2017 was a pretty amazing year for TechNode English and the entire company. We more than doubled our English editorial team, increased our output from 1-2 stories every 1-2 days to consistent news, updates, and a plethora of newsletters, as well as increased the overall quality of our content (even if it’s still not perfect!). Because of these changes, 2017 has seen record traffic numbers, increased engagement, and a great foundation for future growth (more on that below).
None of this could have been done without our excellent team. Each member has their own strengths and areas of interest. Combined, this diversity has made TechNode what it is today.
My top stories for 2017
In that spirit, here are my picks (in no particular order) for the best stories of the year1:
An in-depth look at China’s push for more ways to assign numbers to its people. While many see the system as an “all-seeing central bureaucratic surveillance apparatus”, in fact, it is very fragmented, much like the bureaucracy that controls it. That doesn’t make it less concerning, however. This is just one part of a much broader plan that sees the Chinese government and Communist Party playing a greater role in everyday life.
Alipay and WeChat are now two of the most opened apps in China. However, as usage has become habituated here, users expect to use it everywhere… but can’t, at least not yet. So while the fight for user habits has been decided already (a pretty even tie), the next battlefield lies outside of China at duty-free shops around the world and popular tourist destinations. Of course, we can’t forget users in other markets: Hong Kong, Malaysia, and other Southeast Asian countries. In this article, Emma documents how China’s payment behemoth’s are approaching entry into other markets.
Remember Mafia? If you grew up in the States like I did, you probably played it at least once or twice in high school or university, but never really got it into. Well, in China, a version of Mafia (Werewolf) has become so popular that card packs supporting the game (assigning different roles and introducing new rules) can be bought at local convenience stores. Even with the cards, however, there is still much left to human error: Who should close their eyes and when? Did they choose that person or another person? Now, with WeChat, logistical problems are not only easily solved, but also this game can be made into a networking event: bringing like-minded strangers together to not only play but also get connected.
Live blog: Singles’ Day madness 2017 by TechNode Staff
This was a great experiment for us. We did a test run when the iPhone X came out, but this was our first time trying out coverage of an event with the whole team contributing. While live blogs don’t garner that much stable traffic (still need to find the social media hooks), they’re just so much darn fun: focusing on one phenomenon for 12-18 hours plus the aftermath, trying to dig up the latest happenings, and providing commentary in real-time is a real blast.
China speed: powered by late nights and long weeks, China’s dedication to work is finally getting recognized. Fueled by intense competition and very short maturity cycles, Chinese tech companies have learned that, to survive, you not only need a great product, you also need to launch and improve quickly. Between 2008 and 2014, over 5,000 group buying companies launched in China, compared to 650 in the US on top of that China’s unicorns take 3 years less to reach the $1 billion valuation mark than their US counterparts.
This has huge implications for Chinese companies going abroad. While many will have difficulty in adapting their culture or products, those that can adapt are bringing with them a velocity unseen anywhere else in the world.
How Tencent’s empire is making music pay by Rita Liao
Alibaba may have e-commerce locked down (not if you ask JD, of course), but social and entertainment have been Tencent’s bread and butter since the early days of QQ. Now, with favorable markets and profitable products, Tencent is looking to spin off more units and take them public. Last year saw China Literature do exceedingly well and Tencent Music is expected to see similar results. So, why now? Finally, Chinese consumers are showing increasing willingness to pay and Tencent is not only perfectly positioned to deliver, but they also know how to deliver: by offering an unrivaled experience and tying in all their social and content services together.
Things to expect for the new year: More and better
Yes, 2017 was pretty good, but 2018 will be better. One of the reasons I wanted to join TechNode was that I could easily see that this was a company that wanted to be more than it was. I am very happy to say now that we’ve started 2018 on the right foot, preparing for some major changes throughout our organization. While you may only see part of that here on this site, if you come to one of our events or partner with us, you will quickly see that we’ve made huge strides.
For TechNode English specifically, our priorities for this are building out the team, improving the website, and creating a stronger offline presence.
Editorial team (and more)
More and better. There is so much going on in Chinese tech that it is impossible for us to cover everything, so increasing our editorial staff is one of our main priorities. We’ve been very lucky in getting the great writers we have now and want to continue with that streak. Even when we are not actively looking for people, we always welcome young, passionate, and talented people looking to get into media to apply.
Here’s what we plan on adding in 2018:
- Shenzhen: The “Silicon Valley of hardware,” isn’t covered enough by most media. Just now getting more attention, it deserves a team dedicated to telling its story.
- Shanghai: Perhaps the most cosmopolitan city in China, Shanghai is full of entrepreneurs doing really cool things, especially in blockchain, marketing/advertising, and media. We’re looking for savvy writers who can navigate the ecosystem and separate the best from the BS.
- Beijing: The capital of China is also home to not only the most capital in China, but also some of the biggest movers and shakers in the industry (yes, yes Alibaba is in Hangzhou and Tencent is in Shenzhen, but both have offices here). Not only do we need young writers to round out our team, but we are also looking for experienced writers with 2-3 years experience working in a well-respected publication to join our team as senior members of the team to help take our content to the next level.
- Hong Kong: So far, we’ve had very poor coverage of this financial center and growing innovation hub. We’d like to remedy that as soon as possible.
- Video: We’ve experimented with video for quite some time, but it was not part of our strategy until recently. We’re on the lookout for talented multimedia producers and reporters to help round out our coverage.
- Data visualization and infographics: While humans are visual creatures, we have increasingly come to rely on data to understand our world. Data which can be made easier to interpret with well-designed and compelling visuals. We’re looking for someone to support our current content with great visuals plus create stand-alone content.
- Events: While TechNode does have a larger team dedicated to running our large events (TechCrunch, Asia Hardware Battle, and ChinaBang), the English team needs someone dedicated to not only supporting and interfacing with this team, we also need someone to bring TechNode English offline through meetups, content-driven events, and partnerships with other entrepreneurship and tech organizations
While we’re not quite sure what it’s going to look like, we do know that our site needs a facelift. From UI to UX, we’re going to be overhauling our site to better reflect modern design sensibilities, make discovering content easier, and better respecting your time and energy.
If you’d like to help beta test (when the time comes), sign up here.
Creating a community
Content cannot be great without a community. As writers and creatives, it’s important for us to not only get your feedback but also listen to your story. We’ve been sorely lacking in this area and its time to fix that. Expect a stronger social media presence and more offline events. Sign up to our mailing list and follow us on Twitter or WeChat to get notified of events.
We wouldn’t be here without you. We are very grateful for your continued support and are always interested in getting feedback from you. And I don’t mean praise. The most helpful feedback is actually negative: If it’s a typo, factual error, or an area of improvement we’re not seeing, we want to know about it!
Thank you for joining us on this journey. 2018 is going to be a great year.
1This is not about news or trends necessarily, but recognizing great work from our editorial staff and contributors. If you’d like to hear more about trends, I talked about them on China Tech Talk.