HK01, Apple Daily struggle amid winter chill in media industry

February 22, 2019 15:50
Jimmy Lai's (left) Next Digital and Yu Pun-hoi's HK01 are striving to adapt to a changing environment in the media industry. Photo: Next Digital, Reuters, RTHK, HK01

Winter is gone, but most of us are not even sure if it came because of the unusually warm weather.

But wintertime is very much around in Hong Kong media.

Influential online news website announced this morning that it was shedding 70 people, or about 9 percent of its staff, according to an internal memo.

One of the fastest-growing media outlets in Hong Kong, HK01 was backed by tech entrepreneur Yu Pun-hoi’s Nan Hai Corp. (00680.HK), which is said to have invested several million dollars in the outfit since it officially started in January 2016.

The company has nearly 800 staff, similar in scale to the editorial teams of Hong Kong's two largest newspapers – Apple and Oriental Daily.

The layoffs, which coincide with the suspension of its weekly paper, is across the board. HK01 trimmed its print edition in February 2017, a year after it first came out.

In its memo, HK01 said it will undertake a restructuring of its content and back-up departments in order to better respond to the changing environment and bolster its growth.

Despite the cutbacks, however, the company is committed to recruiting more talents and pursuing staff training. In fact, it leased an extra floor this month for team expansion.

There is talk that the media outfit might be looking to expand into Taiwan, which is another way of competing with Jimmy Lai Chee-ying's Next Digital (00282.HK), but we cannot confirm this from HK01.

Well, things are not looking very good at Next Digital as well.

Its shares have been suspended from trading pending an announcement of possible disposal of a property owned by the company in Taiwan.

In November last year, Next Digital sold two properties in Taiwan for nearly NT$1.8 billion (US$58.41 million). However, its plan to sell its magazine business fell through.

The company has been having difficulties finding a profitable model. It plans to launch a subscription model similar to that of the New York Times after summer.

If it's any consolation to these two major media players, almost everyone in the industry is still feeling the winter chill of the internet age, which is dominated by Facebook and Google.

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EJ Insight writer