November's First Meet The Bloggers presents one of our newest and perhaps most informative blogs: China Skinny. The marketing research blog gives followers and readers the newest and most relevant snapshot of the latest trends in for marketing in China. Shanghai Bloggers App is proud to feature China Skinny and today we introduce you to founder Mark Tanner.
Tell us a bit about Mark
If I had one word to describe myself, it would be curious. Curiosity originally brought my wife and me to China, and has influenced most things I’ve done before and since. I guess you could say my first foray into blogging started in January 2000, when I left Vancouver to ride my bicycle across Canada. It didn’t look like blogs you see today – it was very ugly, but most nights I would document my adventure in rudimentary HTML, including photos when I finished my roll of film and could find a scanner. There are many elements of riding across Canada that can be quite monotonous, but writing a blog helped make every little detail of the day more interesting, as I thought about how I could weave it into the blog.
I’d originally started the blog as a way to keep a diary and for my family and some friends, but a lot of strangers started reading it. It was quite unusual to ride a bike across Canada mid-winter and it captured people’s imaginations, many who got in touch and offered me places to stay. I had as many as ten offers in some cities. Over the 4.5 month trip, I paid for just five nights of accommodation, and many of the other nights were staying with incredibly hospitable Canadians who’d been reading the blog. They showed me their towns, fed me and introduced me to their friends - a wonderful way to see the land. More blogging has ensued, such as hunting for Viking treasure in Iceland, living in the Sudan and then paddling down the River Nile, and most recently about China.
Tell us a bit about China Skinny and how it was ”born”
China Skinny is a marketing, research and digital agency, and the blog was set up a to promote it and demonstrate how we view the world. It's a great tool for business development, building partnerships and also ensuring that we keep up with the constant changes in China's fascinating market.
Blogging is fun! What’s the most fun part about blogging in Shanghai?
The thing I love about blogging is that it forces you to know your stuff. The most rewarding component is meeting readers who have their own views and experiences related to what you're saying in your blog, which usually starts some interesting discussion.
Blogging can be challenging! How do you at China Skinny stay motivated to keep up the blogging and find interesting topics for the marketing blog?
The great thing about blogging in China is that there’s never a shortage of things to write about. As marketing incorporates components of social, demographic and economic trends, the toughest part is deciding what not to include - I can't think of anywhere more interesting to blog about marketing right now.
If someone wants to start a new blog in Shanghai, what’s your suggestion for topic - What’s missing on Shanghai’s blogging scene?
Wow, tough question! I wouldn’t worry too much about finding something that hasn’t been done, but just focus on something that you’re passionate about and do it well – in a city as big as Shanghai, there is plenty of room for everyone. Chinese language blogs are underrepresented as it hasn't taken off here like in other countries, yet.
What’s your best advice to someone who wants to start a blog in Shanghai (or a business related to blogs)?
Like above, focus on something you’re passionate about – that makes it much easier to write. You’re better to do less blogs that are excellent, than more blogs that aren’t – if you have a couple of duds, followers will soon lose interest. If you’re writing about popular topics, try to provide a different and personal view on things, rather the same old stuff that’s been written by many before you. Learn some basic SEO techniques and don’t be shy about reaching out to people and linking to others. And be patient with realistic expectations – most blogs take a while to gather traction.
What’s your favourite neighbourhood in Shanghai for a Sunday stroll?
My perfect Sunday in Shanghai would have a component biking around the city. I bought a 300 RMB Flying Pigeon bicycle about 5 years ago; the brakes don't work too well, but the rest of the old clanger still runs like a dream. Shanghai is a great city to bike around, dodging all sorts of things you don't see in many other places. My favourite spot to ride is down by The Bund – streets like Sichuan Road, which are teeming with locals on bikes, and grand old buildings that are more gritty than the polished ones on The Bund itself. I also love the narrow lanes and people just going about their daily lives around the old town next to Yuyuan Gardens - it is an interesting contrast from other parts of the city.
We’ve heard you are a KIWI and can imagine it must be quite different to live here compared to New Zealand. Instead of asking you for your top 3 of things you miss the most from your nature-filled mother country we would like to ask you: What’s the top 3 things/concepts/part of the culture you’d like to bring with you from China the day you leave?
There’s a real entrepreneurial spirit and palpable sense of optimism in Shanghai. So many people are just having a crack at their passion which is both infectious and inspiring. I would love to see more of that back home
Convenience is something that I will miss about China: efficient public transport, cheap cabs, and being able to buy most things until late at night
Diversity. I love being in China, but also love the international flavour of Shanghai. I was at dinner with around 20 people last week, and all but two of us were from a different country.
Can you give us a link to one of China Skinny’s recent great posts or most popular posts?
There has been a lot of doom and gloom talk about China's slowing economy lately. Whilst things aren't as rosy as they were a few years ago, there are still many segments that are booming in China. We got a lot of positive feedback from our 23 September post 'Does China’s Slowing GDP Growth Tell the Full Story?' which prompted a few people to take a less broad-rush approach to evaluating China and considering what is relevant to the
Thank you to Mark Tanner and China Skinny.
Visit China Skinny here and don't forget to share this amazingly informative blog with all your China-interested friends around the world!