The soaring number of net users in Viet Nam has led to an explosion in personal websites. Some are interesting, most are mundane but virtually none make money because businesses in Viet Nam are failing to capitalise on the advantages of advertising their products and services in cyberspace.
Do Phong has developed dozens of musical and cultural websites. He does it for entertainment and to share his love of music with others. But he is also aware of the economic benefits of selling advertising space on his website in the form of banners and logos.
Meanwhile, Ngo Anh Chieu, who works for the Ha Noi-based Censtaf Group, which offers managerial and administrative training, personal websites are becoming increasingly popular as computer users become more net-savvy. He says designing a personal website is like building a house which you can decorate according to your taste. And it is an inexpensive way of reaching potentially millions of customers – a fact that seems to have escaped the business community, he says.
Chieu says he publishes advice about photography on his site, and through the contacts he makes and the advertising space he sells, he earns a regular if modest income, in addition to his full-time job.
Meanwhile, Le Quy set up a webpage that advertises real-estate. An advert on his site trungtambatdongsan.info costs VND500,000 (US$24) - a poultry amount compared to the cost of taking out an ad in the traditional media.
He set up the site three months ago, and earns about VND10 million ($476) per month. The costs he says were "minimal".
And to build a webpage, which costs virtually nothing, Quy says users only needed a basic knowledge of programming languages such as HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), XML (Extensible Markup Language), PHP, ASP.net or JAVA.
Le Tong Quang, has a webpage that offers advice to advertisers on what words to use if they want to appear prominently when potential customers do a Google search.
"I researched Google advertising services and found out how to get money from users via the internet." He says it is possible to make millions of dollars if you know what you are doing.
He has built a number of websites on travel, internet services, health and online selling from which he earns between $2,000 and $3,000 a month.
"Money comes from good ideas. A good website can earn the designer a fortune."
Meanwhile, Ngoc Nga, a student at Ha Noi University of Science and Technology, says: "The most important thing is the original idea, followed by a good domain name that has to be short and easy to remember." And the outlay is minimal, Nga says.
"Designing personal websites is a form of long-term investment and costs virtually nothing. I believe that there are only benefits from doing it. If your website proves unsuccessful, you lose nothing in terms of money."
But Nguyen Thanh, a website designer who works for Vietnam Social Media Company, which manufactures semiconductors, warns that making money from a personal website is not as easy as it appears. He also points out that it is important to form yourself into a company so that businesses can claim back their costs against tax.
"Most individuals only exchange website logos and banners. Those buying space on a webpage will want to fill out a red bill [receipt for tax]."
And online transactions are prone to fraud and viral attacks, he warns. However, the advantages outweigh the risks and the opportunities cyberspace offer are virtually limitless, he adds. — VNS