Tough gems – Interview with JADE Magazine co-founders

With a plethora of Asian American Web sites – including, and – JADE Magazine sticks out. Its focus on Asian American women touches upon areas of fashion, health, and (no, this is not an oxymoron) hunky Asian men. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it does touch chords that aren’t reached by most Asian Am sites. Launched by Audrey Panichakoon Crone and Ellen Hwang in New York, has been online for more than two years.

(As an interesting informational side note, while jade is a green gemstone that can be found in a lot of Asian jewelry, it’s also slang for: 1 : a broken-down, vicious, or worthless horse, 2 a : a disreputable woman b : a flirtatious girl. Thank you, Merriam-Webster.)

How and when did you come up with the idea of an online magazine for Asian women?

Audrey: It started at an Asian American organization meeting in New York City when I met Ellen and suggested the idea of starting a magazine for English speaking Asian women worldwide. The idea sat on the shelf for a few months, but finally got rolling with an e-mail in December of 1998. Luckily for us, we both shared the same vision and the understanding that it would be a long, tough road ahead, but, nevertheless, we were determined to make our magazine concept a reality. Time and the risk factor involved were both issues for us as we both hold day jobs and our careers such that they would not allow for any large gaps in our resumes. Thus, we only worked on JADE Magazine after work during the week as well as weekends and holidays.

A friend of mine and I were discussing how one would market a print magazine for Asian American women. We both agreed that it would be very difficult given the diverse backgrounds and nationalities of Asian women, and it would be difficult to cater to all of them. Have you faced this challenge, and if so, how do you deal with it?

Audrey: Yes, and we are delighted to take on this type of challenge. We use our lifestyles as a looking glass into developing a certain approach. Our greatest resources are ourselves. Ellen is Taiwanese American and I’m Chinese Thai. We use these differences to help us explore the many variables of editorial contents both online and print.

Ellen: We’re both very aware of the diverse backgrounds and nationalities that make up our audience. It’s always at the forefront when we develop on our content. Our different ethnic backgrounds are used as a starting point and then cull opinions and suggestions from our friends and, of course, our readers.

What is your ethnicity? Where did you grow up?

Audrey: I was born in Bangkok, Thailand. I moved to Maryland to be with my parents at the age of 9.

Ellen: I’m Taiwanese American. I was born in New York and grew up in Minnesota.

Did you have a background in journalism or design prior to starting JADE?

Audrey: Yes, I was a print editorial designer for several years before I made my transition into the web.

Ellen: I am an attorney editor with a large legal publishing company and I also freelance as a web content developer.

What is your opinion of Asian American print and online magazines currently on the market?

Audrey/Ellen: There are not many choices in Asian American print magazines. The Asian American print magazines that are in greater circulation try to cover a wide range of topics. While this can make for varied reading, it tends to result in less in-depth coverage, which leaves the reader wanting more. Also, with 1 or 2 lifestyle magazines to select from, it gets boring and it doesn’t generate much interest. Imagine having to eat a sandwich everyday. The only choice you have is to select whether you want potato chips or pretzels. Human beings like variety. Since there are so few alternatives, they’ll end up seeking out other magazines that aren’t focused on Asian Americans. This could the reason why the print advertisers don’t take the Asian American market seriously.

Audrey: I think the web is the future of delivering content to readers, at least until pervasive technologies take over. I marvel at the fact that there are so many Asian online communities, portals, and magazine sites in competition with one another for membership. Web users are fickle and if you cannot provide them the information that they want they are just one click away to unsubscribe from you. What’ll be interesting is to see who will win the most brand loyalty. Healthy competition will only help us Asian Americans as a whole and I strongly encourage it. Having so many Asian related sites shows advertisers that to reach Asian American markets effectively they should spend their dollars on the web.

Ellen: It’s great to see all the Asian sites currently on-line. Some are definitely better than others but all in all, it’s nice to know that we’re all trying doing something to get our opinions/ideas/thoughts out. What would be even nicer would be to tone down the competition on some levels and work together on a more united front for certain issues.

The URL is At last check, there were articles and discussions on that awful eyelid surgery, Korean weddings, hot Asian actors (and NO, Jet Li and Jackie Chan are not on this diverse list), and…cute handbags. Sorry.