Ex­pand­ing Our Global News­room

Forbes - - Inside Scoop - By LEWIS D’VORKIN

I had one of those whoa- I’ve-been-here-be­fore mo­ments a few weeks ago. I was in Hong Kong, 8,000 miles away from New York’s Flat­iron Dis­trict, where seven-plus years ago I launched True/slant, the startup that led to the FORBES con­trib­u­tor net­work and BrandVoice plat­form. As I got of an el­e­va­tor on the 18th foor of a sliver-like build­ing, I could feel and smell the déjà vu: three freshly painted, high-ceilinged rooms with city views, scrag­gly desk chairs and ta­bles left be­hind by a pre­vi­ous ten­ant, and an espresso pot but no cups to drink from. Five of us looked around, then sat down for three hours to plot a bold course to bring our pow­er­ful con­tent model to Asia.

Of course, we al­ready have con­trib­u­tors in the re­gion. Eighty or so ac­tive writ­ers cover a range of top­ics, or swim lanes, as we call them. That com­pares with around 1,700 in the U.S. and 100 in Europe. What’s new is our am­bi­tious plan to build a ro­bust dig­i­tal ed­i­to­rial op­er­a­tion in Hong Kong, in­clud­ing ed­i­tors, pro­duc­ers, re­porters, a so­cial me­dia team and more—that is, the kind of news­room that drove our do­mes­tic mul­ti­plat­form au­di­ence to 38 mil­lion (as mea­sured by coms­core), more than triple what it was in 2010. Now we look to Asia to pro­pel our to­tal in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence well be­yond its cur­rent 12 mil­lion.

While in Asia, I moved around the vi­brant startup scene. I vis­ited three in­trigu­ing Hong Kong in­cu­ba­tors/ ac­cel­er­a­tors, each the brain­child of a multi­na­tional en­ter­prise ea­ger to cover it­self with en­tre­pre­neur­ial pixie dust. I vis­ited a state-owned in­cu­ba­tor in Shang­hai, where I learned the startup scene is made up of more busi­ness­minded peo­ple who had worked at ma­jor com­pa­nies in a city of 25 mil­lion.

Asia is full of frsts for me. This visit I got to Shang­hai’s Pudong In­ter­na­tional Air­port for the trip home via Ma­glev, the world’s frst com­mer­cial high-speed mag­netic lev­i­ta­tion line. The en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence—from the sta­tion to the train it­self—felt a bit tat­tered, re­mind­ing me of the grounds and rides of World Fairs gone by. At times the train’s speed did top 300 kilo­me­ters an hour. Even though never reach­ing its top speed of 431 km/ hour, it sure moved fast, much like the re­gion’s startup scene, which FORBES is join­ing in a big way.

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