Food is a way for us to connect and tell stories by engaging all of our senses. Nielsen Noodles is a series where we gather to share our own stories while discussing insights and current events over a bowl of instant noodles. We virtually shared a bowl of noodles with Michael Lai, CEO and Co-Founder of Famous Media Group and AsianFeed, along with Randall Yip, Founder and Executive Editor of AsAmNews; two trailblazers in AANHPI news and journalism.
Which noodle dish did you choose to bring to the conversation?
Randall brought a bowl of wonton noodle soup from his family’s favorite hole in the wall, sharing, “All of my favorite items thrown into one… I picked this because it reminds me of my mom … she loved to sit around the table and get the family together and just talk, that was her excuse to get the family together.”
Michael shares, “I brought my favorite brand of instant ramen, I usually add an egg and some bok choi… I always remember coming home from practice, my parents were a little too tired to cook so we all would eat instant noodles and share conversations about our days. Memories and nostalgia from childhood are what these noodles remind me of.”
Tell us about your news outlet, what is the story behind founding each of your outlets?
Randall recalled growing up in a time where the only Asian American role model on TV was Bruce Lee. While he and his friends idolized the kung fu star, he felt his community was missing critical daily representation in news.
“I wanted to share a different light, we tried to focus on Asian Americans who were role models breaking stereotypes. On the second front, we wanted to have a daily news site because Asian Americans were missing a news site where you could follow Asian American News on a daily basis. So from the very beginning, we’ve operated 365 days a year and we have not deviated from that, ” says Randall.
Michael comes from a different generation of representation. While striving for authentic storytelling connects both Michael and Randall, Michael aims to build a community of Gen Zers through short form, sociable content.
“We’re an Asian-centric digital media brand, founded just last year, and grown to more than 200,000 followers across social channels. Designed at conception as a media brand to celebrate the shared cultural experiences of the younger generations in America and around the world.
Growing up I was one of three Asian Americans in my entire school district, I often felt alienated from my Asian American identity. Outside of my parents, there weren’t really many opportunities for me to connect with others who shared my culture and ethnic background… My goal was to create a digital space that I feel I would have benefited from when I was younger, where stories that were important to me were the focus and where I could connect with others who shared similar cultural experiences.” says Michael.
Why is it so important that diverse media be well-represented in the industry?
Nielsen research has found that certain shows with diverse representation both in front and behind the scenes, attracted more of that audience group – we want more of what’s familiar. From a similar standpoint, it’s also important to have diverse-owned media equally represented in the media ecosystem.
“There are so many diverse community-centric stories to be told. The only way to make sure these stories are told in an authentic manner is for them to be told by members of the community in front of the camera, and behind the camera as well. It’s so important because there are so many cultural nuances and contextual clues that I think are important. Audiences these days can really tell when something is just superficial versus something that is truly authentic and a project designed to forward and advance the community,” notes Michael.
He continues to say, “Especially this younger generation growing up, I think there are so many independent content creators emerging, creating amazing content that resonates not only with their own individual community, but also with the broader community at large. I think that is super important, and a trend that will continue to really advance the representation.”
Why is it so important for advertisers to invest in Asian American-owned media?
When we think of advertisers, we often think of Fortune 500 companies and major brands but in a community, such as Asian Hustle Network, we have inspiring entrepreneurs building Asian American-owned businesses. This year Nielsen started a Diverse-owned Media Initiative to help raise visibility of diverse media suppliers so they have a fair and equitable chance to get in front of ad buyers.
Randall says, “I think the smart brands realize that they can’t continue doing what they have been doing. They need to expand their reach and customer base.”
Michael says, “[Advertisers] are really starting to realize that Asian Americans are an important audience too. I think we’re one of the most rapidly growing consumer demographics in terms of pace of growth and authentic messaging is important… For advertisers to want to connect with those audiences, I think it’s extremely important, specifically for Asian Americans, to diversify their marketing budgets to allocate some of that budget for those audiences.
Michael explains further “It’s not just Asian-Americans consuming this content, there are so many instances where K-POP, BTS, Blackpink, Squid-game, Korean dramas, as well as other Asian Entertainment groups. It’s just amazing how widespread it has become, it’s not just Asian-Americans, it’s really everybody is engaging as a whole in these stories that are inherently culturally Asian-based.
Michael and Randall have many things in common, especially their desire to champion equity in journalism, entertainment, and storytelling.
Randall urges up-and-comers: “Every brand comes with its own story, every entrepreneur has their own story to tell. Don’t be afraid to tell your story and don’t be afraid to pitch it to media outlets. You’re going to find that there will be a lot of interest…Be Inspiring!”
Media is where the unique stories and voices of our community can be found. As our community becomes even more diverse, providing opportunities for greater equity in media and enabling more diverse voices becomes even more critical. The people behind the stories who are from our community — from journalists to media owners — continue to stand together to open up more opportunities for future generations of storytellers. Thank you Michael and Randall for paving the way with your passion and commitment.
Learn more about Nielsen at www.nielsen.com.