Despite the gloomy prospects for the print media, there is talk that a leading pro-Beijing media group in Hong Kong is working aggressively to launch a new free newspaper targeting young readers.
According to sources, the free newspaper will be published in Chinese by pro-Beijing daily Wen Wei Po and will bear a name that loosely translates as “Hong Kong Fellas”.
In February 2016, Wen Wei Po announced a merger with fellow pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao to form a new entity called Hong Kong Tai Kung Wen Wei Media Group.
These two pro-Beijing newspapers, which are still being published separately despite the completion of their merger, are currently being given out on local university campuses for free.
However, it appears the two papers have achieved very little success in trying to win over young readers. That is largely because of their reputation for being leftist propaganda mouthpieces.
Now, it is said that the merged publishing entity wants to take another shot at luring the younger demographic by launching a free newspaper.
To do that, according to the sources, the free newspaper is going to adopt a much more young-minded, unconventional and refreshing approach to news coverage, such as deploying paparazzi to unearth secrets about celebrities and emphasizing coverage on digital gadgets and technology.
Sources said the Ta Kung Wen Wei media group has high hopes for the new paper, and is planning to circulate 100,000 copies per day.
The Ta Kung Wen Wei media group is hoping to give itself a facelift with the new newspaper.
However, one doubts whether the leftist media can really give themselves a complete makeover overnight and be able to attract younger readers even with a free offering and a “young” title.
It is because no matter how colorful and amusing the layout might be, the new free newspaper, according to sources, will carry signage of the Ta Kung Wen Wei media group on its front-page, a clear giveaway that it will be a “leftist” paper.
Besides, it is a well-known fact that smartphones and tablets have begun to make the print media almost obsolete, particularly among young people.
In this situation, it is doubtful if the rumored “Hong Kong Fellas” makes good business sense.
Given this, it becomes clear that a free newspaper at this point in time may not have anything to do with commercial considerations, but rather to fulfill Beijing’s aim to sway the youth.
The most important thing is to respond to the main theme of the central authorities and carry out the necessary work.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 15
Translation by Alan Lee and Jonathan Chong
[Chinese version 中文版]
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