Thursday, May 20, 2010

MAY DAILY, (梅德丽), China-based entertainment website, launches ! (interview here)


INTERVIEW with May Daily's May Daily

Question: Hello, May Daily. May we have a moment of your time for a couple of questions?

MAY DAILY: Sure, pleasure to be online with you. Ask away!

QUESTION: What is MAY DAILY, what does MAY mean in Chinese translated to English, and who is the founder, CEO and who are staff people and how many staff on board yet?

ANSWER: May Daily (梅德丽) is the name of the company and the name of the people who write, edit, moderate, design the website and so on. It is based on an individual, but it is a collective effort, so we have gone collective. We are all May Daily. We have CEO May Daily, our reporters are all called May Daily … you get the idea.

As for the name in Chinese, it’s the mei (梅) for plum, which is a common name for Chinese ladies; the de (德) for virtue or ethics and the li (丽) for beautiful. So, literally, the name means “beautifully ethical plum,” but really it’s just a name like any other. You’re given one at birth and you have to live with it. Luckily, I like it.

It works well as an English name and a typical name for a publication, so it is a good fit in both Chinese and English.

2. When did MAY DAILY go online LIVE for real worldwide?

May Daily went live on May 1st, International Workers’ Day. May Day has been a traditional date for celebration for thousands of years, so it seemed appropriate given the name.

We liked going with the name of the person May Daily because it also sounds like a typical newspaper and that’s our background. It’s also original, so that’s cool. The closest is Daily Mail, an English paper. I don’t know why the name wasn’t registered before, maybe due to the Marxist connotations, and perhaps because people wouldn’t be interested in a newspaper called May Daily for the other 11 months of the year.

Also, it should be mentioned that we have been following the same celebrity beat since February 2006 under different names and in various columns that have been regular weekly items in various publications in Taiwan, China, and the United Kingdom.

The website is the latest incarnation of all the columns and the old media network. It’s just a new set of clothes.

3. Who is MAY DAILY aimed at?

The biggest market is China and the United States, about equal, followed by Europe and so on. The average demographic is young 16-40, and about 50-50 male/female, because they tend to be more interested in celebrities. But we welcome anyone outside this range – and why not?

We have heard that a lot of students like May Daily, both those who are learning Chinese because it gives them a key into China’s contemporary youth culture; and Chinese students who want to learn a more colloquial and youthful, non-textbook style of English.

Obviously we are Tweeting and Facebooking and doing the social media thing. You kinda have to because they are powerful in terms of reach. But at the end of the day, it is content that attracts eyeballs. In the restaurant business they say, “location, location, location.” In this case, it’s “content, content, content.”

4. Later, in a year, if goes well, MAY DAILY will introduce more items like video with May Daily, then turn it bilingual, so become a central source for Chinese language entertainment reporters, etc. How might this scenario unfold and who might pick up your link?

When the May Daily website is bedded down comfortably, then we will think about adding more items, like video, social media, all incrementally. Then we’ll have to do another redesign so all the elements are integrated again.

Eventually, we will go bilingual because we think mainland gossip is a bit tame and eventually there will be a need for a more sophisticated product, for a more sophisticated audience.

In Taiwan, it’s a different situation, the gossip market is fairly saturated and totally sophisticated. But on the other hand, a lot of Taiwan readers are eager for more mainland celebrity circle news, so there’s no reason why we can’t fill that role.

Obviously there’s a growing interest in the West about China and this will increasingly include entertainment content. It won’t be long before a Chinese star, like Tang Wei, is mega not just here but there and everyone will want to know about her. In a way it’s already happening.

5. How does the staff find all these gossip items? what are YOUR resources for this ?

The usual interviews, press events, media releases, word-of-mouth, deep-throat sources and then there’s a lot on the Web, in papers, magazines and so on, that is collated, or translated, or turned from forums and chats to news and views.

We don’t do the private eye investigation kind of stuff, but nevertheless recognize that we benefit from it. So, I wouldn’t say we were paparazzi, but we’re not entirely innocent either.

What we do is in the public domain and in the public interest, even if it is only from the point of view of entertainment. It’s bread and circuses, but better than politics.

Celebrities are famous, obviously, because they have made themselves into public figures. And from our point of view that’s why it’s hilarious when you hear some stars turn around and cry about invasion of privacy. Because, at the same time, they are working to be media icons and paying their agents to make sure they get plenty of publicity. So our motto is: “Don’t believe the hype.” And our advice to wannabes is: “If you don’t want the fame don’t play the game.”

But equally, there is a line. I think we should respect celebrities and what they do, because they are ordinary people too, deserving of respect and privacy. So, for example, in the case of a celebrity who does not use their kids for self-promotion (like Cecilia Cheung and Nicholas Tse) then we do not mention them either. Equally, if a celebrity isn’t making their life an open book and isn’t being a hypocrite then let them be. But if they say this and do that, or hug the limelight, then it’s a different matter.

At the end of the day, it’s a mutual relationship. They need us, we need them. They just don’t like to admit it.

In my opinion, celebrities are our new neighbors. Most of us live in cities. You know how it is, the denser the population, the more need for personal space. We often don’t know who our next-door neighbor is. We shut the door and we want privacy, peace, from all the people out there at work, on the street, on the train, in the club, whatever.

In a village or town, everyone knows everyone else’s business. It’s gossip, basically, but you could also call it information and entertainment.

So celebrities function like people in a global village. We follow their stories, their ups and downs, ins and outs, and we talk about them as if we know them over the water cooler.

Celebrity gossip has to be entertaining because the information value isn’t high. At the end of the day it’s a story and we love stories. They’re good to pass around and are the basis of a kind of positive social communication.

What we do is collate these stories and this is no different to Dream of the Red Mansions; Bright Lights, Big City; or Vanity Fair.

If Clinton was in this business he would be saying, “It’s the story, stupid.”

6. how often will May Daily be updated? daily? hourly? as it happens? BREAKING NEWS?

It says May Daily, so it has to be that. But obviously, the more the better and that will increase in time, until we are, without doubt the heavyweight, reigning champion of Chinese celebrity news, every minute of the day – though I don’t think we will be changing our name to May Minute.

On the other hand there’s no point, to our mind, telling readers, for example, that Jay Chou did a promotional event and is selling Nutra Bars (whatever). This is just sales and an example of where we don’t want to go, unless there’s a story element to it, or it has an entertainment factor.

7. will there be any photos of ''nipple slips'' a la Bai Ling or wardrobe malfuctions a la Janet Jackson? And how far will you go or can you go with censors there for nakedness?

We would like to do it all because we don’t see anything wrong with showing the human body. But the world ain’t ready, so we will wait for the right time. For instance, a nipple slip is worth showing, but we will cover or pixellate the nipple, so as not to frighten younger or more sensitive readers. We absolutely do not want to offend. But actually, in a perfect world no-one should get so upset about such a little thing as a nipple.

There will never be pornography for the simple reason it’s not our domain. Other people do that. We are celebrity focused, with strange stuff, contemporary culture trends, that sort of thing. And, actually, to our minds, stories and good-looking celebrities are more interesting and sexier than vulvas and glans penis in your face.

8. Will you pay stringers for news gossip items from Japan or Taiwan or Philippines or Vietnam or anywhere?

We are already doing that. And they are all called by the ''May Daily'' byline when we publish their stories.

9. . Do you expect any interference from censors?

There’s censors everywhere, that’s the reality. For instance, we once ran a story about Li Kai-shek, the richest person in Hong Kong. Now, he’s got mega reach and he managed to squash the story in some papers we wrote it for. There are plenty of other examples of this type of thing we have run into involving companies and management of the stars themselves, or the papers and magazines we have worked for – whether it was Taiwan, China, Hong Kong or the United Kingdom.

Which is one of the reasons we decided to go independent. There were stories we couldn’t cover and we wanted to. In my opinion the quality of the stories are better because of this.

We don’t have strong relationships with most of the people we write about so we don’t have to tone it down. We can be as straight as we like. It’s a kind of freedom and it’s great and we want to maintain this.

On the other hand, when we do know a star or get special access this is made clear, because it often comes with strings attached. It’s the payoff for original material. The point is to be straight.

10.  Are there any rules at MAY DAY? How far can the gossip go and will items be fact chcked before after or later or never?

How long is a piece of string? Is there any length to which someone who wants to be famous won’t go? We will follow them all the way.

The stories are always fact checked and double-checked, of course, and we provide our sources if we can, which is 90 percent of the time. This is elementary and professional, which means a good standard of work and the truth or not of an assertion can be back-checked.

It is not our intention to publish incorrect, untrue or deliberately inflammatory material. First, reality is always stranger than fiction, so we don’t need to. Second, we don’t want to because that is the kind of people we are and for the entirely obvious reason that if we are a trusted source, then people will believe us and will return to us.

If we do get something wrong, and this is inevitable at some point given the nature of the business -- companies manipulating the media, vicious gossip, vested interests and so on -- then of course we will say sorry and put it right. It’s as simple as that. This type of attitude is best for everyone.

LAST QUESTION: Who are the financial backers of the site ?

ANSWER: May Daily is a private, limited company set up by two partners and with a certain amount of external investment. It’s independent and therefore able to publish without fear or favor.

BLOGGER: Thank you for your time today, May Daily.

MAY DAILY: My pleasure, sir. Please visit our website often. Daily, if you have time!


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