KFC Localized Logo Beijing China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
No month passes without yet another foreign firm trying to enter the China market throws in the towel: they do not make it. The China Weekly Hangout dives on Thursday 31 January Wednesday 30 January into the backgrounds of those failures. Are Chinese governments giving foreign firm a harder time than their domestic competitors. Or is it stupidity on the foreign side who do not get what the Chinese consumers want? Or a combination of both.
Will they survive competition, food scandals and increasingly critical customers?
On Thursday CEIBS-adjunct professor Richard Brubaker will join us and we will discuss both KFC and Apple at length. Yes, both are still successful, but will they hang on?
Last week, in our China Weekly Hangout on pollution, Richard Brubaker mentioned names of foreign firms who do well in China: Alstrom, Siemens, GE and others who offer the quality Chinese companies do not have. But the number of failures seems larger: Media Markt, BestBuy, Google, Yahoo, Caterpillar, B&Q, just to mention a few.
Do you want to have you say too? Leave your questions at our event page (available here), or register for participation.
The China Weekly Hangout takes place on Thursdays 10pm Beijing time, 3pm CET (Europe) and 9am EST (US/Canada). This week is takes place on Wednesday. You can follow the discussion also on YouTube at our event page on here in this space.
Is this going to be your first Google+ Hangout and do you want to try it out in a dry run before participating. Send me an email, or add me to your Gtalk (if you use that).
Yesterday the China Weekly Hangout discussed how pollution affects the lives of those living and working in China. Participating, Richard Brubaker and Fons Tuinstra, president of the China Speakers Bureau.
That is still pretty low, compared to the over 50% score of India, but it looks like some people are become a bit more active.
A short summary of Google+’s problems in China: Google as a service is doing poorly (and seems to be dropping) in China, Google+ is blocked and Google+ seems to work best in English (while Chinese still prefer Chinese )
And while I have been blackmailing quite a number of people into joining the China Weekly Hangout, I see not yet a lot of activity taking place, despite the encouraging figures from CircleCount.
So the question of Thursday is: how are you using Google+? How can you encourage others to become more active? Is there anything you are missing? No plans to make a recording yet about this session, mostly an experiment to see of anybody shows up. You can register here, or just show up on Thursday 10pm Beijing Time, 3pm CET (Europe) and 9am EST (US/Canada). You can of course also plus this message.
Update: For those who wondered what happened: we had a short hangout, but only 何西海 from Shanghai showed up. Decided not to broadcast and have to wait till more people in China get the hang of it.
Since early September we have started a new project, the China Weekly Hangout, using Google+ technology to organize a weekly debate on China, bringing together China experts from different continents each Thursday. And while it is fun to do, yesterday we took a step back to discuss how we can improve.
For some of the hangouts we had up to 350 viewers, although most views came only after our live-stream had ended and while the amount of minutes watched increased, it was very hard to say how many viewers would actually watch full segments of 40-50 minutes. Major take-away from our session yesterday (included in this post), with Janet Carmosky, Andrew Hupert (some of the regulars) and myself was that the long-form format was most likely not fit for a larger audience.
And while we do not have the ambition to compete with CNN, this issue of the format is a genuine problem. While I found our hangouts very engaging and interesting while actively participating, the attention span of most viewers might not allow the kind of format we have been using up to now. From next week (when we discuss the upcoming political transition in China), we will split up the hour in three, four segments of each 5-7 minutes. We expect that more people will be accessing the video’s afterwards.
That means that including more people in a hangout – one of the key features of a hangout – will be limited. But up to know, including more people has been a rather theoretical option anyway, and we can find new solution if the interest is growing.
The long-form format is very much under discussion among traditional media and leaving that format is, well I would not call it a defeat, but perhaps a needed reality check for this feature. As a producer it is fun to do when you can dive a bit deeper into a subject, in stead of bringing it back to easy digestible soundbites. But getting an audience is also important, and as a media consumer I notice I have very little patience with long-form formats myself. I would seldom finish a book, find podcasts like the excellent Sinica Podcast very interesting (but mostly switch off after 15 minutes), and seldom watch longer segments on TV without keeping an eye on my computer too. And how often do I find the time to join other hangouts, or even watch them?
Only after a good night of sleep, I realized this means we are leaving the concept of the hangouts. Actually, when you change the format, you might as well say good-bye to a few other restraints. The idea was also to pick one hour in the week, allowing a larger number of time-zones to get involved. When we split the hour up into three, four segments, the participation might drop (hey, what did I expect as only 0.09% of China’s internet population is using Google+), but allows people to join at more acceptable times. And it will be harder to use it as a broadcast, streamed in real-time on YouTube.
We are not abandoning the Hangout technology. That is still great stuff, and allows us to set up exchanges in an unprecedented way and host them on YouTube and our websites. But it would be the end of the original concept of a hangout, although we might keep on calling it the China Weekly Hangout for a while. It took the Communist Party also a few decades to formally drop Marxism-Leninism from the constitution, so we can take a few months using a name that does not cover the concept anymore.
Update: We did our first restructured set of China Weekly Hangouts on November 1. Not sure if it worked. First, it was very hard to limit segments under ten minutes, as you can see here at the China Herald, although we genuinely tried. And it did not feel really natural, if such a thing can be natural.
Fortunately, technology did not fail and we got even Greg Anderson, traveling in Italy in. Guess we have to look at the traffic in a few weeks and see if the new format generates a different kind of traffic.
On request we looked today into the possibility of adding annotations to our China Weekly Hangout, and we took the first hangout, on the question why foreigners are leaving China, as a guinea pig. While I feared it would add dramatically to the work load, the opposite was true.
I have mostly been adding notes and names of the speakers, while skipping the more elaborate tools for adding different types of lay-out. Under the screen with the video (see picture), you see the time line, on the right side the interface, where you can add notes. I did not use that now, but you can actually also put up links there.
You can keep on adding making notes, while the video is running, so it took only slight more than an hour to make those notes. I do see that this is not useful for all hangouts, but we tend to make rather content-heavy stuff, so it makes it easier for people to browse through the hangout.
At least, that is what I think. Do you think this is useful for you too?
If so, we will do the same with tomorrow’s China Weekly Hangout on why Chinese are leaving China.
Update: I checked the annotations from another computer and discovered that most of the useful tools (especially the timeline) are only accessible if you are the owner of the YouTube account. The rest of the world only sees the notes in a right-top corner, and that is not very useful if you want to offer the possibility for viewers to go fast forward through the video. So, we are back at square one, and will try to identify software that is more useful.
On Thursday we have planned our second final round of testing of the China Weekly Hangout, due to start next week. While we will use the opportunity to iron out a few extra technicalities, we want to focus on the subjects, and possible panelists for the upcoming months. You can sign up for tomorrow’s hangout here.
A first list of subjects is here:
Google in China
Chinese investments in Europe
Anti-China feelings in Hong Kong
Developments in the South China Sea
Mobile in China
Reformers within the system
Daily life in China
What is happening to the communist party
Favorite tourist destinations for Chinese tourists
We will be flexible on both the subjects and the exact timing of the hangouts, although we intend to stick to 9PM Beijing time, 3PM CEST, 9AM Eastern, since that allows us to cover the largest number of participants. If we might have to divert from that schedule, but will try to announce that in advance.
In the official hangouts we will invite three, four panelists: places here are limited. Most participants (formerly “the audience”) will get a YouTube link shortly before the start of the session. You can view the hangout both at a dedicated Event page at Google+ and at the China Herald. If you want to attend the hangouts yourself, drop us a line. Announcements will be spelled out in detail at the China Weekly Hangout page and we encourage you to sign up there, if you want to follow developments.
To start a hangout (or join it) you actually only need a working computer, an internet connections and a webcam. For the quality of the sound it is sometimes useful to use a headset. In China you will need a VPN. You want to have a dry run to see how easy it is? Call me.
That looks enough for today. Hope to meet a few of you tomorrow.
PS: You will find the second final test hangout here, shortly before the start.
The Swiss nationalistic party lost the referendum it started, by a majority of both the cantons and 75 percent of the voters. To adopt a referendum, a positive majority is needed for both.
The rejection comes at an interesting moment as more EU countries are witnessing a strong popular pressure against a larger say of Brussels on their national affairs. Switzerland is surrounded by EU countries, but not officially part of it. It does adopt most EU regulations, including the Schengen treaty on migration, even without having a vote or a say in Brussels. And while migration and financial issues sometimes kick up in the media, it does not seem to bother the Swiss enough to include it in their already elaborate system of federal, cantonal and local referenda.
While the Swiss citizens (about 75% of the inhabitants of the country) cherish their direct democracy, the flood of referenda is often annoying the Swiss, and they do not want to vote, unless they are really interested. This vote seems to have been another case of “enough is enough”, where too much democracy can turn against the virtues of that democracy.
Yesterday, I got my first Google+ Hangout on China together, with +Alicia Noel from the Agricultural University in Beijing and +Brian Glucroft, who joined us from Qinghai. I participated from Switzerland. Here is the first result, on anti-foreigner sentiments in China:
The idea is to organize on a more or less regular basis China-related debates.
Now a few lessons I learned.
We expected a few more participants, but they had to back off because of other meetings or because of technical problems.
We prepared the hangout a bit, and that was useful; perhaps we should have structured it even more. Getting the right crowd together seems indeed to be a major challenge. When you have not enough people, and because of no-shows, it might be rather empty. The other extreme, making the hangout open, floods you with half-naked men shouting in Russian or Arabic, and that is also not useful for a more or less civilized debate.
Apart from the amount of people, I learned a few more lessons. We should introduce participants better: not only on the website, announcement (since you can never be sure who actually shows up), but also during the hangout. (And perhaps repeat that every 10, 15 minutes). yes, just like a real TV show.
Also, the start was not really smooth, as I started a short YouTube video, unfortunately the wrong one, and it was not displayed on the hangout anyway. Have to look into that.
At the end Alicia froze and disappeared, after we later learned, because her VPN collapsed. We dealt with that incident quite well, but it is better to have a few more people on the scene.
Structuring the debate a bit more is another issue. I knew both Alicia and Brian were pretty positive about China, and I prepared to play bit the devil’s advocate, but could have done that better, and perhaps a bit more persistent.
Sounds seemed ok, but could be better.
Did I forget anything?
Next issue is going to be most likely on the GFW, the internet filtering system in China, where those in China can explain how they can get around it. But more announcements next week.
“Beam me up, Scotty.” Since I watched Star Trek on TV I have dreamed of saying the same words.
Well, Google+ is not yet allowing me to beam anybody up, but it is getting pretty close. In the past few weeks I have been busy in getting the first sessions on Hangouts-on-air in place, after I got access to this free video conferencing tool, with ability to stream and record the sessions on YouTube. That is one of the reasons I did not write much here.
Initially, the hoa tool was only available for a few selected accounts, but ever since I got access a few weeks ago, I have planned sessions for the China Speakers Bureau, one of my current activities. And it looks like next week we can do the first session with author Zhang Lijia, while a few others are warming up.
Hangouts-on-air – or Hoa’s as the jargon is going to call them – allows up to nine participants in a video conference, with the possibility of streaming it to larger audiences, and embed it later in different websites. A great marketing tool for our firm, as our speakers and clients are spread out all over the world. It allows to manage the active participants (although everybody can send emails or comments on the websites). We plan to start with basic interviews, but when people get familiar with the tool, we can get China-debates with groups of our speakers, and others, in place.
In the past weeks I have tried to first get some of our speakers on Google+. While the company boasts a 170 million participants, the number of people from my existing networks actively working on this new social medium is still pretty limited. But I got a few in place.
Meanwhile, we have done some testing and spend a great deal of time watching others. You do not need to be a brilliant journalist to understand you need a certain kind of format for what is really your private TV-stations. One of my online friends just posted a four-hour session where actually nothing happened. You need to be rather good friends to stand that.
Now, we are not looking for a huge audience, but a very targeted one. People who are interested in China and – second – could be interested in hiring a speaker through our firm. So, perhaps 99.9% of the online population might not be interested in what we are going to do. That is fine, as long as Google is going to help us to get to the remaining 0.1%. That is a fair bet, I’m willing to take.
So, we need an engaging topic and smart questions to ask. Fortunately, one of the speakers I have pre-selected as a guinea pig, Zhang Lijia, had earlier this week an Opt-in piece in the New York Times on the (lack of) expected political reform in China. That was not only a smart piece, but got a lot of people thinking and writing. So, I pulled her away from a speech at TedxMongkok in Hong Kong, to discuss my plan to continue this debate on a hangout.
Zhang Lijia was right away enthusiastic, partly because even in the physical monster the New York Times can he, her space was limited. For the first session, we are not going to invite an audience yet into the hangout, but save that for later. And since we got already some feedback from an interested audience, we think we can make this into an engaging broadcast.
We are interested in your opinion, not only about Zhang Lijia’s remarks on political reform in China, but also on the way we organize this hangout. This is going to be a new track in communicating, and we are very eager to learn most.
The recording has been delayed for minor problems in the connection with Beijing. We expect to set up another attempt in the first week of June.
China's FIRST McDonald's (Photo credit: flickr.Marcus)
The China Speakers Bureauis starting a set of broadcasts, using Google+ Hangout-on-air to encourage the debate on China. In this broadcast CSB COO Maria Korolov and president Fons Tuinstra discuss their plans.
We will start in a few weeks time interviewing a few of our excellent speakers on current affairs in China, and might if the approach proves successful invite a limited audience, and set up regular debates between opinion leaders on China.
I tried to stay away from the Cantonal election in Vaud in March, although in terms of posters, they seem to attract much more attention compared to the federal elections at the end of 2011. But today, it looked like the electoral struggle was getting a nasty turn.
A poster shows a local member of the Vert Liberaux (Green Liberals), Lena Lio, also known under her Chinese name Jiang-Liu Yu, is running since five year a Chinese restaurant in Pully and a former dipl0mat.
But opponents have added the message she is an ex-member of the Chinese communist party, and – while not a strange assumption for a Chinese diplomat – it seems hardly relevant for her current political activities.
The victim was vert’libéral Party, Wednesday, suffered from many acts of vandalism, mainly in the district of Lavaux-Oron and Broye Vully. The posters of Lena Lio, the leading candidate for election to the Grand Council, were tagged with xenophobic and racist remarks. ”The perpetrators of these attacks, reacts Lena Lio, are short of arguments. I made my Chinese passport long after serving in diplomacy. I am a Swiss woman with an Asian face who fights for the improvement of living conditions of older persons and development of SMEs in the canton of Vaud. “”Through these attacks, it is the Swiss democracy is flouted” , notes Charles Andrew Montandon, president of the Lavaux-Oron. A complaint was lodged against unknown persons.