Asianometry in 2021
Reflections on a Year
Hello. It’s Jon from Asianometry. For this little newsletter, I wanted to take some time away from work and reflect a little on a crazy 2021.
I have been posting videos on the YouTube channel since 2017. Like I have said before, the channel began with vlogging life in Taiwan. It grew slowly, with most videos doing about maybe 300-500 views.
Starting out in January 2021, I had about 5,400 subscribers. I remember being so excited in December 2020 when I crossed 5,000.
At the end of 2021, I now find the channel with over 150,000 subscribers. Through the year, over 145,000 subscribed to the channel. The channel received over 12 million views and people watched over 1.3 million hours. Most of the channel’s watchers were from the United States. After that would be India and Singapore.
It is nutty and I still cannot believe it. I am thankful to everyone.
In 2021, Asianometry pivoted away from the Chinese/Taiwanese history/political content that it had been doing for the past 3 years. The Sept 2020 screenshot demonstrates the shift.
A lot of people know me for being the “semiconductor guy”. But not all of the channel’s top videos that year were semiconductor related. It was a healthy mix of topics.
In some ways, the channel’s top videos of the year reflect the predominant themes of the times. We live in interesting times. Changing economic conditions like rising inflation make life harder for society’s vulnerable classes. At the same time, people at the highest levels are accumulating wealth at accelerating rates. New technologies and science projects make the news all the time, but few turn out to be actual breakthroughs.
The Chip Shortage
In the tech world, everyone wanted to talk about the chip shortage. I had done a few videos about TSMC back in 2018, but they did just fine. Starting some time in September 2020 however, I started realizing that semiconductor videos got a decent number of views.
And unlike the political and historical content I used to do, this type of content did not get me screamed at by dozens of really angry pro and anti-Chinese netizens. If you look at the type of content that I did even late in 2020 and compare it to what I am doing now, there is a huge change.
The top performing chip-related video of 2021 was about India’s SCL foundry. I had been working on a video overview of India’s current semiconductor industry - like the one I had done for Malaysia - but stumbled across SCL. I felt that incident made for a better story than what I was working on. So I switched it out.
This video on semiconductor demand and supply cycles did pretty well too. Very unexpectedly I would have to say. I did not feel like I was actually saying anything all that special. Boom and bust cycles happen.
Some other highlights include the video on ASML’s supply chain. I love the company’s openness to share what they have learned and how they work.
And this one on semiconductor water usage struck a nerve with a lot of people. Water is one of those universal environmental things that everyone can sympathize with.
Semiconductor topics are difficult, but they are straightforward. I enjoy doing the research, and the advancements people are making in this space are incredible. Not just the latest lithography machines, but also design trends and technologies like MEMS, EDA, and nanosheets.
Another big theme for the channel had been about container shipping. My first video of the type was on Singapore’s Neptune Orient Lines:
While writing that story, I came across the story of the insolvency of Hanjin Shipping. This led me to the video below.
This video would eventually do over 230,000 views, which surprised me. I honestly thought that video would flop. Perhaps this surge of interest in shipping has to do with the recent supply shortages and inflation pressures going on right now. But there is just something about big ships and containers that really interests me. Maybe it has to do with how well the containers slot together.
I am working on another shipping video right now. Procrastinating from working on it by doing this newsletter.
Several of my top performing videos had been about energy, namely electric vehicles. I did a few videos about China’s CATL, which seemed to have done well. One of my personal favorites had been on sodium ion battery technology - a video that took a very long time to do.
I wish I can do a follow up on this one. But I haven’t been able to come up with an angle yet. If you can think of one, let me know.
Another video that I did had been on Chinese EV battery recycling policies. Somehow, this video picked up 230K views and discussion got particularly heated. I am not sure why. While working on this video, I had not been sure whether it would be worth releasing - a boring, straightforward policy review with a brief discussion of lead acid battery policies at the end. Many of the objections were pulled directly from Chinese sources.
Inequality and Reform
The year’s second biggest video had been about the Zaibatsu of Japan. It has done over half a million views so far.
Much of the video’s views came from the United States - more than the channel’s norm. I am not surprised, since the phrase is particularly American. I think it had been shared around a lot on left-leaning sites like Reddit with the notion that economic growth and reform were not mutually exclusive.
My video on Squid Game did nowhere as many views, but the response I got was surprisingly more forceful. More than a few people were quite upset and disappointed in me for “falling for a socialist delusion”. Just a TV show, dudes.
Ideas for future videos in this realm might include elder poverty in South Korea, the Chinese two-child policy, and others.
One of my earliest breakout videos came all the way back in April, the Sun Cable which proposed to use High Voltage DC cable to bring power from Australia to Singapore.
I had a few growing pains with that video. Mostly learning about Australia’s geography and name pronunciations.
My next video in the area would be about Northern Australia and its economic development issues. I struggled with this video over the span of several weeks, before settling on the economic failure of the Ord River scheme. The video has done over 250K views, a surprise to me.
I have a couple other videos on Australia coming up in the weeks ahead including a big one on their domestic car industry.
I do not expect the same topics that performed well in 2021 to also do well in 2022. Notably, I do think that the chip shortage will end at some point. If not in reality, then in the popular culture. The crowds will move onto whatever is next - NFTs, cryptos, and the Metaverse.
Asianometry will have to adapt to these changes too. It means tackling new, challenging topics that I have never covered before. Whatever those topics might be, I’ll tackle it with the same process and care as I have with everything else that I have worked on thus far. I hope that you, dear reader, will all be there along with me.
One final note. While 2021 was an amazing year for me professionally, it’s been a rough year personally. Things haven’t been so good at home. Lots of personal issues going on. I enjoy working on the videos - it’s one of the few times I can get away from everything at home - but it’s hard to keep up a twice-a-week cadence. It is lonely, and I am starting to burn out.
For 2022, I hope I can have more time for myself and those whom I love. I want to stay healthy so that I can keep doing this special thing. And I wish the same for all of you guys, as well.