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Eric Yang at 2014 StoryDrive Asia (Photo: CY. Schmidt)

StoryDrive ASIA 2014 – Impressions from Day 2

Maja Linnemann, November 30. 1999

Friday, May 30th, Beijing.

On the second day of StoryDrive Asia 2014, the conference fully lived up to its new branding: The stage was dominated by Asian speakers, among them the president of the Asia Pacific Publishers Association, South Korean Eric Yang, Chinese guests Mr. Hu Xiaodong, newly installed general manager of E-Reading Business at online business platform Alibaba, Mr. Wang Jiaming, president of China Fine Arts Publishing Group and Mr. Chen Peng, manager of the HP China Publishing Segment, as well as Mr. Hyoe Narita, CEO of Paris based VIZ Media Europe Group and Mr. Bunsho Kajiya, managing director of Singapore based Shogakukan Asia, both from Japan.

One Asian highlight was left for the end of the conference, though. The Korean TV drama “My love from the stars” which had audience ratings of 28.1% for TV and 73.4% for internet viewing in Korea, has a huge, mostly female fan base in China. By scheduling the producer of the show, Ms. Bo Mi Moon, CEO of HB Entertainment, to appear on stage as the final speaker at 5 pm on day two made sure, that the auditorium of StoryDrive Asia was still filled almost to capacity until the very end of the conference.

Interviewed by StoryDrive presenter James Chau, Ms. Moon answered his questions in Korean and was consecutively translated into Chinese. Among others, Mr. Chau asked his guest if the series’ “My love from the stars” international success was due to its full use of human emotions which are universally understood. Ms. Moon commented that since we are living in the age of the ‘global village’ it is not too difficult for media products to cross borders. She nevertheless pointed out, that she was consulting with experts to find out how to best adapt the show for the US market and for other platforms. Her company also plans to develop games based on the show for the Chinese market.

After an introductory presentation by Mr. Chen Peng from HP China Publishing on printing technology and its application in the market segment of art publications, a discussion followed on how artistic design and production of books might be changing in the digital age. Mr. Wang Jiaming from the China Fine Arts Publishing Group presented an example of a recent book project of his publishing house: “Dad Misses You So Much, Little Ai”. The esthetic challenge for this project had been to recreate the quality, colors and texture of the drawings sent to a little girl by her father during the cultural revolution (1966-1976), to keep the historic feeling of these drawings.

The afternoon session was started by the Japanese speakers Mr. Hyoe Narita, CEO of VIZ Media Europe Group, one of the biggest licensees and distributors of Japanese comics, and Mr. Bunsho Kajiya, managing director of Shogakukan Asia, one of the world’s biggest publishers of manga. Mr. Narita elaborated on the success of the Pokémon phenomenon. He said that while usually the production chain was comic-animation-merchandise, in the case of Pokémon, the strategy was changed to developing all three areas at the same time. The whole story started in 1994/1995 and until now, a new Pokémon-related film is released in Japan each year.

In addition to the Asian speakers, there were two major presentations by representatives of successful western media companies:

Felix Rudloff, vice president of Bastei Lübbe Entertainment introduced the 60-year-old German publishing house/entertainment company to the audience. In his speech he emphasized that despite the acquisition of several non-book companies in recent years, Bastei Lübbe still has an overwhelming focus on creating its own content and brands. He also pointed out – and this is something we heard again and again during the conference, despite the “global village” theory – that the strategy to just sell the existing content 1:1 into foreign markets does not work out. “This is something we had to learn. We have to adapt.” So far Bastei Lübbe is active in English and Chinese speaking markets. Brazil is about to follow.

Gavin Brown, associate director of US-based multi-platform Scholastic (which was also present at StoryDrive China 2013) presented a new Scholastic case study: SPIRIT ANIMALS. Within a very short period of time, this transmedia project had become a New York Times bestselling multi-platform fantasy adventure series. Core of his presentation were different ways to interact with the users/readers. Mr. Brown enthusiastically shared his experiences with the creativity of Scholastic’s target group children: The children wrote their own stories wrapped around the spirit animals which were then selected and edited by the companies editors and published as a new piece of creative work.

What else do we take away from the second day of StoryDrive Asia? The role of the editor will remain an important one, if not grow. Mr. Hu Xiaodong, general manager of Alibaba’s e-reading business, Sven Ehmann from the Berlin based publishing house gestalten, as well as other industry insiders are equally convinced of this trend. Someone will always be needed to structure information and lend credibility to content.

And another thing which popped up again and again: Maybe, digitization and a presence in the “E-world” is a must – at the same time, several business models of the attending speakers show, that a physical presence – a café, a concept store, events on the ground with “real” persons and “real” products – are by no means redundant.

And this is how Holger Volland, vice director of Frankfurt Book Fair sums up the conference from the viewpoint of organizer and host : “StoryDrive Asia has been a great success and I am very happy about that. During the breaks, I listened to many conversations where different companies got into contact with each other and I think that they will do projects together. That is exactly the reason why we do this conference format, to bring people together to do business. Apart from that we learned that our audience particularly likes the interactive sessions, trainings and practical advice.”