9GAG CEO Ray Chan on international humor and viewers growth


In the event you take pleasure in getting misplaced in memes and social media, you’ve undoubtedly stumbled throughout 9GAG in some unspecified time in the future. 9GAG is a Hong Kong-based website that hosts and distributes humorous footage, movies and memes. By way of viewers, it’s up there with content material internet hosting and distribution websites like UNILAD and LADBible. With 41.1 million Instagram followers, 9GAG is likely one of the largest media leisure manufacturers on Instagram globally.

So what precisely goes into the operations behind an organization whose sole mission is to make web enjoyable extra accessible?

Right here’s what Ray Chan, CEO and co-founder of 9GAG, and COO Lillian Leong, needed to say about viewers growth, international humor and what it’s wish to run a media startup from Hong Kong. Our dialog has been edited for size and readability.

TC: 9GAG is likely one of the most-followed, most-engaged-with websites and social accounts throughout Fb and Instagram. How did it get began?

RC: We began the web site in 2008. The unique thought we had was, “Could we just release funny content to look at?” At the moment, Fb was not that standard. We simply made our personal web site with humorous footage and humorous movies on it. We thought of it as a facet mission for a couple of years, by no means as a enterprise. It was extra like a interest in the beginning. However then we joined 500 Startups in 2011, after which raised funding. After that, we joined Y Combinator in 2012.

TC: You’ve 41.1 million followers on Instagram and 36.5 million web page “likes” on Fb. Which social platforms are probably the most attention-grabbing to you proper now?

RC:  Whenever you take a look at social media, it at all times has ups and downs. I feel Instagram is certainly nonetheless very attention-grabbing. Tales and stay movies are one thing our crew retains an eye fixed on. In the event you discuss all of the accounts, we’re within the prime 30 most-followed. In the event you take away celebrities, then we’re quantity six.

TC: 9GAG is standard on American social networks, however many of those networks are restricted in China. Do you attempt to goal Chinese language customers, regardless of that your major viewers exists elsewhere?

RC: Since we’re based mostly in Hong Kong, we’re capable of see what’s standard in China. However Hong Kong is completely different from different components of China. It’s very straightforward for us to grasp the U.S. tradition. However the massive gamers within the Southeast Asian markets are Line and Kakao in South Korea. Most of them are backed by Chinese language web firms, and in some way we additionally see a development in that loads of U.S. apps are impressed by them. The Chinese language apps like WeChat can do much more.

However we haven’t actively focused the Chinese language market. We’ve 150 million month-to-month energetic customers, however loads of these customers are usually not in China. Most of our customers are from the U.S. and Germany. Our website has not but launched in China. However it appears to be like just like the second greatest video adoption market is China. YouTube is blocked, so we’re all desperately searching for video content material.

TC: Do people or algorithms decide what’s trending on 9GAG.com? How do you select what to additional distribute in your social channels?

RC: All of our content material is submitted by customers. Generally they create their very own content material, which we encourage. Generally they discover content material from different web sites. However we at all times give credit score again to the unique creator.

We rely closely on our group to up-vote and down-vote the content material, and we additionally take a look at the engagement of the submit. For instance, should you get loads of feedback and loads of shares, after which we choose it, it is going to rise to a extra standard web page, which we name trending. We’ve a small crew of eight people who choose what to share with everybody on social media platforms.

TC: What metrics do you utilize to outline success?

RC: We take a look at Fb Insights and Instagram metrics. We additionally measure video views. However what’s extra attention-grabbing is that we have now type of this secret mission of introducing content material from one a part of the world to a different a part of the world.

The mainstream leisure is at all times from Hollywood, however there’s some attention-grabbing content material and good creators from Japan, from Thailand, from the Philippines. We need to assist them, too, as a result of we really feel like they’re under-resourced. That’s the place we, as a platform, need to do extra.

TC: How would you describe the similarities in your viewers’s humorousness throughout completely different areas of the world? 

RC: For our web site, the highest international locations are the U.S., Germany, and quantity three is the Netherlands. Then France. So it’s fairly worldwide. One factor we found is that throughout completely different international locations, individuals and cultures, customers nonetheless perceive one another’s humor. The jokes shared by one individual in a single nation are nonetheless humorous to somebody in a distinct nation based mostly not on their location however on their life experiences.

One instance is that when college students are graduating from faculty, they’re centered on the identical issues it doesn’t matter what nation they’re from. They care about getting a job, household issues, and romantic relationships, too. School college students relate to one another about exams and homework. They face related challenges of their life, proper? That’s why they will resonate with individuals in different international locations, and so they discover it wonderful that, “Hey, how come you’re from Brazil but understand my pain?” I feel this humor helps us have a world group. Experiences like these change your life, your view, and your humorousness.

TC: Humor is nice escapism, however the web is a useful resource for millennials to find out about politics, know-how and present occasions, too. Do you assume that humor is extra participating than tragedy?

LL: Each humor and tragedy are standard genres in leisure. Comparatively, it’s simpler and faster for humor to thrive within the web area, notably in social/viral movies. Humor wants a twist to construct up the joke. Tragedy wants a context and plot, which requires an extended time to construct up storytelling. We see humor as a way of life, embraced by our international viewers. Enjoyable isn’t essentially in battle with politics, know-how and well timed occasions.


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TC: Humor is subjective, particularly throughout a worldwide viewers like yours. Jokes can simply verge into racist and sexist territory. How do you identify when content material is inappropriate or falls beneath the class of hate speech? 

RC: That’s a troublesome problem. Humor could be very private. Some individuals have a really dangerous humorousness. It additionally depends upon their tradition. In case you are from Germany, you might be extra delicate to Nazi jokes than an individual from China is. Delicate subjects come up, however what we see is that our customers utterly perceive that. They’re fairly open, they don’t have a really sturdy sense of discrimination. They’re actually supportive and open in direction of different cultures. In the event you take away the content material, they’re sensible individuals and be taught from a wholesome group.

TC: What would you do if somebody created a meme making a joke about terrorism and it received a bunch of up-votes on 9GAG? 

RC: To begin with, these are person created. So you’ll have content material like hate speech and discriminatory posts slip via the system. A few of this content material is stolen from different websites. However our energetic group experiences that content material. In our system, our attendants take a look at it and so they decide, “Hey, this is something offensive.” Then we simply take away it. It’s type of like a rule for society. You possibly can’t restrict content material, however you may reply in a short time to take it down earlier than it hurts individuals. Constructing a wholesome group is a endless battle.

TC: What’s it like being a startup based mostly in Hong Kong? How would you describe the accessibility of enterprise capital and tech expertise?

RC: Difficult. But when it’s straightforward, it’s not enjoyable. In order for you capital and expertise exhausting sufficient, you may nonetheless get it in Hong Kong. However you’ll have to work more durable than the individuals in Silicon Valley. I see it as a enjoyable problem. In Hong Kong the working price of an organization is mostly decrease. In the event you’re constructing will probably be simpler so that you can return to China to get prototypes. In San Francisco there’s tons of expertise and quick access to capital, however the associated fee could be very excessive. I don’t assume any metropolis or any nation is an ideal place to construct a startup.

I really feel like in Hong Kong, persons are usually very entrepreneurial. Hong Kong is a really small metropolis nevertheless it’s a worldwide metropolis, a prime finance metropolis on the planet. So the dwelling customary could be very excessive. I feel it proves that individuals in Hong Kong are excellent at drawback fixing. However we do have teammates from different components of the world, however we’re deliberately small. These days, you don’t essentially want a giant crew to construct a big effect.

It’s two sides of the identical coin although, problem and alternative. When startups succeed, it helps college students know that after commencement, they don’t should work for the federal government or work in a financial institution. There are different attention-grabbing alternatives for them in a distinct business.

TC: What’s subsequent for 9GAG?

RC: By way of options, we’re incorporating video uploads and views, the place beforehand we have been centered on footage and GIFs. We’re occupied with utilizing tagging options. We additionally need to construct a bigger community of creators. However the objective is to show individuals to various kinds of enjoyable. Proper now, not all people is aware of 9GAG. We need to make it in order that when millennials take into consideration enjoyable on the web, they give thought to 9GAG immediately.


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Désiré LeSage


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