Fresh out of the studio, Gary Liu, chief executive officer of South China Morning Post (SCMP) joined us in a conversation on the digital transformation journey and where it is heading in a web3 world. We began the conversation with Gary reiterating the important role that SCMP plays as a bridge between China and the rest of the world. From there, he shared the early days and reflected on the key lessons from the first phase of their digital transformation with a focused video strategy. Continuing on, Gary shared SCMP's move into the Web3 world with the ARTIFACTs NFT project and how it jumpstarts the next phase of the digital transformation. Last but not least, he shared what great looks like for SCMP in the next 3-5 years.
"I believe that we have made great change. I think five years is going to be the same, I think in five years when we look back, even if it doesn't look that way, as we build piece by piece, we will be a technically advanced, user-first global news organization that is sustained by a diversified revenue model." - Gary Liu
- Gary Liu, Chief Executive Officer, South China Morning Post
- Since our last conversation, the relationship between the United States and China have deteriorated with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. From your perspective, where do you see the future of SCMP and its place to bridge the gap of understanding between the Western world and China?
South China Morning Post's Digital Transformation Journey
- Since your appointment as the CEO of SCMP, you have betted on tech to power the digital transformation of SCMP. To start, how was the early days like, for example, assembling the team and building different digital components that led to the current state?
- What worked and what did not work for the digital transformation journey?
- What would you have done differently for the parts that did not work out?
- One interesting milestone is that SCMP reached 1 billion youtube views within 3 years and grew its subscribers from 27k to 1.5 million. How is the video strategy developed and what are the key decisions that the team has gotten right in building this success?
- When we last spoke in person, you were in Singapore and that was before COVID-19 pandemic, there are clear indications that you are setting to expand your footprint in Southeast Asia. Did the pandemic slow down the expansion plans and is the intent still towards geographic expansion of SCMP across Asia Pacific?
- References: (1) SCMP’s Gary Liu on year of challenges from protests, pandemic (WAN Ifra, June 2020), (2) South China Morning Post CEO Gary Liu on navigating a perilous time for Hong Kong (Digiday, July 2020) and (3) SCMP’s new digital subscription offer targets world beyond Hong Kong (INMA, Sep 2020)
Moving South China Morning Post to a Web3 world
- Since I have you here, I want to segway into a conversation about SCMP and Web3. I want to baseline our conversation first for our audience out here: how do you define web3 and the metaverse?
- Which are the elements of web3 that you find the most interesting and compelling to the media space, for example, non-fungible tokens or NFTs?
- As a CEO, how do you think about your strategy for SCMP with web3 being a potential disruptor to both technology and media space, moving from a centralized world back to a decentralized world?
- References: (1) The Era of NFT, Development & Future (30 Sep) - Gary’s keynote at Game On Summit, (2) Why a 118-Year-Old Newspaper Launched an NFT Project (12 Oct) Gary’s keynote at Unfinished NYC and (3) Predictions for digital journalism: tech, newsletters, climate and multimedia (Journalism.co.uk, Dec 2021)
- Can you talk about the ARTIFACTs project by SCMP that relates to non-fungible tokens (or NFTs) in short? In fact there is a whitepaper and FAQs written on the project too. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this project?
- How does ARTIFACTs provide the standard in recording history, given that it is a metadata standard and smart contract for historical NFTs?
- How does the ARTIFACTs standard define the historical significance of an asset?
- One interesting aspect of ARTIFACTs by SCMP, is the choice of using the Flow blockchain where you will release historical news archives as NFTs. For those who do not know, Flow is a layer one blockchain that delivered the NFTs: Cryptokitties and NBA Top Shots. What is the motivation behind the choice of Flow and will you consider the other blockchains for example, Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain and Solana that are also popular with NFTs?
- Recently, I have Yat Siu, co-founder and Chairman of Animoca Brands on the show talking about his perspectives on digital ownership and NFTs. Can you share about the recent partnership you are doing with the Sandbox on creating cultural experiences for the metaverse?
- What does great look like for the South China Morning Post in the next three to five years?
- Any recommendations that have inspired you recently?
- Gary's recommendations: Reading the South China Morning Post.
- How can my audience find you?