The life and death of the Asian-American Web site Channel A
This column appeared in the September 1998 issue of The American Journalism Review.
By J.D. Lasica
The tension between editorial and commercial interests plays out in interesting new ways in Web publications. Usually, a balance is struck. But sometimes, journalism is the first casualty.
Steve Chin, co-founder of the Asian-culture Web site Channel A, discovered that first-hand. His experience makes for a cautionary tale as the Internet move headlong toward e-commerce, or electronic transactions.
Chin, a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner for eight years, left the paper in the spring of 1996 to launch a Web site for Asian-Americans. Other niche sites had just taken off: NetNoir, geared toward African-Americans, Latino Link and others.
“I was excited by the idea of creating a site built around the idea of what it meant to be an Asian in America in the ’90s, from a racial, political, economic and sexual perspective,” he says.
He assembled a business management team after gaining financial backing from a family in nearby Silicon Valley. The site’s backers sought to position Channel A as the principal online conduit for importing goods and products from Asia. “From the outset I knew that this was an e-commerce site with journalistic content and not an advertiser-supported magazine,” Chin says.