Adam Schokora, of 56minus1 fame, recently grabbed our attention after co-founding NeochaEDGE, a website and consultancy focused on showcasing creative talent in China. We asked him a few questions about the future of NeochaEDGE and the creative scene in China.
Tell us first a little bit about the idea behind NeochaEDGE.
We didn’t really come up with the idea for NeochaEDGE, it sorta kicked us in the shins on its own.
It’s the product of ongoing commercial and non-commercial (domestic and international) demand to understand / learn more about, engage, and co-create with Neocha.com users, the Chinese creative community in general, and local emerging youth culture.
Neocha.com, our social networking and community website, was borne out of the need to connect Chinese creatives with each other and their fans. NeochaEDGE goes a step further, connecting companies, brands, agencies, entertainment / media entities, and most importantly, the world at large to Chinese creatives, and vice versa. Since Neocha.com’s launch in the Spring of 2007, we’ve been regularly approached by third-parties interested in the community’s core user demographic: young, hip, edgy content creators, opinion leaders, and trendsetters in China. With this interest has come consistent research, trends / insights consulting, and production projects with a stable of clients in China and around the world.
Do you have different ambitions for NeochaEDGE, or do you see it more as a different approach to the same problems?
In some ways, sure, it could be understand as just a different approach. But it qualitatively different than what Neocha.com offers. Neocha.com is a community more just for the creatives and their fans. NeochaEDGE is a curated showcase of the creative scene as a whole in China, with an additional focus on emerging youth culture. Ultimately, we hope everything we do helps address the needs of the local creative community.
So NeochaEDGE has two sides, one a public website showcasing content, and the other a consultancy. Do you feel as if they are mutually exclusive aspects, and if so, are you focusing on one of these aspects more than the other?
We are trying to kill a few birds with one stone with the NeochaEDGE site.
Firstly, we have long thought we should launch a site that affords us full editorial control over showcasing “the best of the best” in the Chinese creative community. Neocha.com has a lot of this content / these creatives, but, as anyone that works in the “online community” world knows, the community belongs to the users. We don’t have much control over the content in the community – and we don’t really want to. To truly do a showcase site, it needed to be done outside of the immediate community with us acting as curators. NeochaEDGE accomplishes this for us, and does it bilingually so we can reach not only Chinese audiences, but also the international community.
Secondly, we have been doing work for brands, agencies, media companies, etc. over the past year and we had no digital asset housing our consulting and production capabilities. In essence, we needed some sort of digital storefront for our credentials, etc.
Instead of making some boring static website, we looked to do something more compelling – combining the two needs in a single website. The “showcase” side gives creatives anther platform for exposure, etc, but also helps us further establish credibility and thought leadership. The “consultancy” side lets the world know about our services, work, etc.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, we want NeochaEDGE to be another exposure platform for local Chinese creatives. The more touch points the better.
Unfortunately, Chinese creatives have yet to get the same level of international exposure as creatives in countries like the US and Japan have. Are you planning to do any sort of promoting internationally in order to get the attention of foreign markets?
Yes, this is precisely why NeochaEDGE is done bilingually. The fact that the content is also presented in English opens it up to markets around the world. Over the past couple years, I can’t tell you how many emails, literally daily, we have received from people / media / commercial entities all over the world that just can’t read Chinese (i.e. Neocha.com, and other Chinese-only resources covering “creative” in China) but want to know more about what’s going on “on the ground” in China’s creative scene. There is significant demand to see and learn more -NeochaEDGE is in place to supply this demand.
In terms of specific promotional efforts, we have a number of things in mind, but plan to mostly focus our resources on publishing unique, compelling, and informative content. This is the most valuable kind of marketing / promotional work a Website like ours can do to truly gain reach and influence, and to further develop credibility, authority, thought leadership, etc.
Related, we are working on a few key partnerships with well-established websites outside of China that are keen to syndicate NeochaEDGE content.
Beyond content and partnerships, we are also looking into some cooperation with international entities (exhibitions, media, production houses, etc.).
Lastly, of course, we are leveraging a whole arsenal of social media tools / channels to deliver our content to audiences that don’t necessarily land on EDGE.Neocha.com.
Unfortunately, China has gotten a bit of a bad rap abroad as far as copying creative content rather than producing new art. Do you think that there is any validity to this stereotype, or is there plenty of original content being produced?
There is some truth to that in China, sure, but I also feel that happens everywhere.
One of my favorite quotes on this topic comes from Jim Jarmusch, an American independent filmmaker, when he says: “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to…”
I feel this is very true the world around, perhaps more so in China, hence the stereotype. Maybe China is “stealing” more than others now – maybe – but to say that the country is only a copy cat and has no original ideas / creative content is just plain incorrect.
For a long time, home-grown creative content wasn’t stressed / valued by society, the government, and culture in general in China. As a result, it wasn’t really covered in mainstream media or other more mass audience platforms. Over the past 5 years or so, this has started to change quite significantly. At Neocha, we’d like to think we are playing an, albeit small, role in giving Chinese creative content and the artists behind it a platform for promotion and exposure, and perhaps helping change that stereotype.
A close friend of ours (Ryan McLaughlin, aka The Humanaught) once told me something that made us feel really good about what we’re doing, he said: “I spent three years in China thinking that it was the least creative place on earth. I thank Neocha for destroying that misconception.”
If at the end of the day this is all we really accomplish (hopefully over and over), we’d be very happy. I wish “stereotype destroying” wasn’t so abstract of an idea, otherwise, at some point maybe we could probably charge a premium for such a service.
Have you been surprised by the creativity in China? Do you have any specific examples of artists/producers that have surpassed your expectations?
Impressed is different than surprised. I’m impressed daily by the things we discover. There are really too many examples of this to list here. The best thing a reader can do is just browse the NeochaEDGE “Chinese Creatives” archive. Everything in that archive is stuff that impresses us, and we’ll keep adding to that archive. Also, follow our twitter accounts (@Neocha or @NeochaEDGE), almost all of our updates are hyperlinked to cool, impressive content by Chinese creatives.
What are your top short-term and long-term goals for NeochaEDGE? Any plans as far as achieving these goals?
The NeochaEDGE mantra is: Discover. Curate. Inspire. Create.
In short, all of our short and long-term plans / goals for NeochaEDGE fall under that mantra. Ultimately though, we want to establish the site as THE premier destination for local Chinese and people abroad to discover and learn about leading-edge creative content / artists and emerging youth culture in China.
Do you see NeochaEDGE changing at all in order to meet this goal, or do you think that the site as is has the potential to achieve this?
We will of course be further developing and upgrading as we go along to improve our reader’s experience on the site and the site’s overall offering, but I think the core of what NeochaEDGE needs to be is in place. As I mentioned before, the key to success with such a site is consistently delivering unique, compelling, and informative content. If anyone out there has suggestions or recommendations, etc., please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us (EDGE at Neocha dot com), we are all ears.