Thursday, August 09, 2007

Harmoniously Competitive

Compare to our competitors, my company is very late to the Olympics bandwagon. We don’t even have a channel dedicated to 2008, only a sub channel. The day before yesterday, one day before the 1 year count down, a VP mentioned that we ought to have at least a count-down clock on our home page. So the web team scrambled to get it up, a few hours before the start of the official celebration party on Tiananmen Square.

During the brainstorm on how to get on the bandwagon, I suggested that we leverage our global network: we could translate into Chinese content from other territories and call it “Laowais on Olympics!”—god knows how we Chinese treasure foreigners’ opinions—and feed original user-generated content, made here in Beijing and translated in English, back to those territories as “Live from Beijing!”

I thought the idea brilliant and the group considered it interesting—we have to differentiate ourselves somehow from our competitors who are bigger stronger and have started much earlier. So I did more research. Our Taiwan partner site was blocked. Our US site cited an AP story that called the Beijing air “filthy,” the pollution “choking,” and the government “authoritarian.”

OMG, my idea wouldn’t work! No way the censors would approve “(disgruntled) Laowais on Olympics!” posted on our site. Come to think of it, no way either for foreign audience to enjoy “Live (but sanitized) from Beijing!”

Either we remain incredibly conventional and lose to the conventional but bigger competitors, or we could become incredibly innovative within the limits of being positive, prosperous and harmonious.

The question for the latter is—how?