% minimally across the board.
  • Grow Discover SG 50% minimally across the board
  • New market – Philippines
  • Learn how to swim
  • Get attached
  • Build a decent financial portfolio
  • Travel to new places (ITALY planned!)
  • Spend more quality time with mum and sisters

To Jacky on the 30th of December 2017, here’s a reminder:

“Love isnt love until it is given away.”, “Everything is going to be ok”



Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

It’s been a while since I last pen down anything here. But as Singapore enters its 5th day of national mourning for the passing of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, also known as the founding father of Singapore, I thought it’s appropriate for me to write something down here as a future reminder of what I feel this whole week.

Where do I even start.

As a Malaysian in Singapore, I was fortunate enough to benefit from the education system in Singapore through NUS, privileged to be able to spend sometime in US and China too through NUS. Shortly after that, started Vulcan and working with a team to build what we think is valuable. It goes without saying that this wouldn’t be possible without Mr Lee Kuan Yew – the high standards of living, the safe streets late at night, the efficient transportation system, world class education system and business environment. It also goes without saying that we are able to build our dreams because of Lee Kuan Yew.

Also learnt a new phrase today thanks to Song Han’s photo caption: 人固有一死,或重於泰山,或輕於鴻毛。

The queue for the public to pay their last respect to LKY snakes as long as 8 – 10 hours, to the point that the crowd do not know where the queue starts:

Image Credit: Straits Times

Image Credit: Straits Times

His impact also extended to a global footprint:


To my future self when you are reading this again, here’s to jog back your memories:

The main reason why LKY made such a huge impact and footprint is simple: he cared. Because he cared, he made the effort to make things happen. Because things happened, people felt safe. So long as he is around, things will be ok.

Same analogy as the saying: “how you make other people feel says a lot about you”.

Lessons from #LKY Source:

  1. Care and things will fall in place.
  2. Sometimes you need to make unpopular decisions to reach your goal.
  3. Love your country, your family, and your other half.
  4. Speak with power.
    • “Whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him. Or give it up. This is not a game of cards. This is your life and mine. I’ve spent a whole lifetime building this and as long as I’m in charge, nobody is going to knock it down.”

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew    CandleForLKYRIP Lee Kuan Yew.


The only person you can rely on is yourself

Had the opportunity to work with some great people over the past few years. When I’ve decided to take the plunge to run my own things, had a coffee with Huy and he asked me, what was the biggest thing you’ve learnt over the past 6 months?

We haven’t caught up in months.

I told him, “the only person that I can trust and rely on is myself”.

That was 4 weeks back. 4 weeks later today, I have the exact same sentiments again.

At the end of the day, nobody would care as much as you do.

I think im a very fair person. I would let the person determine his or her deadline. And i’d adjust my plans accordingly. If he or she never meet it once, it is be understandable. Something might have popped up, I always tell myself.

But if it is for 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 times, sorry sir, you’ve lost the trust I have for you.

Why I’m bullish about the content industry in Asia

There are quite a handful of people who told me that the market cap for media industry is fixed and it is too small a market to fit more than 2 or 3 tech media outlets.

“Your time is better spent tackling problems in bigger market”.

Apart from the fact that I have little experience in other verticals and I dont have a real problem worth solving which I can relate to, I’m super passionate about telling stories and putting things together into thoughtful pieces.

I think there’s a very real opportunity here in the content space, and I’m getting more and more excited every, single day.

Here’s why:

1) More people coming online

As I wrote in my previous article, Internet penetration as a whole is going up everyday, and we are consuming more content than ever before, thanks to access to mobile. More people are getting access to Internet, what this means too is that the absolute online traffic will only continue to grow, especially in Asia, where internet penetration is relatively low but they are growing faster than anywhere around the world.

All of these new traffic source (demand) is looking for reliable news site to consume content (supply). Also, online traffic is not a zero sum game: news site with the most interesting and consistent content (in terms of quality and quantity) will win the loyalty of the readers.

In the next few years, there are hundred millions of internet users coming onboard from Asia looking for content to consume.

This is a big deal.

Increasingly, conversations between media outlet and readers will be more important than ever before. Media outlets in this part of the world is still very much engaged in a one way conversation with readers.

Also read: Blogs are no longer just blogs

2) Traditional news site shifting online

Print is dead. Magazines are shutting down. Cable tv, Radios and old medias are looking for new ways to engage their audience, and all of these ways point to one direction: online, where all the users are congregating.

The segregation of these traffic will diffuse to other new media outlet which often can move fast enough than old clumsy traditional news site (though of course they usually have greater financial backing).

Look at it this way: traditionally, we can only cross from one country to another country by ship (before the invention of aeroplane). With Aeroplane, all of the sudden, a person can buy a budget airline ticket, a first class ticket, or he can take multiple pit stops, and he can choose whichever airlines he is pleased with.

Similarly, we used to rely on traditional media outlet for information. We can only gain access to information through the nation’s newspaper or the national television. With Internet, all of the sudden, we can consume all the content we want, in whichever ways we want.

3) Marc Andreessen

Mr Marc Andreessen, a popular Venture Capitalist engaged in a Twitter conversation just a few days after I wrote my previous post, saying that he is (and I quote) “more optimistic/bullish about future of news industry over next 20 years than almost anyone I know. Will grow 10x-100x.

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 12.28.23 am

Exactly my point #1.

He also argued that:

  • Distribution going from locked down to completely open, anyone can create & distribute, no $ premium for control of distribution. 
  • Formerly separate industries colliding on Internet. Newspaper vs magazine vs broadcast TV vs cable TV vs wire service, now all compete.
  • Market size dramatically expanding–many more people consume news now vs 10-20 yrs ago, many more still in 10-20 yrs. Big, big deal.

This is a great assurance to the content industy. If you need more signs, Jon Russell of The Next Web recently painted a great picture on the growth potential of the content industry:

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 8.05.45 pm

4) Access of information

Another reason why I’m bullish about the content industry is this, the person with the access of information wins. Everyday, media outlets get pitched hundreds of stories, and it is easy to spot who’s the new popular startup, and the next big thing.

Of course, news media outlet needs to then see how can they leverage on these information, at the same time maintain its integrity. These informations are usually leveraged and manifested in the form of conferences. More on this later.

5) Asia is the new growth engine

Finally, we’ve heard this over and over again. Asia is the new growth engine.

This chart I included in my previous post says it all, where in the next few years, over 400+ M people from SEA are potentially coming online:


Things to note:

Though there are great potential in Asia’s online content industry, there are a couple of things that media outlets need to bear in mind, based on a few observations I made:

1) Breadth vs depth

Marc mentioned that you either go wide or go deep to win. I think there has to be a balance. Logically, depth is better than breadth: as there are more noise online, there’s a premium for quality content which are in depth. However, there’s a risk of reporting news for the sake of reporting it, without proper understanding of the ecosystem or the topic in mind. I think in Asia, there is a lack of in depth content or proper journalism. Which is fine, because everything takes time. Then the strategy should be to go breadth, cover as many topics as you can, with a particular theme connecting all the topics.

In content, quantity is also king, as much as quality is king. There’s a big debate on this, but I’m a firm believer that quantity is king. It’s simple really: every article has the potential to harness different traffic from the Internet. You will never know which reader you attract will end up being a loyal reader. And of course, pageviews correlate directly with ad revenue, the core business model for news site, although it sucks as one.

Still not convinced?

  1. News site A produces 10 articles a day generating an average of 1000 pageviews per article.
  2. News site B produces 5 articles a day generating an average of 1200 pageviews per article.

In the long run, who will win? 🙂

But if there are too much content being produced, then the media outlet will be seen as a content farm, which might be detrimental to the brand. Which brings back to my point: there has to be a balance. I think the 80 – 20 rule applies here too: 80% general content + 20% in depth content.

There are other companies focusing on content marketing, in which their content strategy is 100% quality in depth content. That’s another topics to discuss on: companies focusing on building thought leadership through content marketing (such as Buffer and First Round Capital)

2) “Buzzfeed”-ish and “Upworthy”-ish articles

I’m sure all of us came across the above-mentioned two websites which rose to fame thanks to heart touching headlines such as these:

“A Funny Video That Makes You Never Want To Fall For This Natural Lie Again”

“5 Reasons Why My Girlfriend Thinks She’s Not Beautiful Enough, No Matter What Anyone Tells Her”

“He Was About To Take His Own Life — Until A Man Stopped Him. Here He Meets Him Face To Face Again.”

I remembered a fellow journalist telling me that she doesnt subscribe to these kind of content, and that she despise it.

I’ve seen what this kind of content can do to news media outlet (to the extent that it broke our server), and as Jon Evans put it, this is the future, whether it lives or dies. We think it is necessary to be included as part of media company’s content strategy.

We subscribe to this too, and we understand that all online news follows a power law. The scaling exponents may vary, but the fundamental distribution remains the same. A small number of viral articles get most of the attention, a long tail gets little to none, and the decay from the former to the latter is described by a surprisingly smooth curve.


Like it or not, this is the trend now, and why fight the trend when you can ride on it? That is why over at Vulcan Post, ~5% of our content are “Buzzfeed”-ish and “Upworthy”-ish articles, which brings in fresh new traffic. Although majority of them never come back, even if 5% of them stayed on, that is a significant conversion for us.

A majority of the traffic also “sprinkle over” to other articles, through carefully placed “recommended articles” section. These other articles which, hopefully, are “in depth” and “quality” enough to convert the non valuable traffic from the “Upworthy”-ish articles into valuable traffic. More on this in another post.

3) Revenue Model

Another big debate for online media outlet is this: revenue model. There’s a huge debate on whether paywall works or not.

Marc said that he doesn’t think paywalls are going to work for many media companies, because they “penalize most loyal customers” and are therefore very tricky.

I think it might work; but it has to be manifested in other forms: online exclusives, or online magazine. This is something that The Information (online exclusives) and The Next Web (magazine) is doing. Would be super interesting if TNW can share their numbers and growth for the magazine.

The way I see it, tech media publication is a distribution channel for all the other money making verticals that you have to venture into, as a media company. For examples: Conferences, Magazines, E Commerce, Consulting etc. That’s why you see companies like Techcrunch going for events and The Next Web going for magazines, products etc.

4) Mobile growth

One last thing to note about the content industry is this: Mobile. An astounding 70% of Vulcan Post’s traffic comes from mobile. I think there’s a lot of opportunities there, but it is not fully understood yet.

News site are currently still designed and optimized for readers reading from desktop. This is a different context from optimizing your site for mobile and enabling a mobile view. I’m talking more about ad placement opportunities, recommended reading sections, or even text based optimization. I know for myself that a 4 paragraph article on desktop might be readable, but the similar content is too long to consume on my mobile.

Really really excited for this space and for all the innovations that will be coming!

Also read: Here’s what’s happening in the content industry now