Updated: Jul 25
How successful has your marketing strategy been in China? Discover tips and hints on what you can do to break into the market, improve your processes and expand your reach with Andrew Smith, Global Product and Marketing Director at The Charlesworth Group.
Join us in the next entry to our #OpenMarketing episode from our Behind the Fluff podcast as we discuss:
The importance of developing a localized and bespoke strategy for China
The push to increase the size of the domestic Chinese STM publishing market and publish more papers in domestic journals
WeChat as a prerequisite to being in the Chinese market and raising your brand profile
The success of short videos and live streaming in China
Creating an authentic brand presence within China and linking it back to great content
Links and resources:
The Charlesworth Group – https://www.charlesworth-group.com
Andrew Smith on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-smith-081a2412/
The Charlesworth Group WeChat Gateway – https://cwbot.com.cn/
The Charlesworth Group WeChat Account Management Services – https://www.cwrepresentation.com/WeChat
ALPSP Blog: “Spotlight on the Charlesworth WeChat Gateway” – https://blog.alpsp.org/2020/08/spotlight-on-charlesworth-wechat.html
Lou: Welcome everybody to our first ever open marketing series for the Behind The Fluff podcast. If you need any resources, do make sure that you go to www.internationalbunch.com/beinspired My name is Lou Peck, I am the CEO of The International Bunch and today I'm absolutely delighted to have with me, Andrew Smith. Hi, Andrew.
Andrew: Hi, Lou. Good to be here.
Lou: So, Andrew is... actually Andrew you say who you are.
Andrew: Hello. I'm Andrew Smith. I'm the Global Product and Marketing Director at The Charlesworth Group.
Lou: Fantastic. Now we thought we'd take this opportunity to have Andrew with us today. We know that many of our clients and our publisher clients and our intermediary clients are often looking at how they can explore opportunities in China, and The Charlesworth Group have a history of spanning 90 years as a publisher services partner. And they are very well placed in China to give us some great insights and some hints and tips about what you can do to improve your strategy in China. So. First of all, I'm going to ask you, Andrew, what does your role entail at The Charlesworth Group?
Andrew: Thanks Lou. So yes, I manage a few different teams here at The Charlesworth Group. I manage our Global Product team, which is based here in Europe, but also with developers over in China, I also manage our author marketing team who market our author services in both Beijing and then in the UK. And then also our agency business, which works with STM publishers around the world, but it's based out of Beijing and promotes their services within China.
Lou: Fantastic. So, I think you are really well-placed for me to ask you some questions then?
Andrew: Yes, absolutely. So, I work on a daily basis with our teams in China, I would have been in China every six weeks-
Lou: Oh wow.
Andrew: If COVID had not struck. So, while I've been UK based for the last couple of years now, I'm certainly working very closely with our colleagues in China.
Lou: And I'm sure that you're starting your days much earlier than many of us.
Andrew: Yes, yes, my day tends to start around about 6:00 AM. So that we can start kind of mid-afternoon China time.
Lou: Absolutely. Okay. So, what we're going to do is we're going to ask you some questions, specifically marketing related. Now, the content that we produce is accessible and available for anybody who's in the publishing industry works for an intermediary, anyone that has interest in marketing, but we do specifically do this content for marketers, but it doesn't mean it's just for marketers, because there's going to be some great insights coming out of this. I am super excited about this because I want to learn more about China myself. So, one of the questions I have for you is, when you're working with publishers and service providers, what type of marketeers are you working with?
Andrew: So that tends to vary, at the moment we're working a lot with author marketing and those who are really focused in terms of authorship, stakeholder engagement and signing new projects within China. So, kind of marketing through to the editorial side of things within a publisher. We also have a large rights representation business, so we work with a lot of publishers for sales. So, we do work with publishers as well on more traditional collection marketing, within the China market. But really over the last couple of years, we've had a lot of interest from publishers wanting to connect directly with authors, especially around their open access publications and around publications that are looking to grow in China. So really, that direct author engagement and author marketing, stakeholder marketing, is where we've been working the most in the agency side of the business over the last year.
Lou: Well, fantastic. I mean, open access, we're not going to talk about that now, we'll allude to that later, but open access adoption in China is really interesting and how it's increasing as well. So, I can definitely see how that's been an increased trend and I know myself from working with clients, but also from being client side, how integral the Chinese market or the market in China has been for publishers and intermediaries throughout the years. It's an incredibly huge market and often represents a vast amount of the percentage of subscriptions and published papers that publishers have, for example. So, how are those marketeers that you're working with - how are they using your services and what for?
Andrew: So, there's a number... I think it really depends on where you are with your goals in China and also your approach to that market. So, we work with publishers that have got a full office in China and have had a presence there for a number of years through to those who don't have any presence at all and we're the sole marketing presence within the market. So, it really differs, we can work as a partner for an organization providing specific services and complimenting the team on the ground, or we can do the whole area of service. So, in terms of our services, what we're really looking at, at the moment, is that direct author marketing. The key thing within the China market is, you can't simply replicate what you're doing elsewhere. So, if you want to take your US strategy and just translate the content, it's not necessarily going to work in China. So, where we really come in, is to look at what are the aims of our customers in terms of the groups that they want to reach and then working with them, putting together a strategy and a content plan that uses some of their existing content, but also make sure it's been localized and we're bringing through bespoke content that really aligns with their goals and the needs, and the wants, of their particular customer base.
Lou: Yes, I mean, that very much goes with the trend of how marketing has progressed over the years. And now in marketing, it's very much about niche marketing, tailored marketing, specific to certain segments and ensuring that you're having the right message that's delivered to the right people, so that you can engage with those people and engage with the people that ultimately are interested in what you want. And it's definitely a "gone are the days" of mass marketing, we just don't do that anymore. So what sort of key... What are the key changes that you're seeing in marketing in China in the last few years?
Andrew: So, I think the big shift that is happening is, I mean, first of all, in STM publishing, with the research policy changes announced last February, that's starting to come through slowly. So, for instance, targets around number of publications has been dropped. The impact factor is still important, but there's obviously an agenda to move away, from impact factors. And there's also a big push to increase the size of the domestic Chinese STM publishing market and encourage 30% of published papers towards domestic journals. So, the key there for marketers around author marketing, is you need that direct relationship with your stakeholders. In previous years, if you had a journal with a good impact factor that probably did a lot of the marketing for you. So, you weren't needing to have that direct relationship, but in a world where the policies within China are changing and also your authors are more likely to be publishing open access, they're potentially far more interested in open access now than they were, then you really need that direct relationship with the author. And you've really got to look at investing in your brand and actually that really is reverberating well in China. So, the first point is, really, will be to start off with looking actually where you are, in terms of your profile in China and this is what we do a lot with clients is, we can do media monitoring and we really look around, actually, what are the mentions of your brand? Are they positive? Are they negative? Is there any misunderstanding about what you do or negative sentiment in the market around maybe some of your publications?
Andrew: And from that, that really allows us to kind of start to benchmark what we need to do to take forward. So, is it a matter that's actually, your brand isn't that well known? So, you maybe have some titles that are well-recognized, but as a publisher, your brand isn't that strong, or do you have other issues in that actually outside of China, you may be quite happy with how your brand is seen and your brand strategy, but within China, because you haven't necessarily had a presence, there's maybe a lot of half-truths and a misunderstanding that's been exchanged in social media over the years. And actually, this is kind of compounded to the point where you've got a bit of a problem around how you're seen in the market.
Lou: Yes, I think that's really interesting that media monitoring side and I think in the Western world, we take advantage of these different services that we have because we often use different online services like Google, for example, or Bing or whichever service, and we can set up alerts and things, but it's not, it's not as easy in China. And I think what's really interesting is that it's our publishers pulling in that specific part of the... Their strategy when they're looking at how they react to what's in social. Are they thinking about, "Yes, we are monitoring on the WeChat side", for example, or whichever services is, that they'll be using in China? And I think that that's um... And the great thing is, is that you can also see like the discussions that are happening as well. So. When we... So also, I think what's interesting with China is, in the last couple of years, how I've seen the changes that have been happening in terms of how different organizations in China have been adopting DORA and that we'll move to move away from impact factor and like you said, it's still very much there, but there is a sense that they want to move away from it. And also, I think what's interesting is, is what you mentioned in terms of how they want to ensure that there's the publications of their own domestic journals and the content that's going in there. So effectively those publishers outside of China are also in competition with what is being supported heavily by the Chinese government, because why wouldn't you? They're your own country's journals. But then of course you see publishers who will launch journals in China as well, to help to address that balance. So, there's lots of really interesting stuff that's happening and so in terms of like, which groups, so thinking about like, WeChat as an example, what kind of groups of marketers are engaging? Sorry, what type of audience are marketers using WeChat for to engage with? So, when like, when you're talking about in a direct relationship, is it just authors or is it editors or peer reviewers, what's the kind of ecosystem there?
Andrew: Yes. In terms of WeChat accounts, we would look to bring onboard as followers to your key stakeholders within an institution. So obviously the same people often wear different hats, whether that be author, reviewer, editor and if we're looking at... So WeChat, is a channel that can really raise your brand profile. And I'd also say, it really is a prerequisite to being in the China market. If you want to take China seriously, you need a WeChat account, so that really is, a barrier to entry, if you not prepared to go there. So, the WeChat account, it allows you really to promote your brand and really to build a community around your key stakeholders, which are likely to be the authors, reviewers and editors and the key researchers within the institutions.
Lou: I think WeChat's an interesting one. Like you said, it'd be good for you to expand on, for those who don't have such a good sense of WeChat in terms of how integral it is in people's everyday lives, I mean, it's astounding.
Andrew: It is. So, I mean, WeChat is, they call it the super app and there isn't really a Western equivalent of that. If you can kind of imagine, Facebook and Amazon and dating apps, kind of all coming together in a super app, that's kind of somewhere where you're at. So, WeChat has 1.2 billion monthly active users. The penetration rate within China is over 78% of the country. So, you're getting, really the majority of the Chinese population. Now, the key metric that I look at is also engagement. So, it's not just that everyone is on WeChat but never looks at it. The last time we looked at the survey data, the average person uses WeChat for up to 82 minutes per day. So, people are using the app, but they're using it in their everyday life. So, you can use it for e-commerce, you can use it to ride the Metro, to pay your bills. Really, there's a function for everything within WeChat or there's an e-commerce store, WeChat Pay is one of the biggest payments vendors within China. So really there's so many reasons to use WeChat. It's really this kind of ecosystem on its own, which is dominant in terms of how long you've spent online every day.
Lou: I mean, it really is an incredibly powerful service and it's interesting when you say that it's got over, people are on it for over 80 minutes a day because I was doing some research the other day for something and it was, and it said that, on average people generally spend about 23 minutes on a mobile device a day. Or was it 24 minutes? And actually, since the pandemic, it's added an additional 23 minutes on top, but that still doesn't reach anywhere near, what they're using in China in terms of how long they're on it. And it's amazing, you go into a shop, and you can just, buy things with your WeChat app in a shop and you can order a taxi or pay for the taxi. It's just like you said, it's a super app, it's an incredible system. And also, the engagement will be very high because it does so many things and it just makes life so much easier for people. So, how well is WeChat adopted outside of China? Because we were talking about how many users it has and I don't know if that number of users is, maybe there's people in America or all over the world who may be using it as well.
Andrew: So, I mean, WeChat obviously is dominant within China, outside of China, the current stats around about 100 to 200 million users, Singapore, Malaysia have been kind of the two countries where you've got much larger adoption. So outside of China, the adoption is much less, in terms of sheer numbers. But I think the key thing that we notice, working with publishers, as you know, you can see where all your WeChat followers are based. And when you look at that data, what you can see is obviously universities have very strong connections all around the world with their Chinese equivalents. There are Chinese researchers working around the world, especially in the UK, the US, Australia and Europe. So, you do see a number of users in kind of the key countries that have very big research institutions. And from the research we've done, that would tend to be either overseas students or it would tend to be overseas Chinese professors working with institutions. So, while WeChat gives you the audience within mainland China, it does also give you that additional reach in terms of people from China, working and living around the world.
Lou: That's amazing and of course, I think I read an article. I mean, I don't know how the pandemic has affected things since, but I read an article a couple of years ago, which was talking about the significant investment that China was having and also in terms of like the number, the numbers in terms of research, that it was starting to beat the USA, for example. And there was also the, because of this significant investment that was happening in research, it was becoming more attractive for people to go back to China that originally came from China because there were more opportunities, but also for Westerners were thinking, "Well, this is a great place, you know, there are so much opportunities", and that's going to be fascinating to see how that changes over the next few years, because I know that they've got some really ambitious plans. So, which is the most popular service that marketeers are using and what is the goal that's helping them to achieve this?
Andrew: So, I mean, in terms of the services that we offer, obviously our WeChat service is number one, the majority of our customers take our WeChat account management service offering additional services, but that's usually kind of the core service. The reason is, is obviously if you want to be in China, you really need a WeChat account, you really need a proper WeChat strategy. So that's our key service and we work with customers around their brand on WeChat and the key thing for us about the WeChat services, it isn't just about pushing out content, and as I said earlier, what we don't want to do, is just kind of replicate, translate and post out content that the publishers are pushing around the world. What our team will do is work with you, on a plan based around your goals, from that we'll create a content plan working with the publisher, using their existing content and maybe some new pieces, but we'll also work with some of their stakeholders. So, what we tend to have is a partnership whereby we will work with some key editors, editorial board members, authors, who've maybe got some papers that are coming through, which we really want to promote. So, we manage a kind of a group of key opinion leaders on behalf of the publisher, which are the publisher's key stakeholders within China. Through that, we can work with them on content co-creation, but also on making sure the account house has impact through sharing of contents and really make sure we can utilize the networks of those key opinion leaders who already work with the publisher. So, that's one of the key things we do is to work with those KOL's within China, on behalf of the publisher, to really increase reach and increase the number of followers on that account as influencer marketing may be huge in the UK and the US, in China it's even bigger. And certainly, within the academic sphere, umm, you know, there are a number... There are a lot of key opinion leader academics who we can work with to really help the publisher.
Lou: Well, that's fascinating about the influencer marketing side. I don't think I'd really thought about that, but absolutely, it makes total sense. So, in terms of... what is most important to those marketers that you're working with right now, based on, I guess it's based on, like you said, what their strategy is, but when we're thinking about like brand awareness, if the impact factors declines, because even though impact factor isn't as important, it still is important, we can't get away from it. So that'd be really interesting to know is, what is most important to those marketers that you're working with right now?
Andrew: So, it tends to differ from client to client. So, some clients, we're very much focused on author acquisition and submission through to acceptance another publisher, we're really looking at the experience of the authors. So, they have a very high share of Chinese authors well known in China, but we're constantly looking at ways to improve the author experience through integrations, using our gateway service into WeChat through really creating a branded Chinese local language experience in WeChat, but also through their website, every step of the journey. So that's another key area that we work with as well as author acquisition, and then, really in terms of brands. So, we do a lot of brand work, but then through the media monitoring, we can then also look at the impact of that over time and also alert the publisher to anything that is problematic that has come up.
Lou: Yes, absolutely. I mean that's incredibly important that they're able to have a reactive strategy because social media, or anything social or online, is so instantaneous that you can't ignore it. It must be fascinating when someone takes up a service like that for the first time and they haven't been monitoring what's been happening in China and they start to look to see and get a real sense of saying, "Right, this is how we need to deal with this situation, this is how we might need to reposition ourselves". And I think the... When you can, for example, like WeChat, when you can integrate it into a workflow where part of the submission process or part of the publication processes is that an author can get an alert through WeChat on various stages of the workflow and that helps them to be more time efficient in terms of quicker on their turnaround of doing things with a service, with an app that they're already using, so much all the time, not like me with my black hole of email. So, so what are interesting campaigns, obviously, we're not going to ask you to name anyone, but what are sort of the interesting campaigns that you've seen that your clients are using and if they have any specific objectives that they're trying to achieve?
Andrew: Yes. So, I mean, in terms of interesting campaigns, there's a couple of examples that we've run recently. So, one is working with a client who we also represent for sales, so we created a usage campaign through WeChat, so it was part offline in terms of working with the libraries and encouraging them to be part of the quiz campaign that we did and then the online part was through WeChat, which is a usage quiz with different activities, via WeChat but obviously linked back to content. So, the end goal is increasing usage within the organization, but we did that partly through offline, through our own team who are out in the market and through the librarians we work with and then online through WeChat. So, we gained WeChat followers and we then also supported the publisher in terms of usage, which obviously supports sales. So, that was a fun one to do, because it was part offline and online, which we haven't been able to do as much recently, but we are able to get out and about now in China, and the team is out meeting libraries. The other campaign which... One of the big growth areas in China is really short video and live streaming. And yes, that's big in the UK, but when you look at the numbers in China and actually the growth of short video interest in the last year, it's huge and what you're seeing is, you know, WeChat's really looking to adapt to that because TikTok exists in China, it's obviously it's a Chinese product, so Douyin is the Chinese version of the app. WeChat is adjusting itself, um, through offering ways of accessing short video and live streaming. And we've worked with a publisher using a video mini app, so where authors submit video abstracts and then we have a competition around that where followers can vote on those videos and we've had tremendous engagement in terms of that exercise, I mean, the views we had were huge to some of the videos.
Lou: I bet that would work really well, if you were to have a regional event with poster abstracts as well.
Lou: Love it. So. What... So how are marketeers measuring the performance of these campaigns, because as marketers, obviously being able to demonstrate return on investment, being able to measure knowing what you're doing is effective and it's doing what you want it to do, is incredibly important. So how are they doing this and how are you helping them?
Andrew: Yes. So, I think that there's a few areas when it comes to this though. I mean, I think the first is, the risk of not being in China. So, what I would say is, if you're a brand, you're entering China, and you've never had a marketing presence, it's going to take a while to really build followers or to really cut through and have an impact. But the other side of that, is actually the longer-term risk is, if your brand isn't present, and if you aren't building your brand now, then the changes that we talked about, around about open access, around the funding and the research policies are going to start to hurt in two, three years’ time. So, it is important to really look at the market now, but also bear in mind that because it is so huge it actually takes a while to cut through. But when we look at metrics, there are a few things that we can do. So, for publishers that work with us very much focused on author acquisition, we're running direct campaigns through Baidu for instance, which we offer some clients around journals, very much though targeting author acquisition. We can of course, kind of do the similar traditional marketing funnels of right through to submission of papers through the activity that we're running. With WeChat, we provide an English language dashboard. So, WeChat itself, um, you're free to kind of go into the backend, but it's all in Chinese. We've created our own English language dashboard for publishers, so they can look at all the metrics there. So, what we can do is, again, it would really start with your baseline for this So, on the one hand, there's the metrics of the campaigns themselves. So, the number of followers you are getting, the number of views you're getting through to your posts and the click through which you get a call to action at the bottom of every post, so you can track those as well. So you've got your metrics on the one hand, but then again, I would also look at what was the baseline for you in terms of media monitoring, and in terms of the mentions of your brand, in terms of the positives versus negative mentions of your brand and we can also start to build up a picture that way, in the longer term about how this activity is really increased some mentions, increasing that positive brand awareness for you and how we address any negative sentiment in the market.
Lou: I don't have a WeChat account and so it's hard for me to visualize this, but what we'll do is, I think I do remember that you did a presentation recently. I think it was when you went for the ALPSP award and you... And I feel like I saw WeChat stuff on there, am I right?
Andrew: Yes, yes and we can screen share and do a demo of WeChat.
Lou: So, what I was wondering, my thought process there was, I was wondering, so in terms of like the other, like online or social channels that I'm used to, do you have the same kind of activity or behaviour, where people, if they see a post, they like it, they share it?
Andrew: You do, yes. So, for WeChat, the key metrics there are, the number of followers that you get, and we can also track the unfollows and then the new followers you get. So, you can see what's working, you can then look at the views to your posts and you can isolate that data however you want, so, you can look at which posts have performed well. So, we will provide a report to our clients to show them what content has worked well, what maybe hasn't created engagement, what the total number of views was and if we integrate anything into WeChat, we can also then look at how those services are used as well so if you've integrated your editorial systems, we can track through in terms of number of users and how many messages have been going back and forth. So, you can start to look at that and you can also try and get a QR code as well. So, if you have campaigns outside of WeChat, which are promoting your QR code, so, if you've done an email campaign for instance, or you've added it to your website, we can track how often that QR code is being scanned. So, you can then look and see what activity is driving followers to WeChat.
Lou: I think that's an important thing you mentioned, because certainly in the UK, before the pandemic, QR codes were, some people knew what they were, but they weren't necessarily used as well as they could have been. Now in the UK, after having things like in the pandemic, like the NHS App and scanning when you go places and we're all a bit more used to them now, but they're actually heavily adopted in China, aren't they?
Lou: They've always been, yes. They've always been a great metric. So actually, also in terms of when a marketer is thinking about print collateral, QR codes are great because then, they're going to be allowed to easily measure the effectiveness of that print collateral. Where in the UK, for example, or Europe, it hasn't always been that easy to do because, not everyone was scanning the QR code, unfortunately, it was always a problem.
Andrew: It's called the QR code economy, so QR codes are everywhere. it's how you can make payments, it's how you can access a whole set of services. So, if you go to China, you actually... If you don't have the WeChat app and you can't scan QR codes, you're going to find yourself at a disadvantage anyway, as it really is a key part of life within China. So, one of the things that we always advise clients to do is when we launch a WeChat account is really, to think about, where are your touch points already with your Chinese stakeholders, in which case you can promote the account through that, and we'll scan the QR code.
Lou: Yes. Yes, fantastic. So, what tips would you give to marketers who are looking to specifically increase engagement with the community that's in China?
Andrew: So again, I think it, you need to look at, what base you're starting with. So obviously some... A number of publishers are very successful already. Others can see the potential and want to tap into that. So, that's obviously key. So, I mean, number one is, you must have a WeChat account, that's just the cost of doing business within China, but once that's in place, you can really start to build from there. And then it's really thinking about, I would say, you need to think a little bit longer term, so, where do you want to be in a period of months? Because, if you're starting from a low base, you've really got to start to cut through the rest of the noise and the competition that's there. So, it's really about creating an authentic brand presence within China and linking that back to great content. So as anywhere, good content will work, content that is kind of copied from other campaigns and is not great quality in terms of the eyes of your Chinese stakeholders is not going to work. So, it has to be down to that content plan and really looking at what you want to say versus what the audience is looking at you for. So, we do a lot around working with publishers around the Chinese authored articles and the key journals and then what's the key information that your stakeholders are really looking for in terms of the decisions that they're looking to make. So, we really look at how we can help a publisher through creating great content. And also do we need to react to any content, that's already out there, as I said earlier, you've got to... If you're having an issue in that your brand isn't being seen in the way that you want, because of historical content that's bounced around, which is user generated, then we can look at how we position you, in a positive light against maybe some of the sentiment that already exists.
Lou: No, absolutely. So. I mean, I think you're absolutely right, is that you have to really be very clear and specific with what your objectives are that you want to ultimately achieve and then start from there. But it is very much, like you said, about building your brand. WeChat account is an absolute must to get started and also in terms of managing your expectations, that with many online services and like YouTube channels is the same, don't expect that you're suddenly going to have an influx of followers and it's going to be massive because authentic, niche, target audiences take time to build, but when you build them, the engagement is there because ultimately they're the ones that want to be engaged with your services that want to see what you've got to offer. I do love some of the examples that you gave, about the different types of campaigns that clients are doing as well. I'm going back to that because it's just really interesting to hear, like the bit of the buzz that's happening in terms of when you use different quizzes and things like that and how successful that they can be and what a great driver that is. And because you have all the integrations and the interconnectivity as well, it's just quite seamless for the person that's doing it. So, it just makes it even more fun and to be fair, that's what they're used to. When you have such a massive service like WeChat that's so embedded in everything they do, they expect it to be super seamless.
Lou: So, what are the big no no's that you would say for anyone that's thinking of doing marketing in China or has already, is already in China, but maybe needs to have a better sense of, absolutely don't do this, or, this isn't yes, just don't do this.
Andrew: Yes. I mean, I think the key ones, if you're looking at the basics, are obviously the marketing needs to be in Chinese, that really is key. And also, the content has to be localized and relevant for the local market. So, you have to put a focus there, just translating content is not going to work. Our team, obviously, are aware of any local sensitivities. So, we can advise in terms of that, as we look at content and I think if you're going to manage the channels yourself, one of the things that we spend an increasingly large amount of time on is the verification processes. So, in China, every social account has a verification process, a website, it needs an ICP number, any account through Baidu for instance, needs a verification. And these are then annual processes that you have to go through. So, there's a number of documents that you have to submit to get those together as working and they require things like a mobile phone number, which, phone numbers are, again, regulated in China in terms of your ability to get them. So, there are quite a few administrative steps that you have to take in order to set up the different channels within China. And if you're not equipped to do that, it can be quite a pain point for you, whereas we work a lot with Baidu, we work a lot with WeChat. So, we both understand the steps and we also know the key stakeholders within those organizations, as we're talking to them fairly regularly in terms of our own accounts. But we do see problems there with accounts, not being verified, for instance, if you're not aware of the process. So, we have helped other organizations in the past and just in terms of managing that side of things.
Lou: That sounds really tricky. I was thinking of doing some marketing in China, but right now I'm thinking, oh, I might have to chat to you. So, um, I think we also... So, we talked about the fact that the Chinese language is key and also that one of the interesting points that you have mentioned to me before when we've discussed is how, is a censorship of content sometimes, and like WeChat for example will censor and I wonder if you would just want to expand on that a bit more.
Andrew: There is an auto censor ability within WeChat. So again, in STM publishing the majority of the time, you're not going to have a problem and our team can advise on that. There's also regulations around things like the medical area, for instance. So, in medical publishing, you have to look at the marketing content carefully because possibly it can fall foul of the regulations, which are intended to start misinformation around pharmaceutical products or fake pharmaceutical products being retailed, and there's been a big push against that within China in the last couple of years, in terms of, kind of regulation of the pharmaceutical and the healthcare industry. So, it's not a barrier to STM publishers, but it is simply, in terms of that content creation, something you have to be aware of, if you're in the medical area is actually what you can post and what you can't.
Lou: Yes. It's really important thing to know though, isn't it? and it's interesting that that happens certainly in like a medical area. Are there any other subject areas that come to mind right now that, that also potentially may have some difficulty?
Andrew: Again, I think it depends on-
Lou: The content.
Andrew: Yes, the content.
Andrew: For the majority of STM publishing, if you're talking about a science article, then you're not going to have any problems, obviously there is a level of censorship within China, but working in the science area, it's not really a problem that you will come across a lot.
Lou: Yes, that's really good. But it's also very good that people are specifically aware of what might happen. And also, I think it's interesting that when we talk about, because we're dealing with very different cultures here from what I'm used to and what I grew up with, for example. And so, it's really important, I think that people are culturally aware and from my perspective, I think I'd probably always recommend the client to go and seek specialist support, a specialist's advice. Because if you make a mistake, if someone makes a mistake, it could be detrimentally bad for your brand. And we know that there are stats, when we say, what is it? Five to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is an old one or, sorry, not an old one, but a current customer. And so, retention is so key.
Lou: And that media monitoring is really important because if something's happening and you don't realize about it. It's like using, for me, it's like using a service like Reddit. I find that fascinating when I go and stick a publisher's journal in there and it comes up with all these discussions and I'm like, "Ooo".
Andrew: I think this is... yes publishers are aware of what's been said on English language social and then forums like Reddit and they know where they maybe have problems or weaknesses and they're able to address that. It's actually interesting in China, you'll often sit down with a potential client and they're not really aware of what's been said about them. And some of it may be true, but actually some of that could have been twisted and distorted over the years and a strange perception of them or a certain journal or a certain incident as has occurred. And we do see that and certainly there is a lot of debate, on Chinese social media about the quality of journals, about certain publishers and about certain journal titles. And we track that and the media monitoring service we provide is in English, so we translate any of the comments through. So, I kind of see quite a bit of what sort of goes back forth and there is some very interesting debates, certainly around quality and open access titles that takes place and we're starting to see a couple of the kind of so called "red list", the institutions are bringing out in China, obviously there's the Chinese Academy of Science list. That was more of an advisory list against publishing in a certain number of titles, a certain list of titles. The list that we're seeing from other institutions now are very much the red list or you won't get academic credit for publishing in these.
Lou: And anybody could end up on this list, not just like, for example, predatory publishers, it could be-
Andrew: They're not predatory titles in the main, I think there's a couple there, but certainly not, the majority aren't predatory titles. The way they've been put together is opaque in terms of the reasoning and the reason why, some are on, and some aren't and there's different factors that you can see there around quality metrics. The other one we noticed is journals that have very high percentages of Chinese authorship. So over 50% are also, I think, being looked at and some of these lists..., are they titles that are simply there to gain Chinese authorship and APCs? So, there's an opaque kind of set of reasons behind why certain titles are there. We expect to see more lists later on this year and then we do also see a lively debate around potential titles that may be on certain institutional lists as well, so there's different things that are taking place.
Lou: You might have to just pull together an industry report and share it with the community. That would be really-
Lou: Really interesting, like the themes that are coming out over the year.
Andrew: Yes. We do a bulletin to our clients. So, I do a monthly bulletin out to all the publishers that we work with. Actually, I've just come from a call where we've been talking about that. So that was actually the feature we did this month, was around the journal list. We did an overview of the Chinese academic publisher markets the previous month as well in terms of the movements there and the launch of new titles and funding and yes, how that was developing.
Lou: That must be an incredibly insightful report.
Andrew: I hope so.
Lou: I have to become a client to get access now.
Andrew: I can send you-
Lou: I want to buy it from you. Brilliant. So the other thing, before we finish up, there is one other area that I wanted to cover and that was just, you touched on it before in terms of what was happening in the marketplace in China with co-publishing or domestic publishing and I wonder if you could just expand on that a bit more, because as I mentioned, we know that there's been significant investment from the Chinese government in research, in R&D, and that's been recorded significantly over the past couple of years. And I just wondered in terms of, when we see also moves for Chinese organizations who are buying publishers or subsidiaries of publishers and looking to have a stronger foothold in the market, I think it's really interesting, when we look at like, the domestic side of what titles have been published in China and the growth of that, because I think in terms of thinking about what people are up against. What's sort of happening in China at the moment in terms of that domestic side?
Andrew: Yes. I mean, in terms of the Chinese domestic publishing industry, there already is thousands of academic journals albeit the vast majority are in Chinese, there's only a couple of hundred English language journals. Now, there's kind of two things are happening. One is obviously with the research policy last year, that talked about 30% of articles to be into Chinese domestic titles. So that's obviously encouraging submission through into local journals. Just to kind of provide clarity, I mean a local journal has to have a CN number, so it has to be a Chinese-registered journal and in order for that to be the case, it has to be owned by the Chinese entity. So, they co-published with an international publisher. Yes, of which the majority are, so Springer and Elsevier, have the majority of those titles, but it has to actually be owned by the Chinese partner and then has to have a journal licence and then a CN number, which is distinguished for being a domestic journal versus say, a title which has a Chinese based editor or a long-term partnership, maybe between a Chinese institution and an international publisher, that may not class as the domestic journal. So, you then also have the Chinese excellence framework around domestic titles, which is looking to increase the number of domestic titles by 400 over the coming years, of which this will be available for 30 new titles per year. So, there's funding in the market for journals and what we're seeing and hearing is typically institutions are looking to launch journals and win funding to do that. There are some university presses within China, so obviously Tsinghua University Press is the biggest and then there's some other private publishing companies as well, but a lot of the domestic titles are published out of the universities, in the main, but you're certainly seeing a lot of activity there and we expect a number of journal launches, most will be with international publishers in co-publishing arrangements at the moment, but we'll certainly see growth there. And there's a lot of interest from those titles right now in obviously the services international publishers offer. We're talking to international publishers about how to market their services and signing of those titles within the market as well and then, because the funding is at the journal level and there's obviously an interest in marketing services and editing services in training, so there's a lot going on right now.
Lou: That's huge and my last question to you about that is, and it's really interesting to hear about the number of journals that they're looking to have available over the next few years. Is there a specific subject area that seems to be more, that there's going to be more journals coming out of, or is it just, you know, all subject areas?
Andrew: At the moment we see most of them in the STM area and the medical area as well. But I think there will be ones outside of that. I did see that the De Gruyter launched a journal for Chinese film studies. So, there is clearly an interest outside of STM as well, but I would expect most of them would be within the STM fields.
Lou: Yes, fantastic. Andrew that's been absolutely fascinating. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. Now, is there anything else that you want to add or any other tips you want to give us.
Andrew: Obviously, we're always here if you want to talk to us, so yes, just drop me a note if there's anything, anyone wants to talk about. We do a lot of one-on-one consulting, so obviously we provide services, but as I mentioned earlier, we can work with publishers that have got a local team that have a specific need where we're working as a partner, or we can work on the basis of a one-time consulting project or a longer-term consultancy arrangement. So, I'm always kind of happy to look at new projects. We're always excited to get our teeth into something new.
Lou: I think that's a great thing about being a service provider, is that like you, we get to get involved in lots of different types of projects and it's the variety of the different types of projects and the creativity that come out of different teams and sometimes you're like, "Oh, that is good idea, love it". Thank you so, so much. So, what we'll do, is we'll make sure that your details are included in the description. So, if people want to connect with you, they can do that directly. And yes, I just want to say to you, thank you so, so much for joining us today.
Andrew: No problem, has been, been great to speak with you Lou.
Lou: And hopefully next time we might see your big, enormous cat which I'm still yet to see. Just so that you don't obviously you guys don't know, because we were talking about this before, but Andrew has a Maine Coon and so I was just expecting this enormous cat to appear at some point, just walk past behind you.
Andrew: I think she's upstairs at the moment but, yes, my previous girl, she was jumping around, so yes, she hasn't made a-
Lou: I literally expect it to be like on her hind legs, just walking past you. Brilliant. Thank you so much, Andrew.
Andrew: Good to speak with you Lou, Thank you.