Welcome to Hong Kong, John! You had lived on Mainland China for more than 10 years before moving to Hong Kong. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
During my time at university, I majored in psychology and philosophy, and minored in Chinese, which is what peaked my interest in China in my early years. I eventually moved to Beijing in 2008 and ended up staying there for more than 10 years. It was certainly a fascinating place and I’ve experienced a lot during my time there. I was particularly interested in how the world was changing especially in the technology field. The exponential growth in the industry, especially in the early 2010s was the most captivating for sure.
With more than ten years of reporting experience in China, you are a leading journalistic voice on Chinese technology. Can you share with us your insights into the sector? It can be brief.
Three quick bullet points on China technology:
Congratulations again on joining the South China Morning Post as Technology Editor! Tell us more about your role and some of your major topics of interest.
- How ubiquitous technology has become and how much China has embraced it
- China seemed to be lagging behind the rest of the world when I first visited in 2004 and is clearly on track to lead (if it hasn’t already)
- Things are slowing down, however, especially in the consumer space. The room for growth is decreasing and China’s tech majors are looking to B2B services to grow and expand.
As Technology Editor I am responsible not only for our overall technology coverage, but also for supporting other teams in their coverage. As you know, technology is becoming a larger part of almost every facet of life around the world. As subject matter experts, we collaborate with reporters and editors to make sure the stories SCMP produces are comprehensive and informative. The key for technology coverage at SCMP is to find a way to not only make technical topics more accessible, but also to make China more relatable to the outside world. As you probably know, China is a very unique and idiosyncratic country and that can be difficult to report on in an interesting way.
Things change at such a rapid pace. What's your best tip for keeping up with the constantly evolving tech industry? In addition, how do you produce in-depth news?
The best way to produce in-depth news is to always stay curious. I think it's too easy to become cynical or jaded after covering the sector for a long time. Tech companies are very good at over-promising and under-delivering. The key, in my opinion, is trying to separate the hype out from what regular, everyday readers will be interested in.
Technology is a vital industry sector. In June, the SCMP's Abacus team moved to a new website, joining forces with the Technology Desk. What's its editorial strategy now? Any plans for next year?
I’m a big fan of abacus
. Not only its voice, but also the topics it covers. As the technology desk and abacus teams work more closely together, we’re hoping that the best parts of both will rub off. Expect to not only see more Abacus-like stories coming from the tech desk, but also more hard-hitting journalism coming from the abacus team. In terms of the overall strategy, we really want to humanise technology and tell stories that everyone can relate to. China, more than anywhere else, has seen such rapid and positive impacts from technology and we want to make that relatable. On the other hand, however, there are also of course negative impacts, those left behind and forgotten in all the hype, that we want to raise awareness of.
We’ll continue to improve our “business of technology” journalism with new formats and story types
Tips - How can PRs work with you efficiently?
Don’t just send me press releases. Let’s meet for a coffee or catch up on the phone. I’m much more likely to follow up on something if I have a better understanding of the company and/or products and that doesn’t come from press releases.