Dear chinaSMACK readers:
We need your support to keep our site online, independent, and uncensored.
If just 1% of the people who regularly visit our website each month gave just $1 a month, we can continue providing daily translations of trending Chinese internet content and netizen commentary to our large global community and audience.
Although we are one of the most popular blogs about China regularly sourced and cited by other media organizations, we do not have corporate support, investment capital, and we are not funded by any government grants or university department.
We are instead a small band of geeks, both Chinese and non-Chinese, contributing our free time, energy, and even personal money because we believe there is significance in how China’s internet culture is shaping its modern society.
As our readership grew, we relied on advertising to pay our expenses and expand our content, but now we are forced to choose between advertising money and honest coverage of what ordinary mainstream Chinese netizens are seeing and saying.
If chinaSMACK is useful to you, if you appreciate our work, then please take a minute to visit our campaign page on Patreon and make a pledge of any amount that will help us make chinaSMACK ad-free, so we can go back to focusing on what is capturing the attention of the world’s largest population of internet users.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re reading this, it hopefully means you’re interested in making a pledge. We understand you might have questions, so we’ve prepared a list of answers. While we’ve tried to keep them simple and to the point, they might be long, but we hope they’ll help you understand our situation, our intentions, and our plans moving forward so you can be confident in pledging your support for chinaSMACK.
How are advertisers threatening chinaSMACK’s editorial independence?
Our dependency on advertising revenue has forced us to censor articles, remove articles entirely, and avoid covering content that advertisers might deem “objectionable”, regardless of their significance as trending or even mainstream news media content in China.
“Objectionable” includes both graphic and textual content involving sex/nudity, violence, as well as profanity and hate speech, in our translated Chinese content and also in content posted by website commenters.
We are not against advertising in general, nor are we against advertisers who have different values and sensitivities. We also recognize that different countries and cultures have different definitions and norms for what is “acceptable”.
However, we have always aimed to objectively cover what is trending with Chinese netizens, without judging, and by showing you exactly what Chinese netizens saw and read so you can understand their reactions and comments. The compromises and concessions we have been forced to make increasingly risk betraying our editorial mission and the current situation is that we are being asked to make more.
Why did chinaSMACK rely on advertising in the first place?
Our website grew rapidly and we desperately needed money to pay for the technical expenses and upgrades to keep the website up and available. It is neither easy nor cheap maintaining a website that serves millions of pages with millions of images a month in a reasonable fashion.
Advertising allowed us to keep our site completely free for our audience and initially, it worked well enough. Advertisers got their exposure, we got enough to subsidize our costs, and readers got to enjoy our content for free in exchange for a few ads.
Why is chinaSMACK now turning to its readers to support it?
We have tried our best to work with advertisers but no longer have the energy to continue fighting them over greater and greater compromises. Our relationship is ultimately that they want eyeballs and we need money to keep the lights on.
However, our relationship with our readers is that we want to translate what’s buzzing with Chinese netizens and our readers want to read our translations of what’s buzzing with Chinese netizens. Our goals are more closely aligned.
We have an impressively large readership. If all our regular users and loyal fans each contributed just a small (or generous!) bit of money, together we would have enough funding to keep chinaSMACK going and hopefully make it even better. We want to (need to) move from an untenable “ad-supported” model to a “crowdfunded” model, where our fans directly support the content we produce.
What does chinaSMACK need funding for?
We need money first and foremost to pay the ongoing technical, legal, and administrative expenses that keep chinaSMACK as it is online.
Second, we’d like to invest our funding in producing, improving, and expanding our content.
In the past, whatever funds we had remaining from our advertising revenue was reinvested into the website. Usually, this meant sharing it with any regular “staff” contributors at the time, because they helped build up chinaSMACK too, and occasionally afforded Fauna a day off. It also meant funds went towards subsidizing our smaller sister sites like koreaBANG and japanCRUSH. Sometimes, it went to the needy, or to a good cause.
We’d like enough funding to maintain a small staff and compensate them a reasonable amount for their time, familiarity with Chinese internet culture, and translation skills. This will allow us to provide more comprehensive coverage of the topics trending on the Chinese internet with Chinese netizens every day.
Currently, chinaSMACK’s contributors spend an average of 3 hours to translate, format, and publish an article. This is during their free time away from their ordinary commitments. Importantly, this does not include the time spent by an editor reviewing and polishing their work, and translating Chinese into English while preserving both meaning and tone is a difficult and very time-consuming process. Ultimately, this usually results in a new translation article a day, sometimes two.
While chinaSMACK has done an admirable job of covering much of the major topics and phenomenon that has trended on the Chinese internet, there have been many instances where we’ve failed to cover a story that falls under our editorial mission, often because we simply didn’t have the manpower to do so.
We want to increase the amount of content we cover, translate, and publish each day to better reflect the diversity of topics both important and mundane that gets notable attention from mainstream Chinese internet users. We want to do this without sacrificing quality or changing our format of using translations to faithfully show what was seen and said.
We also want to occasionally but regularly produce content about Chinese internet culture in a different medium like video, where we explore the intersection between the online world and the offline world in China, or introduce Chinese internet memes with more detail than a glossary summary and more directly than through a translation.
If you value what we do and would like to see us do more, please become one of our patrons!
Why is chinaSMACK using Patreon?
If you’re familiar with Kickstarter, you’ll easily understand how Patreon works. It’s primary difference is that it is intended to facilitate continuous funding for content creators by fans, whereas Kickstarter is about raising a single pot of funds for a single project. Patreon has gotten a lot of press for how it is freeing thousands of content creators around the world from relying on advertisers. That’s how we discovered them.
We want our readers to be comfortable going through an established, reputable service like Patreon to pledge their support for our work. Although Patreon does take a cut of every pledge thereby reducing what actually gets to us, we believe they offer a lot of value and peace of mind for prospective patrons. It is easy to register, easy to make pledges, easy to control one’s pledges, and more importantly, everyone can see a campaign’s progress.
Once you’re a member of Patreon, you may also want to check out other great content creators and their Patreon campaigns, but hopefully after you’ve become a patron of chinaSMACK first. ;)
If you have more questions about Patreon, please visit their detailed FAQ.
What does removing ads from chinaSMACK mean?
If we reach minimum monthly funding goals, we will no longer need the third-party contextual advertising and geo-targeted advertising we currently rely on and can thus remove them from the site.
The removal of such ads opens up a lot of possibilities for a redesign of our website. We will no longer need to set aside space in certain locations for ads, which allows us greater freedom in how we organize and display our content. In fact, we have been putting off a redesign for a long time, waiting to see if we can get rid of these ads altogether.
We will make very limited exceptions. For example, we will consider displaying ads for academic institutions and non-profit organizations with causes we support. We will also consider advertising sponsorships that support our mission and do not interfere with our editorial integrity. More importantly, our patrons will have the power to determine the cost for such sponsors.
What if not enough monthly funding is raised?
In the next-to-worst-case-scenario, we will have to spend a lot of time completely reviewing the site to either censor or completely delete any content or comments advertisers may consider objectionable. This is not a fun process and an enormous drain on time and energy we would prefer to spend covering what’s hot on the Chinese internet.
Moving forward, our editors and contributors will have to steer clear of any content that risks offending advertisers’ sensibilities. Our comments policy will have to be revised and moderators instructed to be stricter in policing certain violations, specifically excess profanity and whatever might be considered “hate speech” that is adversarial towards a group.
This will not only gut the content on chinaSMACK but also gut its spirit, and if editors and contributors don’t feel we’re achieving our mission, what then is the point? Do we plod on, continuously looking over our shoulders, just to continue making enough to cover costs and a cup of coffee for our efforts?
chinaSMACK has always been a labor of love, one that may have began with a Chinese girl who wanted to practice her English but quickly expanded to a number of contributors from all around the world. If we no longer believe in what we’re doing, why keep doing it?
That’s the worst case scenario.
So, if you find value in what we’re doing, please help us raise enough monthly funding. Be one of our patrons »
What else can I do to help chinaSMACK?
At this point, we need all the help we can get with this specific problem. Whether you’ll make a pledge or not, we could really use your help in spreading the word and encouraging others to make a pledge of any amount. Reaching our campaign goals by the end of this holiday season would go a long way towards getting us off to a great start in the new year.
chinaSMACK has been here for over 6 years now, and we hope to make it to our 7th, and of course beyond. We haven’t asked much of our readers before, but we really need your help now.
Thank you again, for your attention, and any support you can give our work.
Happy holidays from all of us to all of you!