Asia: The Last Stand for Newspapers
HONG KONG – In what may seem like a “video killed the radio star” move, newspapers face a large decline in the developed world. News worldwide is moving from traditional print to online websites or disappear completely. Due to this pressure, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) in Hong Kong, a popular newspaper among locals, has felt a need to heavily invest in its online operation. The SCMP has created a team of 25 in the newsroom to maintain a new website for the newspaper and integrate blogging as well as use of social media platforms.
The local market for newspapers in Hong Kong compared with that of the US as well as the majority of the western world is quite surprising. There is still a market for traditional print newspapers in Hong Kong, meaning the transition online isn’t as urgently needed. Despite this , as the world becomes more interconnected, newspapers like The Wall Street Journal have expanded to other countries and act as direct competitors to local newspapers.
Within Hong Kong, the SCMP has found their sales flat lining – a stark contrast to The Wall Street Journal‘s increasing readership – leaving no other choice than to move online, Wang Feng, the online editor of the SCMP, has said that “Management and editorial leadership [at SCMP] do realise the growth of the print newspaper is slowing, and unless they really start investing heavily in internet space, which by now is becoming obvious is the future of print media … The demise of print might really hit SCMP sometime in the future and it might be too late for them to address the issue.”
Creating a newsroom dedicated to blogging and social media is only one phase of SCMP’s transformationthe other is a shift in their target audience. To keep up with international newspapers, the target audience must expand from locals to the international community. SCMP plans to market itself as the world’s premier English news source for information on China and Hong Kong. To do this, the need to move online is inevitable.
The unique position of the SCMP is eerily similar to how The Wall Street Journal has decided to promote itself. As a leading business newspaper within the US, they entered the Asian market early in 1976, basing their headquarters in Hong Kong.
According to Ken Brown, bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal (Asia), the newspaper market is growing and their readership is increasing. The Wall Street Journal has 13 bureaus still operating in Asia with no anticipation of closing any of them. Despite their strong print readership, integration of social media as well as real-time blogs and quality journalism have been key to their success.
Their adaptation to the challenges facing newspapers worldwide has been a gradual plan in effect since the earlier stages of the internet.
The situation in Hong Kong and greater Asia for traditional print companies is unique. The popularity and loyalty to print allows newspapers a slight reprieve from the fate of their counterparts on the other side of the world. This may be because a few countries in Asia have yet to embrace technology due to internal development issues. These issues will not last forever, though, and the market between local and international newspapers is merging. To survive, newspapers must at least begin adapting from traditional print to online news.
As Wang Feng puts it, “ A lot of newspapers are moving towards online if not digital first. Online revenue and subscription are becoming a huge part of their revenue source. That’s the future.”
Photo Credit: Anna Zhou.