The startup journal VI – From online to offline

As a young startup, we’ve experienced many ups and downs during our growth. But last week we had an uplifting moment. We had a launch party last Thursday to celebrate our three-month anniversary. In a cozy cafe in Galaxy SOHO, a Beijing landmark, we toasted our 30 or so guests with wine and champagne.

People were interested in us and eager to learn about us and what we do. That moment when you know your business idea is working feels so wonderful. Like you’re at the top of a mountain and you know exactly which route to take to reach your wonderland. Everything seems so promising.

Don’t laugh at us. We’re not being cocky. It’s actually a big step for a small team. In the past three months our seven-person team has produced 360 stories. It’s more efficient than other foreign media teams in Beijing. With about the same amount of staff, they sometimes publish only one or two stories a day. Of course, their stories make a bigger impact on their more established platforms.

But we have more potential to grow and more chances to experiment with interesting content. We are keen to listen to our readers’ feedback on our content.

For a while, we could only read the comments on our website or social media accounts to find out what our audience thinks of our stories. Pageview count is absolutely not the only way to test whether your content is well-received. Many readers won’t bother to tell you exactly what they think.

For many web-based Chinese media organizations, pageviews are considered essential. There have been times that Chinese web media, even including top-notch portals, would exaggerate their pageviews. Chinese mainstream media has reported that it’s standard procedure for some Internet companies to boost their pageview count.

Foreign media companies are much more cautious about their user data. They simply say that it is not to be disclosed unless releasing user data is helpful to their business.

It’s more effective to establish a direct dialogue with your readers. Social media like Twitter and social networks like Facebook are helping us spread our stories to wider audiences who respond more positively to appealing headlines and intriguing photos, who are more willing to comment and ask questions. The communication is more direct.

Face-to-face communication with readers can tell you more than you’d expect. I had an inspiring conversation at our launch party. A startup founder who has been following our content closely asked me about a major change we adopted recently, where we started to write more about app reviews and gadgets rather than big company news, which used to be our primary focus.

Our shift in direction was made based on observing pageviews and social media performance. We are producing more content about what readers want to learn. Like someone new to surfing, we are following the direction of the tide, not going against it.

We are catching onto another trend. We want to build a robust tech startup community around us. The startup scene is heating up in Beijing. There are many notable gatherings and events that connect startup entrepreneurs. Most of these events are hosted in restaurants where people can dine together and talk. Some events play video series, such as the startup class at Stanford, at a cafe and people chit chat while drinking tea.

We believe that establishing direct contact with our readers is important. We need to let them know who we are and what we want to achieve. It makes a difference that readers know us as people, not some robots typing words. The launch party was just one time. Continuing to build the bond with our readers and extend it into a community requires more strategy and effort.

We aim to introduce our monthly signature event Tech Junction soon. It will be a meetup group in Beijing with the goal to exchange ideas in short, sharp dialogues among startups, tech and media professionals in order to shed light on the tech scene in China.

Our goal is to establish a tech community to connect with thinkers and dealmakers around the world. Apart from our offline events, we also plan to publish online videos of dialogue highlights from the events.

Beijing is a big startup hub. There are startup companies in other parts of China or around the world who could learn from our videos about the local startup culture here. We also want to invite foreign visitors to attend our events when they are in town.

Sometimes if you are too mired in your own culture, it becomes a bubble. Most Beijing startup gatherings attract the same type of people. We want Tech Junction to be different. It should be open, global, and diverse. That’s our vision.

Read the Startup Journal series.

Wu Nan
Wu Nan

Nan is the Founder and Editor in Chief of AllTechAsia. She is an award-winning journalist with honors from Foreign Press Association in New York and Hong Kong Journalists Association. For years she worked for top-notch media outlets including South China Morning Post and the Wall Street Journal. She co-founded the NetEase Annual Economist Conference (NAEC), a leading economic forum in China. She holds a master's degree in Journalism at U.C. Berkeley and is a 2012 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Write to her: nan[at]alltechasia.com

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AllTechAsia is a startup media platform dedicated to providing the hottest news, data service and analysis on the tech and startup scene of Asian markets in English.
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