YouTube Show Brings China’s Social Media to an English Audience

Posted on Global Voices on July 17, 2012.

Want to know what’s going on on China’s social media but cannot speak Chinese? Keep on reading, then. It’s been four months since Elle Lee (@ElleIconLee) and Casey Lau (@hypercasey) opened a YouTube channel to broadcast Weibo Today, a weekly online show spotlighting trending topics from China’s social networks in English.

Elle Lee writes the scripts and is the host while Casey Lau is the producer working behind the scenes. We talked to Elle Lee about their show.

Global Voices (GV): How did you come across the idea of an online show about Weibo?

An image of the online show Weibo Today
An image of the online show Weibo Today

Elle Lee (EL): Interest in China and its social media is getting bigger and bigger. Usually international audiences and brands have no clue about the social media landscape in China. As a co-founder of #HKSocial (a Hong Kong-based social media meet-up group), I like sharing social media knowledge. I’ve lived in both China and the West, now the multi culture Hong Kong. Hence, I believe I can present with some neutral voice. My show is not only about social media, it’s about real news happening in China without national filter.

Sina Weibo is always the “Number 1” Chinese social media I recommend. It’s not just like Twitter, it’s a combination of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram. It’s very information centric and people tend to break news on it. Content on Weibo is very close to the real voice of people in China.

GV: What are the objectives of Weibo Today?

EL: First and foremost, we want to show people that China is not all about censorship and political debate. People talk about movies, celebrities, social issues and even international news. We explain how Weibo’s used for many other things than just to talk about what people are eating or doing, how it’s helping people, how it affects lives, how silly it can be and how it’s not that different from social networks in the West.

GV: Sometimes it can be difficult to understand communication due to cultural differences or lack of knowledge. How do you tackle this?

EL: This is one of our main goals doing Weibo Today. It’s not all about censorship and communism. For example, the Titanic 3D story is one of the typical things that we see the Western media jump on to make China look like it’s still in the dark ages. I won’t argue that there are a lot of things that need to be changed in China to keep up with the world, but you have to look at 1 Billion people and what too much information can do if not properly disseminated.

That’s why the weibo platform is so interesting and challenging at the same time – so we’re just looking at a very top level right now to try to narrow the gap of understanding by bringing out the funnier or more unusual stories that western audiences might understand easier.

GV: How is it going for the moment?

EL: It’s going well, we’re getting positive feedback from the audience and the views keep doubling with every new episode, as we get more viewers from Hong Kong, the US, Canada, UK and Australia. That’s one of the great things about doing a webshow: Just get an iPhone and iMovie and you can start your own show. Ideally, we’re working on getting some sponsors as well as working with video sharing sites to monetize the show.

GV: Do you have any future plans for Weibo Today?

EL: Web video is a very powerful medium online, so we want to produce more and more high-quality shows like Revision3, the Internet-only show production company in San Francisco. We’re also looking to recruit more talent interested in social media, hosting and acting. We’re already filming a new show in Chinese called “Twitter Today”, targeting Chinese audience, and planning some lifestyle shows about Hong Kong and China. Stay tuned!

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