Date
17 August 2019
The New York Times revealed that its online Chinese edition has seen a surge in the number of subscribers in mainland China since the start of the extradition bill saga in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP
The New York Times revealed that its online Chinese edition has seen a surge in the number of subscribers in mainland China since the start of the extradition bill saga in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

HK turmoil opens new business opportunities for Western media

The uproar over the proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance has not only changed the dynamics of the local news media but has also presented new opportunities for the international news media.

The New York Times, for example, revealed that its online Chinese edition, the cn.NYTimes.com, which was launched seven years ago, has seen a surge in the number of subscribers in mainland China since the start of the extradition bill saga in Hong Kong.

Many mainland readers want to get more news about the protests in Hong Kong, and so they are frequently logging on to the Chinese edition of The New York Times website through VPN services.

The NYT has quickly seized on this new and enormous business opportunity: apart from political news coverage to attract new subscribers, the website is also aggressively promoting leisure and entertainment content to mainland readers.

Among the most popular non-political news stories and articles are those under the section Smarter Living, which features articles about the implications of work-related fatigue on one’s physical well-being, tips on maintaining good quality of sleep, information on healthy diet, news about a  fundraising event of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, etc.

Also popular among mainland readers are articles that introduce common English expressions and explain their cultural context.

After noticing that many mainland readers are using cn.NYTimes.com as a means to learn the language, the website introduced a side-by-side English/Chinese bilingual function to enhance its educational effect.

Compared to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal is apparently starting on the back foot when it comes to entering the mainland market.

In fact, it wasn’t until last week that the WSJ, after having studied the initiative for two years, finally announced that it is going to publish a Chinese edition of its monthly magazine starting from August this year.

And unlike its English version, which is currently being published as a free supplement of the main paper, the WSJ Chinese monthly is going to be sold separately.

It doesn’t really matter whether it is being distributed for free along with the main paper or sold separately. But what is truly noteworthy about the new publication is that the WSJ Chinese monthly is positioning itself as a high-end fashion magazine targeting male readers, particularly top business executives.

An editor of the new WSJ monthly explained that according to their market surveys, many high-income mainland males are relatively bold dressers.

And in the coming days, if the company tries to provide more content on female fashion, it may launch another separate magazine.

Yet even though the WSJ has confidence in the taste of Chinese consumers, art-related content is going to take a backseat in its upcoming Chinese monthly magazine.

In other words, the American newspaper group would rather make big bucks first.

Ma Long, the 2016 Rio Olympic gold medalist in table tennis, has already been picked as the cover model for the maiden issue of WSJ’s Chinese monthly magazine.

It is said that such an arrangement made by News Corp., which owns WSJ, harkens back to Ping-pong diplomacy in the early 1970s and the rise of China.

In my opinion, however, choosing a national athlete to grace the cover of a new magazine in an apparent attempt to use his heroic image to appeal to readers may seem a bit over the top.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 17

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/CG

HKEJ contributor

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