Commercial viability remains a key challenge for small online media firms as well as traditional media outlets who are trying out digital operations as a new business.
The aggregator website House News, which shut down earlier this year despite its popularity, has changed the news reading habits of many Hong Kong people. Some readers had become used to sharing stories posted by House News, instead of those from mainstream media, on their Facebook accounts.
And House News also appeared on the radar of big advertisers. The website had more than 270,000 followers for its Facebook page. All the recent developments show that online media have to think out of the box in mapping out advertising and business models to survive intensifying competition.
In Hong Kong, Facebook still dominates the social media space, although Instagram, an affiliate of Facebook, has also gained popularity in recent years.
However, Facebook has shown increasing “exclusiveness” in relation to other social media platforms, and advertisers are favoring its formula of advertising fee based on content exposure. By contrast, other websites like Twitter, Vine, Pinterest or YELP all have limited reach in the Hong Kong market.
Meanwhile, LinkedIn, a business-oriented social networking service, has also become more popular in the city. However, most advertisers have stayed on the sideline given its high-end media positioning.
As for Chinese online platforms — where WeChat is a popular social media application — they have lost their attractiveness in Hong Kong due to the sensitive political climate and intensified Chinese official crackdown on social media.
Online media outlets need to interact with readers through social media platforms, which have acted as the key catalyst for driving up site traffic. Many mainstream media are already operating their own Facebook pages to engage with readers and bring in more traffic. And they even run Twitter accounts in English-speaking nations.
These social media platforms could generate additional advertising revenue and offer added value for advertisers as well. It could integrate content creation, marketing, and dissemination into one platform.
For example, the newly-launched Hong Kong broadcast network HKTV has itself become a hot topic among Facebook users.
Also, some online media just rely on their social media platforms without any official website. 100 Most, a popular Chinese weekly magazine in the city, has gathered huge number of followers on its Facebook page to boost sales.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 30.
Translation by Julie Zhu
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